Ecumenical ministries are collaborative initiatives that aim to foster greater unity and cooperation among different Christian denominations. Bringing together church communities, ecumenical ministries helps combine resources, knowledge, and efforts to address common challenges — promoting a sense of solidarity and shared purpose among Christian believers.
By uniting their efforts, these ecumenical partnerships hold the potential to be formidable allies in the ongoing battle against climate change — raising awareness, advocating for sustainable policies, and inspiring eco-friendly practices within their congregations.
Uniting Congregations for a Common Cause: Green Team Formation
With a shared ecumenical ministry spanning 13 years, Deer Park United Church and Calvin Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ontario, serve as a compelling example of the impact that a united mission can have in the realm of climate action.
Inspired by an enlightening Lenten environmental education series and Earth Day event, the ecumenical ministry established its Green Team in 2019, comprising dedicated members from both Deer Park United and Calvin Presbyterian congregations. With support from the ministry, the Green Team has planned Earth Day celebrations that combine festivity with climate education and has hosted impactful webinars on a range of environmental topics through the North Toronto Cluster of Churches group and Faithful Green Actions Team. Beyond this, they have delved into comprehensive environmental research, examining the consequences of climate change and global mitigation efforts aimed at combatting the anticipated rise in global temperatures. Their commitment extends to the regular publication of their findings in informative articles in their church bulletin and longer, in-depth pieces for their quarterly newsletter — covering a wide spectrum of themes, from practical eco-friendly tips for individuals to inspiring narratives of environmental efforts across the globe.
“We feel that it is urgent for us to do what we can to ameliorate the effects of climate change – The purpose of the articles is to let Deer Park and Calvin Presbyterian congregants know that their efforts are magnified by the efforts of others.” shares Martha Charney, Board Chair of Deer Park United Church.
Beyond their climate change research, the Green team embarked on an exploration of strategies to minimize energy consumption and enhance sustainability within their shared church space. Their examination of the building's infrastructure and potential upgrades served a dual purpose – not only to inspire environmental stewardship among their congregation but also to set an environmentally responsible and energy-efficient precedent for their place of worship.
Following thorough research, which considered potential target areas like lighting, insulation, and appliances, the Green team determined that replacing the aging boiler system was the most impactful and immediate solution for reducing the building's environmental footprint. The building's existing heating system, comprising steam radiators and two unreliable boilers, had posed challenges for several years. Embracing a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly heating system, would help cut carbon emissions and lower their building energy consumption.
This project would expand on the previous greening efforts around their building, including posting signs in communal areas reminding occupants to turn off lights when not in use, upgrading lighting in their sanctuary to LEDs, installing programmable thermostats in the sanctuary and administrative areas, and replacing broken window panes.
A Joint Effort: Enhancing Sustainability within Their Shared Space
The retrofit project, focused on the replacement of their boiler, was overseen by the Property Committee and supported by the Green Team. Though the 1926 Greco-Roman style building is owned by Calvin Presbyterian, the responsibility for its maintenance is jointly shared by both congregations.
In anticipation of the financial requirements for their portion of the renovation expenses, Deer Park United took the proactive step of establishing a Building Fund in 2021. Recognized as eligible for Faithful Footprints funding, Deer Park United also submitted a Faithful Footprints grant application in 2023 to aid in supporting the project.
The church had also initiated appeals to its congregants and adherents for special donations towards replacing their boiler. Before the project had officially begun, Deer Park's congregants and adherents demonstrated their commitment to the cause by generously donating over $13,000 to the church's Building Fund, with additional contributions flowing in after a dedicated appeal during their annual meeting.
“Our newly installed boiler should be much more reliable and efficient — it will produce more steady heat, make less noise, and reduce costs on our Enbridge bills.” explains Martha Charney “These positive effects will not only impact our congregations and staff, but also the other people who use our building, such as AA, and the Toronto Children’s Chorus, who rent space from Calvin.”
Both, Deer Park United and Calvin Presbyterian have future plans to continue enhancing the operational sustainability of their shared space. The next steps include the installation of LED lights in their office and meeting areas, an upgrade to the HVAC system in the windowless and poorly ventilated lower hall, and potential insulation and replacement of windows in areas of around the building.
Are you part of an ecumenical ministry with a United Church of Canada community of faith? You might be eligible to apply for Faithful Footprints funding to support energy conservation and decarbonization building retrofits projects.
Faithful Footprints Program
The United Church of Canada’s Faithful Footprints program offers inspiration, tools, and grants to help its faith communities reduce their carbon footprint. With the Church’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2030, this one-of-a-kind program offers up to $30,000 in grants towards energy conservation and renewable energy projects (conditions apply).
Faith & the Common Good is the delivery partner for the Faithful Footprints program. To date, we have engaged over 400 congregations, camps, and buildings across the country. Your participation in the program puts your faith into action and helps the Church reach its target.
Aleyxa Gates Julien is the PR/Communications Coordinator for Faithful Footprints and can be reached at [email protected].