Earth Care Congregation
“Heaven is under our feet as well as above our heads.”
Earth Care Congregations are congregations that have committed to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s “Earth Care Pledge” and accomplished a specific number of actions toward caring for God’s earth in four categories: worship, education, facilities, and outreach. Congregations earning 25 points in each of the four categories will be initially certified as Earth Care Congregations. Recertification is accomplished each year with a total of 50 points until year 5.
Our journey began in 2016 when a member discovered PC USA’s Earth Care Program and found that the program was a leader in these types of programs. Session approved and signed the Earth Care Pledge and an Earth Care Committee was formed. We have now reached the 5 year mark and only need to submit a narrative of the past year’s efforts regarding earth care.
Please read our narrative of 2020:
Earth Care Congregation Narrative Application for Recertification
First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights, NJ
To quote Charles Dickens, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Our Joys & Successes
Our church property has had a number of improvements over the last couple of years with more to come. The windows in our Sunday School building, built in the 1960s, have all been replaced with energy-efficient double-paned glass. Old incandescent lights in the rear portion of the sanctuary have been replaced with LED lights. Most rooms in the facility now have motion sensor lights. Within the next 2 months our 40-year-old boiler will be replaced with an energy efficient model. While there is more work to be done, we are in a good position.
In 2020, we moved to all virtual-worship services in mid-March and opened back up to limited seating in-person worship in mid-October. We pivoted quickly to a Facebook Live format, sending the bulletin, announcements, hymns and scripture via email and posted to Facebook. This, of course, limited some of the events we would have had regarding earth care. However, Pastor Eliza (Jaremko) led a 10-week sermon series on National Parks based on the book America’s Holy Ground. While her sermons were related to the book’s narratives and based in scripture, she made it personal by asking the congregation to send in photos of their visits to the parks and to provide a short story of what it meant to them. It was a good reminder that nature is holy ground and needs to be cared for by God’s people.
We resolved the issue of loneliness among some of our members by hosting two outdoor socials (masks and social distancing required) and one outdoor service. It was a joy to see one another and commune in the outdoors. We continue to send our monthly newsletter and weekly eNews electronically to all but a few members; some of the older congregants either do not have access to a computer or just prefer paper copies.
During Advent, two outdoor gatherings were hosted, the first primarily for children to pick up ornaments to decorate and see Santa and the other a tree-lighting ceremony where the ornaments were placed on a live, balled-and-burlapped tree, carols were sung and prayers were said. Several weeks later, the coniferous tree was planted on the church property to remind us all of what we have been through and what we have to be grateful for.
For many years, we have supported a food pantry in East Camden, NJ. Our efforts to supply food and other needed items to them has ramped up during the pandemic. We have a food donation bin outside the Sunday School doors where members, neighbors and passers-by place items. One of our greatest successes in collecting food was using a reverse Advent calendar where people donated a different item each day in Advent. To make it more “green”, we provided cloth reusable shopping bags for use in collecting the items; these bags were then donated full of food to the food pantry.
Our Sunday School also pivoted to online classes which has made it difficult to have projects outdoors (youth raking leaves, etc.) or have special lessons relating to earth care. No confirmation classes or new member classes have been held, where we could share our vision about earth care.
We fell down on the job a bit regarding earth care information in our monthly newsletter and on our newly designed website when the person leading the effort moved away. Coupled with the pandemic occurring so early in 2020, efforts to produce earth care news fell by the wayside. We are, however, gearing up now for 2021.
Our annual yard sale was canceled. This annual event gives our members a chance to rid themselves of unwanted items without throwing them out. All year, our Deacons collect and store items and hold a huge yard sale in the spring, giving people a chance to purchase all of those unwanted items and repurpose them.
Due to the facility being closed for 11 months (except for in-person worship), we have been unable to check our library for books, videos, etc. on earth care nor to check on the sexton’s supplies to see if they are made from recycled materials. For the few people attending in-person worship, we are no longer using our recyclable communion cups as we have moved to purchasing pre-filled cups with juice and a wafer.
Where we will be at the end of 2021, no one knows. We are in God’s hands. We will strive to do those things we can regarding earth care and put on hold that which cannot be done until we return to some semblance of normal. We trust in the Lord to guide us.