Across the country, United Churches are doing their part to address the climate crisis by getting their houses in order and reducing their own carbon emissions. Through a partnership with Faith & the Common Good, the United Church of Canada is offering grants and support for churches to measure their energy use and reduce their climate pollution, in ways that save money and strengthen congregational renewal. The initiative, called Faithful Footprints is about living climate commitments, for future generations, and for all of creation. To inspire your congregation to get involved, we have stories lined up from three participating congregations from across the country. Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, in Winnipeg, Manitoba is the first.
As well, stay tuned for a full feature of Faithful Footprints in the February 2020 edition of the United Church of Canada’s Mandate Magazine.
Check out more inspiring stories from United Churches across Canada at Faithful Footprints Inspiration Stories.
It started with a modest proposal for a kitchen renovation and evolved into a 1.6 million project.
“So much of our activities centres around food, so many initiatives grow from it,” says John Bolton, coordinator for the renovation committee at Mckillop United in Lethbridge, Alberta.
But for as long as he can remember, the congregation had been talking about a kitchen renovation, because they had an ancient stove out of the prisoner of war camp: “people were afraid to use it.”
Pushing to be a community hub, a federal New Horizon grant for Seniors helped pay for the kitchen. Moving on to the main hall, in terms of safety, they recognized the heating system as being antiquated; large, inefficient 1950 vintage boilers.
“The FF grant allowed us to do what we wanted to do,” says John. $30,000 funded two boilers. “What that means is that there is a significant reduction in our utility costs, allowing more funds to be directed into community outreach.”
Now, thanks to a FF grant and other monies, including fundraising, the church enjoys a commercial-level kitchen, high-efficiency furnaces, new inclusive washrooms, full-service elevator for accessibility, and several other infrastructure improvements.
Being a congregation with “a strong social justice conscience,” and the belief that they can do a lot to “make a better world,” (they work to uplift LGBTQ+ and Indigenous communities and are eco-focus, sitting as the only church on the Environment Lethbridge Committee), John says they really needed to move beyond the walls. “We couldn’t only be a Sunday morning service, we have too much potential for one day a week use.”
It was important that they look out for partnership options and organizations that mesh well with their faith pillars. “You have to look for partners that fit, they don’t just drop in your lap,” John says. Mckillop contracted with a consultant to help identify collaboration opportunities. In January of 2019, area organizations started to use the renovated facilities, including a meal-preparation program to address senior isolation, in cooperation with the Lethbridge Senior Community Organization. Coming up is the possibility for a similar program for disabled adults run with L’Arche. “Next, we hope to continue to green the church, perhaps using solar panels--with government incentives.”
UCC Carbon Baseline Report
The United Church of Canada is committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Targets. With an initial focus on buildings – one of the church’s largest sources of emissions – the program Faithful Footprints will be working with 500 congregations by 2025 to reduce their energy use and energy costs.
In 2016 the UCC General Council commissioned Caring for Creation, Our Communities and Our Congregations: The Case for a National Carbon Reduction Program for Faith Buildings. Faithful Footprints is the beginning of implementing those learnings. As people of faith, we recognize that to bring truly inspiring climate leadership to our communities, we must practice what we preach. Together we can renew our congregations, care for the planet, save money, and stop climate pollution.
Preparing a grant application can be daunting, but Stephen Collette, Grant Project Manager for the Faithful Footprints program is here to help! Stephen ensures your application form is properly completed and that your energy efficiency package will actually save you money. Stephen’s assistance helps expedite the application approval process tremendously, with typical turnaround times under two weeks, and often in a matter of days.
The Faithful Footprint program also features support hubs for United Church congregations in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada. “We know that lack of capacity is one of the major obstacles to “Greening” our sacred spaces, so we are proud to be working with Ecology Action Centre in Halifax and Purpose Construction in Winnipeg to pilot how to provide in-person support to United Churches around energy efficiency action,” said Cummings. Guided by regional multi-faith advisory circles, the hubs are lead by local building and energy efficiency experts and aim to connect congregations with municipal and provincial energy incentives, recommend contractors, and foster collaboration among other local places of faith facing similar challenges.