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Wesley United Church: Faithful Footprints

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.

The treasurer has the pulse of the church,” says Barb Sheen of Wesley United, in the tiny town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. “We are always looking to reduce our costs.” 

When Barb heard about the FF grant and brought it to the attention of the renovation committee, and church board, she secretly thought it sounded too good to be true, “but in our case it was true.”

 Prior to the grant, Wesley United had already started a renovation project thanks to receiving a bequest. They had been visioning for two years about how they would use it to benefit the congregation and community at large: “We wanted to think bigger, widen our doors, asking, ‘what can we do to participate, what can we accomplish?’”

The Church building is 152 years old, “so there is no problem to find things to do,” Barb jokes. “As the stars lined up, we lined up.”

They restored some of the stain glass windows, revamped the heating systems, and with the FF grant and a fundraising campaign, they were able to pay for insulating much of the sanctuary, eliminating drafts by caulking the cracks in the original floors and doors and putting in energy-saving lighting in the halls and sanctuary. Of the $155,000 spent on renovations and energy-saving initiatives, they garnered $30,000 back. 

Similarly to all the churches in the program, the congregations’ participation was key. 

“We invited them all the way, kept the communication alive and they really came on board,” Barb says. With consistent updates at the forefront, “it gave us a real sense of energy use in the church, and to actually see what we were able to accomplish.”  Nine months later they had finished the renovations. 

 “We have spread our wings and will continue to go further as we move into 2020,” concludes Barb. “The Faithful Footprints program has helped us do that.”

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.

Helpful Hand-holding

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.

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