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 six-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 2022:
Earth Care Congregation Narrative Application for Recertification
First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights, N.J.
Our Joys & Successes
Our CHURCH PROPERTY has had a number of improvements over the last couple of years with more to come.
- In 2021, our 40-year-old boiler was replaced with an energy-efficient model.
- 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.
- Another example of our members helping to care for the property is that one person cuts the grass for the church and the manse.
- The coniferous tree planted on the church property in 2020 was used for a Christmas decorating and carol-singing event in December 2021. Passers-by are reminded that this is a church and that we celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Lord.
In 2021, we were able to continue the limited seating, in-person worship.
- Making use of the Facebook Live format, we engaged those families who remained at home and printed many fewer bulletins for the smaller number of in-person congregants.
- Our church family again held several outdoor services including baptisms, and also enjoyed an outdoor picnic while the weather was warm. This assuaged the loneliness some of our stay-at-home people had been experiencing.
- Our church joined in with other local churches for the (outdoor) Walk of Witness on Good Friday.
- We continue to send our monthly newsletter and weekly eNews electronically to all but a very few members.
- 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 tree, carols were sung and prayers were said.
- One member of our church family makes themed banners for holidays, etc. Her Earth Care banner was displayed in our church in 2021 for about one month.
- For many years, we have supported a food pantry in East Camden, N.J. Our efforts to supply food and needed items, ramped up during the pandemic, continues. The food donation bin remains outside the Sunday School doors where members, neighbors and passers-by place items.
- Our Women’s group added an outdoor bin in which to collect items for military families.
- One of our congregants works for a distribution business. In 2021, noting that her employer was about to discard 21,000 toothbrushes, she donated them all to our church. We then turned them over to the mission committee for distribution to those in need.
- This was repeated later in the year when the same company was about the discard 200 reading glasses. We intercepted them and distributed them.
- The same company was about to discard about 250 toiletry bags which we also distributed to those in need.
- Our Women’s group has supported Kiva, an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 whose mission is to expand financial access to women in underserved communities through loans. The loans our women’s group doles out often support women who are farming or raising livestock. We consider this another way to ensure that the earth and its animals are cared for and treated responsibly.
- 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 2021.
- We have submitted regular Earth Care articles into the monthly newsletters, a huge improvement over last year.
- Our spectacular Sunday School team has created remote classes for our children though middle school. In 2021, they met online for approximately half of the year and outside in person for the other half. Lessons are shared on a special Facebook page, First Presbyterian Pals. Very few paper products were used for lessons during 2021.
- Adult Sunday School classes met in-person and outside.
Our annual yard sale was canceled again in 2021. 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. nor to check on the sexton’s supplies to see if they are made from recycle 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 2022, 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.