On May 20, 2007, the congregation voted to embark on a congregation-wide initiative to seek to address the challenges of global climate change and its impact on those least able to prepare. With a history of advocacy for justice for people with the fewest material resources, we hope to contribute that perspective to the network of faith and community groups engaged with this challenge.
A steering committee reporting to the Council with representatives from each Ministry began planning educational events to prepare us for the work. We created a blog for sharing ideas and resources and a bulletin board to post current CUCC action options. In November, the Educational Sampler Potluck offered a series of workshops to pique congregational interest (and to celebrate with a local-foods meal).
Growing from those discussions, winter 2007/8 educational events included:
- CUCC Energy Audit - a tour of our facilities which generated a "to do" list to decrease our carbon footprint. The audit expert was provided by NC Interfaith Power + Light.
- CUCC Utilities Audit - analysis of CUCC use of electricity, gas, and water
- Thinking Green In the Bleak Midwinter - four weeks discussing ideas for personal changes at home and encouraging one another in taking the next step (repeated in 2009)
- Science of Global Climate Change - four weeks preparing members to engage in meaningful scientific discussion about the roles of humans in climate change
- Lenten Carbon Fast - weekly scripture readings and proposed steps for personal action
- Recycling Center Tour - morning tour of Waste Americas recycling site.
With the arrival of spring 2008, the congregation reached out to other congregations in the area. At the Green Tea (as it was dubbed by one of the guests), representatives of 14 congregations gathered to share what each is doing and brainstormed future initiatives we might undertake together. The Green Tea congregations continue to keep each other informed of educational, advocacy, and service opportunities that each is sponsoring.
Summer 2008 brought God's Green Earth, a weekend adventure for all ages. Activities included painting a tent for Darfur refugees, learning about what we can recycle in Raleigh, brainstorming uses for CUCC’s grounds, preparing and eating local foods, painting canvas shopping bags, building a house from trash, making receptacles for CUCC’s recycling, and singing nature songs around a campfire.
With the political season upon us (fall 2008), many of us tested public transportation for the first time. At Early Voting + Bus + Lunch we (kids and all) took the CAT bus to vote, then enjoyed Locopops together. This experience has led us to some ongoing advocacy with CAT about improving the reliability of the buses!
Throughout 2008 we looked for ways to assist those with fewer resources to tackle the challenges of climate change. We learned:
- That a house which is affordable for homeless women is also likely to be a house which needs structural repairs before weatherizing would make sense;
- That our RICH Park housing is way ahead of us weatherizing for its tenants;
- That a successful community garden requires more people who are committed to it in the long term than we currently have in our membership.
We strengthened our connection to community groups by co-sponsoring and attending:
- “Averting Climate Catastrophe: Power Plants or Clean Energy-Who Decides?” conference,
- “Transit: Is Wake County Ready for It?” roundtable,
- NCIPL green jobs event.
We also participated in a vigil at Representative Bob Etheridge’s office (sponsored by NCIPL) and a climate change rally.
We were fortunate to work with the Landscape Design class of NCSU’s professor Will Hooker in early 2009. The students created six alternative designs for our grounds, incorporating green concepts alongside our desire to welcome the community and continue with current ministries.
We attended the Franciscan Coalitions’ “Hunger No More” conference which included a focus on the role of climate change on global hunger. Through the Social Justice Ministry, CUCC has encouraged our federal representatives to support reform of US foreign assistance structures so that we are in a better position to assist hungry people around the world.
We continued to explore how we might encourage the development of a more robust public transportation system. Steve Jackson, NC Justice Center, briefed the JCC on the politics behind transportation policy in NC. We continued to explore the possibility of moving the CAT bus 4 stop to our property so we could offer a roofed, safe and comfortable place for neighbors to wait for the bus.
All Things Congo, a collaborative effort of CUCC and The Good New Message Church with help from the Congolese Community of the Triangle, has held three educational events; in 2009, the third featured Dr. Sam Mozley who connected climate change to the particular effects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2010, the collaboration grew to include our participation in the NC celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the free nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On the home front of our effort to make a difference for those who are most vulnerable to climate change, Community Outreach Ministry led the congregation in collecting fans and cash for the Cool for Wake fan project.
As 2009 rolled into 2010, we had the opportunity to learn from and assist Emory University seminary student Tama Eller as she completed her final graduation paper. Tama’s interest was in studying a congregation engaged in creation care in order to learn what is working and what isn’t. She also used us in an educational program pilot, holding an extended workshop to help us keep our energy focused and our work moving forward. With the JCC Initiative concluding its third year, that review helped us move into a new phase.
Some of the earlier projects continued to roll forward: greening CUCC’s grounds and making them more friendly for fauna and flora, implementing improvements from CUCC’s Energy Audit, and making personal changes at home. Collaboration continued; we participated in a panel at Cary Presbyterian Church, celebrated the first National Preach In on Global Warming (including sending “love the earth” Valentines to our federal representatives), and in the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Creation Care Challenge. The God’s Green Earth summer all-church weekend returned with new workshops and wide participation.
In 2011 our focus was on action to reduce carbon consumption, improve the quality of life for some families with little resources, and to increase our work with other churches on this. We recognize that with climate change, the need for insulation here in the south is increasingly important. As such, Gary Smith met with leaders of NC Interfaith Power+Light and Lyle Addley-Warrick of the Raleigh Friends Meeting to discuss and determine how we could collaborate to help weatherize homes. We learned that “Resources for Seniors” of Wake County has a weatherization program for people of low income. The program is funded by the federal Stimulus program and is quite successful. We also learned, however, that some families do not qualify for the weatherization because their house needs minor repairs or has some debris that prevents the weatherization crews from doing their job. Lyle and Gary met with Garman Troup of “Resources” and agreed that our churches could help make these “walkaway” houses ready to be weatherized by doing the repairs or cleaning out the debris. On Easter Saturday, we cleaned out the crawlspace of a house in Raleigh. This enabled “Resources” to insulate the crawlspace and attic and replace the family’s HVAC system. After this house, we cleaned out two additional houses, and on the Saturday before Thanksgiving we completed some significant repairs on a fourth house. Along the way, we worked with people from four other churches and met some wonderful families; we pray that all of the families are more comfortable and will see their energy consumption decrease in the coming years.
We continued the “preweatherization” work in 2012, and a number of other congregations expressed interest in helping. With this additional people resource, we provided information to groups seeking to expand pre-weatherization to other NC counties. Still ongoing: CUCC’s greening of buildings and landscape, personal projects, the Valentines for legislators project, and cooperative recycling and disposal of hazardous waste (batteries, florescent bulbs).
At the All Church Retreat (October, 2012), members of the congregation expressed an interest in exploring whether installing solar photovoltaic panels at CUCC would be a sensible green investment for the congregation. Throughout 2013 we have been investigating this possibility. We’ve been learning about funding options (ex. some members forming an LLC) and have had an assessment of our energy generating capacity. The next step will be bringing that information to the congregation for consideration.
Meanwhile our preweatherization work with Resources for Seniors has been winding down. They haven’t had homes which need our attention. That closing door has opened another one. Working with Laura Langham, Energy Conservation Program Manager of NC Cooperative Extension, we are part of a pilot program to equip congregations to assist members and people in the community with basic home energy audits and weatherization skills. In fall of 2013 a team of CUCCers will be trained and begin doing audits.
In 2014 for the third year in a row, we provided a climate change Preach-In worship service around Valentine’s Day. The theme was “the world we want to live in” with a children’s sermon on “imagining what you want your home to be”, handing out “valentine” cards to ask our Senators to work against climate change, a ministry moment on solar panels and Pastor Steve preaching on climate change. After church, people had the opportunity to send the Valentines to the Senators and to sign a fracking petition.
With important fracking discussions occurring in the NC Legislature and the NC Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) working on the rules for fracking in our state, the JCC adopted fracking as a key advocacy activity this year. To this end, we wrote to and visited Democratic and Republican legislators, we introduced a no fracking resolution at the May CUCC congregational meeting that resulted in the display of “No Fracking” yard signs on the CUCC campus, and we provided expert testimony to the MEC on fracking rules. To our chagrin, the state continues on a path that will open NC to Fracking early this year. We hope that all CUCC members will pray that this will not have the dire effects that we fear.
In 2012 CUCC asked the JCC to investigate installing solar panels on our church. During 2014, the study came to a head, and we proposed that 10 kW of solar panels be placed on the Fellowship Hall south roof. These panels will provide half of CUCC’s electricity, will save more than $1,000 and remove 14,000 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. Because LLC rules for solar installation are not favorable for the average person, we do not favor this as a funding mechanism for the panels. Rather we propose raising the funds by donations from CUCC members, friends and others in our community interested solar power and decreasing climate change. The Congregation will vote in January on whether to accept this recommendation and begin to raise funds to enable installation before the end of 2015 when an important tax credit for donors ends.
In late fall, we presented a five week adult forum entitled “Climate Change – Greenhouse Gases and What We Can Do.” The segments of the presentations were
- “Birds and climate change” where invited guest Chris Canfield emphasized that 314 species are on the brink, and shrinking and shifting ranges could imperil nearly half of U.S. birds within this century.
- In “Climate change Intro” we discussed climate, climate change, greenhouse gases and what we are doing to decrease their CO2 production. Travel produces significant CO2, and attendees were asked to see if they can make travel adjustments to decrease their CO2 production.
- During “Fracking and Methane” we provided an overview of fracking nationally and in NC. Then we told attendees about the comments we had made against fracking in NC to the MEC and DENR. Fracking in NC is for methane, a strong greenhouse gas, and we discussed that leaking equipment and pipelines are significant current problems with methane. Attendees were asked to speak out against fracking and to nominate Raleigh for a methane line leak analysis and repair (http://www.edf.org/climate/methanemaps).
- The “Solar for CUCC” session reported on the research the JCC has been doing to determine if solar panels would benefit CUCC. We recommended that CUCC install and asked participants to pray about it.
- In the “What can we do internationally?” session our invited guest Karen Bearden led the group to pray for the Lima Climate Change summit, and lit a candle for us to remember them. Then we told the group that 3 billion people on the earth cook indoors over wood fires, that this produces soot and greenhouses gases and kills 3 million people per year from smoke inhalation. Clean wood burning cook stoves can dramatically reduce these effects. Finally, Karen spoke of 350.org, an important organization in the international fight to keep climate change in front of the public.
January 25, 2015, the congregation voted to move forward on raising funds for the CUCC Solar Array Project. We hope to install 28 panels, generating about 10,000 kWh/year and keeping 7 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year.