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A Great Team Making Great Decisions - Ralph Connor Memorial United Church

Nestled in a beautiful village at the feet of the Canadian Rockies, Ralph Connor Memorial United Church (RCMUC) in Canmore, Alberta has a 130 year old sanctuary and a 40 year old hall. 

RCMUC’s Faithful Footprints story is one of how congregants’ connections and working together as a team led to incredible energy savings and conservation within their church building.

Solar panels

Rooftop Solar Installation, RCMUC

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Faith Food Forests

Planting a food forest at Community of Christ Church. 2021


Rooted in ancient traditions of mimicking woodland ecosystems, food forests and gardens consist of diverse plantings of edible plants (fruit trees, nuts and berries, herbs), that provide year-round nutrition and medicines for Nature’s dependants--including people! 

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Efficiency – Squeezing Every Bit of Energy Out of What You Have


Refurbished radiators returned and installed with electric heating coil inside. Both images from St Paul’s United Magog. Images courtesy of St Paul’s.  

Refurbished radiators installed with electric heating coil inside. St Paul’s United Magog. 

In a previous blog post, I recommended switching your fossil fuel-burning appliances over to heat pumps to heat your building. That recommendation still stands for everyone who has mid and low energy efficiency furnaces and boilers and anyone whose heating appliance is older than 25 years. I recently spoke with a congregation whose heating system predates their building from 1962 (it was used and donated to them). Their heating contractor estimates that it is currently operating at 15% efficiency! So keep that in mind folks.

But what if you have a pretty new boiler, for example, and still want to maximize efficiency? Is there anything you can do? Yes, there is! When we look at radiator systems with all the various parts, there are numerous opportunities to improve efficiencies.

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Your Fridge Might be Keeping the Milk Cold and the Planet Hot

Old fridges and freezers are energy guzzlers.

We all love to gather after worship and share food and drink together. It’s at these times that we grow as a community. For this reason alone, a major hub of activity in faith communities (post COVID) is the kitchen. So it is worth taking the time to look at the major energy consumers within this space in order to save some energy and money.

Fridges and freezers are present in every congregation’s kitchen. Typically, the efficiency of these kinds of appliances increases dramatically every few years with newer models. That means that the energy consumption of a new fridge compared to one made approximately five years ago can be half the energy! That’s a lot of energy savings to be had. 

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The History of FCG’s Green Audit

David (blue shirt) at Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga, 2018David (blue shirt) at Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga, 2018

In the beginning……

FCG received program funding to deliver Energy Audits to 100 faith communities in Ontario through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in 2007 and 2008. These went very well, but what Stephen found, as the local Peterborough FCG area rep at the time, was that people wanted to know about composting, air quality, blue boxes and more. This was because everyone has their own passion within their faith community, beyond energy efficiency, and they wanted to make a difference as well. Out of this realization was born the Green Audit that looks at energy, air quality, food, water, waste, maintenance, heritage, religious architecture, rental agreements and more. 

As a result, Stephen, along with David, bounced around the format, process and report ideas to turn it into a reality. To help kick-start our efforts, John Patterson, who started a local environmental non-profit in Haliburton County called Abbey Gardens, wanted Green Audits to help local congregations. Their organization helped pay for the first Green Audits.  Eight in total, across 4 different Christian denominations, were delivered in January of 2009. 

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Retrofitting our Sacred Space with Faithful Footprints Funding

Blog post by Nanci Lee, Executive Director, Tatamagouche Centre

Sanctuary, after renovations                                                             Sanctuary space after retrofits.

Our buildings, our spaces matter. There are, of course, the practicalities of making drafty rooms comfortable and bringing energy and climate costs down. But more than these issues, our spaces house and embody our values. They hold our gatherings, celebrations, prayers and sacred ceremonies and should reflect who we are and what matters to us.
So, when we decided to green retrofit our main building, Stewart Hall, we realized that this would be more than a bricks and mortar project. We began Phase I with two practical and strategic projects. The first was to replace our main roof and insulate it to R40 from R3, essentially putting a hat on. The second project was to renovate our sanctuary space, one of the most meaningful spaces in all of our buildings that would set the tone for what was to come.

With 18-foot ceilings, a wall of windows and lovely boat-shaped curves, the sanctuary space had been awe-inspiring in its day and still holds such meaning. I recently met a woman who married her husband in this chapel. It has remained an intimate place of coming together in song and learning, in prayer and smudging, grief and joy. While the magic of the space has been held by the people and talented facilitators, the room itself was beginning to feel tattered. Built in the fifties, it also had the unfortunate condition of being too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

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20 Years of Extraordinary People and Programs & 2021 AGM

On October 14, FCG celebrated 20 Years of Extraordinary People and Programs, followed by our 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM). 

It was a packed agenda that began with an invitation to participants to describe FCG in one word (on mentimeter.com). The graphic above demonstrates words that many of you associate with our network including Inspiring, Purposeful, Inclusive and more. Thanks to all who contributed!

We opened with a deeply moving prayer from Grandmother Renee of Grandmothers Voice (9:00), and a special message from our founders, The Very Rev. Bill Phipps, and Rev. Ted Reeve (19:17). Next, FCG’s Executive Director (ED), Michelle Singh introduced Charles Pascal, the ED at Atkinson Foundation in 2000, the funders who helped launch FCG (33:50). Kristina Inrig, who was instrumental in establishing the backbone of our Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) model and the infrastructure to grow the organization, spoke next (41:13).

Erik Mathiesen, Chief Financial Officer at UCC, spoke about their decision to choose FCG as their delivery partner for the Faithful Footprints program (46:00). Lucy Cummings, former FCG ED (54:15) and our current Chair, Tom Urbaniak (1:01:40) both shared brief reflections. 

Michelle reviewed FCG’s strategic goals and vision, and how we are going to get there (1:08:00). Muneeb Nasir, Chair of the Olive Tree Foundation spoke about why they have been funding FCG projects since 2014 (1:15:20).

Our partner, Lisa Kohler, ED at Halton Environmental Network, spoke briefly about the OakvilleREADY program, an initiative that prepares neighbourhoods to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events (1:20: 40). Michelle shared a map of our nationwide network chapters and some more project examples (1:27:10).

Dr. Brian Carwana, ED of Encounter World Religions presented Water: Nourisher, Mother, Teacher. His keynote speech explored how some of the world's great spiritual traditions have engaged with this element, so central to our existence and at the very heart of nature (1:29:20).

Before concluding the celebration and turning it over to the business portion of the evening, Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith spoke about Faiths4Climate multifaith days of action that took place on October 17 and 18th (1:47:10). As the Canadian partners for this global initiative, we strongly encouraged our followers to join efforts in demanding bold climate action of our leaders, ahead of the upcoming #COP26 conference in November.

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FCG: Back at the Parliament of the World’s Religion

Faith & the Common Good was back at the Parliament of the World’s Religion (POWR)!  I was honoured to moderate two incredible learning conversations at the 2021 Parliament, a virtual event that featured 500 learning sessions over October 16-18th. 

Decolonizing Eco-Investing

In a special "repeat performance" of their Laudato Si Movement Canada's Catholic Eco Investment Accelerator presentation, Stephen Nairne of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners and Mark Sevestre of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association guided POWR attendees in a discussion of how faith-based investors, utilizing the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, can ensure that their investments are contributing to vibrant Indigenous economies. 

"The economic empowerment of Indigenous communities is vital to the restoration and guardianship of our living world,” Nairne highlighted. 

A small sample of the growing number of Indigenous resources to guide responsible investors.


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