A 'solar-bration' at Euclid Avenue Methodist

Church is getting attention for their eco-ministry

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

The Solar/Butterfly Garden Blessing on Aug. 22 at Euclid Methodist Church became a"solar-bration" for the 100 people in attendance to celebrate what the congregation has done in its attempt to become more earth-friendly — an opportunity to reaffirm their green values and a chance to engage in mutual encouragement.

The first speaker that emcee Lisa Parker, NBC-5 reporter and member of the congregation, introduced was the Rev. Sally Dyck, bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, who took the Blue Line from her downtown office to Oak Park and then walked from the el stop to the corner of Washington and Euclid. She is the co-author of A Hopeful Earth.

The bishop began her praise of the congregation by noting that most of the installation of solar and geothermal technology is presently done in new construction, where no retrofitting has to be done and that Euclid Methodist's installation of both in an older building is an inspiration and proof that it can be done.

She put a new spin on the commandment, "Love your neighbor," noting that "neighbors" are not just the people living in your town, nation or the world right now but also those who will come after us. She said Euclid's investment in earth-friendly technologies and practices is an investment in future generations.

State Senator Don Harmon also looked to the future, asking the audience to imagine a future in which every building will have solar panels, producing electricity with no power lines in sight. Oak Park Trustee Bob Tucker said that what the congregation was doing was a social as well as a financial investment.

Ginger Brown from the local branch of Wild Ones, an environmental organization, lauded Euclid Church for planting their butterfly garden and described her vision of a corridor of such sanctuaries all along the butterfly migration route from Central America to Canada.

Congressman Danny Davis (D-7th) praised the congregation as a model of what churches, businesses and individuals. He quoted his father, who would say he'd rather see a sermon than hear one. He concluded his remarks with a recitation from memory of Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees."

Euclid member Teri Blain reinforced those messages with a solo performance of Jason Mraz's "Back to the Earth."

In addition to high-profile projects, Euclid Church has been intentional and specific in their attempt to become greener. A 2013 document called Sustainability Policies and Practices reads, "Becoming responsible for God's creation is more than a laundry list of accomplishments. It is a way of life, an ongoing process of restoration and regeneration. What follows is more than a list of best practices. It is our family's covenant for a New Heaven on Earth."

The document includes three pages of detailed, specific practices as simple as turning off computers overnight, using recycled craft materials in their Sunday school, purchasing candles made of beeswax instead of petroleum based products, serving foods free of harmful chemicals, composting organic waste, increasing the use of drought-resistant plants on the church grounds, and making their outdoor space available to the community by providing benches and gardening opportunities.

Rev. Brian Sauder, executive director of Faith in Place, used the image of harmony to talk about what needs to be done to counter the effects of global warming: "We have destroyed our music. Our harmony is sour, but you at Euclid Ave. United Methodist Church have taken these strong steps to restore the earth's music. … These projects are helping us re-organize the choir!"

That image could also be applied to the representatives present from government, religion and nonprofits. Tucker, for instance, pointed out what Oak Park is doing to make village practices greener.

No one in the audience doubted the reality of global warming. Even the weather — the flooding of the Eisenhower Expressway that morning — seemed to be in harmony with the analysis of the state of the planet and the values being upheld.

Following the program, Bishop Dyck took the children outside to bless the butterfly garden and tours of the solar panels were led by Euclid members. A buffet table of healthy food and iced tea was available for participants as they checked out representatives of green organizations in a "Share Fair." Literature was handed out by representatives from Seven Generations Ahead, Faith in Place, Wild Ones, Renewable Energy America, Elevate Energy, Geothermal, Green Community Connections, Interfaith Green Network, and Citizen Climate Lobby.

Rev. Marti Scott, pastor of Euclid Methodist Church, put the event in a religious context by leading the gathering in a Native American prayer, part of which reads:

Great Spirit whose dry lands thirst, 

Help us to find the way to refresh your lands.

Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,

Help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,

Whose breath gives life to the world, hear me;

I need your strength and wisdom. May I walk in beauty.

Rev. C.J. Hawking, also a minister at the church, followed with another prayer which included the words, "Gracious God, may we always experience your ever-renewing bounty of light with gratitude. … As we celebrate our ability to harness the sun's power, may we rededicate ourselves to the task of reducing the frightful effect of global warming on your creation."

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Ned Ryerson from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: September 8th, 2014 3:20 PM

If the State of Illinois would 'grant' me $126K, I'd happily change my heating and power sources too. Giving that much $$$ to a church that is used on average, a few days a week, to promote awareness is a poor investment. Why not let me keep my tax dollars so I can use them to upgrade and protect my home from the elements. I'd love some solar panels and a new windows.

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