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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Certification Good Vehicle for Greening

Certification Good Vehicle for Greening

By George Ayoub
Grand Island Independent

An article about St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Grand Island, Nebraska, a Certification Program participant

"Going green is no easy task.

But for an entire church community to go green?

Well, you'd have to be certifiable.


Certification is the goal of the Green Team at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Grand Island. Five team members " Deacon Betsy Bennett, Becky Young, Betty Crittenden, Karen Mayer and Mary Kvetensky " detailed the process for me Thursday afternoon.

"We started in 2011," Bennett said. "I had an internship with GreenFaith, an interfaith religious environmental group."

The Green Team was forged when Bennett returned to couple her passion for the environment with what she had learned. Moving St. Stephen's toward a GreenFaith certification has been the vehicle to changes at the downtown church.

To be certified, the church must cover three environmental bases: stewardship, spiritual connections and environmental justice.

The green results have included worship services connected with the return of the cranes; a forum at the church to discuss the Keystone XL pipeline; a waste audit at vacation Bible school where students dumped trash onto a big tarp to see what was recyclable; not using Styrofoam and a plan to reduce plastics and paper in the St. Stephen's kitchen; art projects from recycled materials; a pet blessing; a monthly "eco tip" in the bulletin; and a community garden providing fresh vegetables for anyone who wants them.

"Just my job"

Young, Crittenden, Mayer and Kvetensky each brought her own personal interest and experience to the team, too.

"I was really into recycling at home and at the restaurant," Young said. (She and husband, Don, own Jim's Gyros.) "But I had no idea how much some of these things are connected."

For Kvetensky, who oversees the church's kitchen, the task was clear, if occasionally messy.

"Sometimes I'm digging through the garbage looking for things to recycle. (A parishioner) asked me if I was OK. I said, This is just my job,'" Kvetensky said.

Crittenden and Mayer came to the team by way of the service committee, following Bennett and providing garden labor and art that decorates the church.

The team knows the power of words, too, and passes them along as part of its stewardship.

"We have found a lot of writing and poetry from Native Americans and others about the environment," Mayer said.

She said Nebraska Poet Laureate John Neihardt's "Easter" mentions the return of the cranes, the church's focus this weekend. A prayer service starts at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, with a sunset tour to follow. Sunday services at the church at 8 and 10:30 a.m. will reflect on the spiritual meaning of the cranes' return.

"The idea in Easter' is that man forgets but nature remembers," Mayer said.

Real green, God's work

All five admitted that going green has been met with some skepticism at St. Stephen's, especially when it comes to cups and plates.

"Sometimes they don't like it that we don't use any Styrofoam," Crittenden said.

Still, progress has been made in changing thinking and behavior, which Kvetensky quantified as "more and more people all the time."

They have also tried to make potentially sticky wickets such as the pipeline "as nonpolitical as we could," according to Bennett. "It helped that we had three very different speakers at our forum."

The team has a sense of humor about being green, too. They all had a good laugh telling me the story about Bennett's early return from a vacation. As she headed to the kitchen, she heard a breathless admonition: "Deacon Betsy is back! Put away the Styrofoam!"

They hope to get word on the certification in six to ninth months, but it will only signal that they have fulfilled the requirements set down by GreenFaith.

Real green, I understood, is God's work and will continue.

"Our traditional social concerns " poverty, health, economic justice " are all connected to environmental issues," Bennett said. "The poorest people in the world are affected most when the environment is affected.

"We believe God created the world and cares for the world. If we love God, then we must love the world."

No need to certify that.

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