Earth Care Congregations are congregations that have committed to the Presbyterian Church USA’s “Earth Care Pledge” and have 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 church member discovered PC USA’s Earth Care Program and found that the program was a leader in this field. Session approved and signed the Earth Care Pledge and an Earth Care Committee was formed. We have now reached the seven-year mark and only need to submit an annual narrative of the past year’s efforts regarding earth care.
Please read our narrative of February 2023:
Earth Care Congregation Narrative Application for Recertification
First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights, N.J.
This is our 7th application (6th for recertification) to be recognized as an Earth Care Congregation. We are a suburban church, located in a neighborhood, with a small plot of land around the church facility. While we are somewhat limited by our physical and monetary resources, we are proud to be a part of Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Earth Care efforts and continue to strive to show care for our congregation and facility in a way that aligns with caring for God’s planet.
- During the summer, when our pastor was tying children’s books to scripture lessons, she preached on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; her sermon title was “I am the Lord; I Speak for the Trees”. She tied the book to the creation story and the mustard seed parable, and talked about the care we need to take toward this planet God has entrusted to us.
- We continue to send our monthly newsletter and weekly eNews electronically to all but a very few members.
- One member of our church family makes themed banners for holidays, etc. Her Earth Care banner was displayed in our church in 2022 for about one month.
- After using pre-filled communion cups to address health concerns during the COVID pandemic, we have returned to using our recyclable communion cups.
- Our church joined in with other local churches for the (outdoor) Walk of Witness on Good Friday.
- We continue to submit Earth Care articles into our monthly newsletters. Some of the topics addressed in 2022 were: “Buy Nothing” online groups, Bring Your Own Bag (in light of N.J.’s ban on plastic bags), Fresh Produce and Farmers Markets, and Climate Care.
- At the committee’s urging, our Sunday School no longer provides water bottles to the children with their snacks; rather, they are given water in cups.
- One of our youth members (confirmed in November, 2022) transformed a small space behind the offices and nursery into a beautiful and practical playground for our kids to enjoy. This project helped him fulfill part of his Eagle Scout requirements. In addition to clearing and landscaping, he built a sandbox, benches, two chalkboard walls, & paved a safe walkway leading to the playground.
- Our landscape committee regularly addresses the needs of trees, shrubs, beds, lawns and flowers.
- Additional plantings in a historically bare patch of ground have decreased the likelihood of flooding, run-off and erosion in that area.
- Leaves are raked and collected locally, but are transported to a neighboring township that operates a state-of-the-art composting facility that turns leaves and grass into high quality compost and topsoil that is sold to the public.
- A new garden near one end of our building provides shade, improves soil stability, enhances air quality and creates habitats for all types of wildlife.
- For many years, we have supported a food pantry in East Camden, N.J. We continue to have a Mission Cabinet in our parlor for congregants’ food donations and a food donation bin outside the Sunday School doors where members, neighbors and passers-by place items.
- Effective November, 2022, the State of New Jersey banned food pantries from using plastic bags (phase two of generally banning plastic grocery bags). Our Mission Committee has advertised on local Facebook groups to collect re-usable grocery bags that we then donate to the food pantry. The response has been overwhelming.
- Our members continue to reach out to our elderly members to offer them rides to church.
- A few church members participated in the (outside) CROP walk again in 2022.
- Our annual yard sale took place this spring, after a hiatus of 2 years. This sale gives members an easy way to consciously dispose of unwanted items, assists the Board of Deacons with their fund-raising efforts toward The Fund of Compassion, and keeps items out of landfills.
- During the year, we have a number of social gatherings – special coffee hours, pancake breakfasts, etc. The boards, committees, and organizations within the church family that organize these events have done a stellar job of avoiding items going into landfills.
- The Deacons’ Palm Sunday Coffee Hour provided finger food only to avoid using utensils and used small cups made of sugar cane (totally biodegradable) for chips and fruit.
- The Women’s Circle’s Thanksgiving Coffee Hour used glass plates and cups and provided finger foods only to avoid utensils.
- The Deacons’ Pancake Breakfast used reusable plates, cups and utensils. The President of the Board took home the leftover bacon and sausage grease to make homemade suet.
Where we will be at the end of 2023, no one knows. We are in God’s hands. We strive to do those things we can regarding Earth Care and trust in the Lord to guide us.