A new Green Grants Initiative is now being launched to encourage, challenge and support all the congregations in the diocese in environmental stewardship. To some that means building maintenance and bottom lines; to others, energy conservation and reducing carbon footprints—for practical or theological reasons, or both. In all cases, though, the Green Grants Initiative is about gratitude, its initiators say.
“Stewardship is a reaction of giving back because of the generosity we’ve received, so if we think about being ‘green’ as stewardship—and it is—then what we’re really talking about with these grants is gratitude,” explained Lynn Smith, who has been instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground and is the inspiration behind Simple Acts of Stewardship, one of its two components.
“The best part about the Simple Acts is that every single congregation can do it, because it doesn’t necessarily require funds—turning the thermostat down three degrees, for instance, which is supposed to be 10 percent of your heating costs. Every congregation is going to have wonderful ideas to implement and to share,” Smith said.
Simple Acts supports locally based efforts that build a positive connection with the natural world and conserve resources—congregations coming together for bulk purchasing of earth-friendly office supplies, or a children’s gardening project that benefits a local food pantry.
Small grants of $500 are available for Simple Acts that need a cash boost; other Simple Acts might raise funds or save congregations money that they can give back to the program to support similar efforts elsewhere.
The program encourages idea sharing among congregations and invites stories and photos.
“Hopefully the Simple Acts contributes to the larger program’s effort to inform decision making and change behavior through hands-on recognition and relationship with the natural world,” Smith said.
“Simple Acts leads to the initiative’s second part, Green Improvement Grants, which support investment in items that are energy saving,” Smith said. “Here we’re talking about the boiler or the windows or the roof. With or without grants you’ve got to replace these things, so the question becomes: What do you replace them with?”
Green Improvement Grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to help congregations identify and fund those kinds of improvements. Property audits and Sustainable Houses of Worship (SHOW) workshops, conducted by Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light, are built into the granting process. Scheduled on Saturdays throughout October, the SHOW workshops aim to help congregations accomplish potential energy savings, and to do it as a matter of faith.
“These grants aren’t huge, especially at the outset of the program, but they are a way to leverage other resources, such as rebates, other grants and loans, as well as education and awareness building,” said Bishop Bud Cederholm, the leading force behind the Green Grants Initiative.
“It’s not all about the dollars. It’s about formation of Christians to be better stewards of God’s creation,” he said. “This is truly a diocesan effort to support congregations.”
That effort invites giving as well as receiving. Start-up funds amounting to $50,000 from the Diocesan Annual Fund are getting the initiative going. An additional $50,000 is available from the fund to match gifts to the program.
“It’s my hope and prayer that every congregation in the diocese will find a way to participate,” Cederholm said. “Faith communities who believe truly that God’s creation is a gift have to model that belief. Who else will, if we don’t?” Cederholm said.
--Tracy J. Sukraw
Questions about the Green Grants Initiative may be directed to the Rev. Karen Montagno, Interim Director of Congregational Resources and Training, at email@example.com or 617-482-4826, ext. 413.