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By Sue Sprang

LANSING – Members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lansing, have committed to caring for Mother Earth and, with the formation of the Green Team about one year ago, have put their commitment into action.

Debbie Viele, a member of the team, credits the congregation’s pastor, Matt Smith, for urging active commitment to a clean, safe, energy-efficient environment for their building – hoping members would also carry the commitment into their daily lives.

With the gentle prodding of its pastor, Bethlehem congregation has committed to action.

With the gentle prodding of its pastor, Bethlehem congregation has committed to action.

“The idea for the team was really Pastor Matt’s,” Viele said. “He put out an announcement for anyone who had an interest in forming a team.”

Things began by inviting Pastor John Schleicher, Bishop Emeritus of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod, to help get organized. Schleicher is involved with Michigan Interfaith Power and Light. (Contact information for MIIPL and other resources in this article are listed below.)

MIIPL’s mission is to “inspire and equip people of faith to exercise stewardship of and love for all Creation”. The organization offers “practical ways to put faith into action by promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainable practices that lead to a cleaner, healthier, and more just world.”

“Pastor Schleicher came to our first couple meetings to coach us,” Viele said. “He encouraged us to create a mission statement and to set one or two goals for the first year.”

The Green Team elected to go with one goal for its first year and named education as that goal, kicking things off with an outside speaker for an adult forum. Next was a “Green Fair”, held at the church on July 17.

Leaves shaped into Earth’s continents remind us that what we do in our corner of the world has global impact.

Leaves shaped into Earth’s continents remind us that what we do in our corner of the world has global impact.

“We contacted organizations we thought had good information on green practices to share with the congregation and invited them to participate,” said team member Jill Kroll, who contacted the resources.

On hand with literature and for conversation were:

  • Woody Campbell of Compost Katie, which provides home pickup of compost, which is then sold to a community garden project at cost;
  • Cecilia J. Garcia, Administrative Assistant, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, which provides information on a variety of green practices and ecology;
  • Clara Barton and Betty Seagull from Wild Ones, Red Cedar Chapter, which provides literature and advice on the benefits of and how-to of gardening with native species plants – which, in turn, provides food, habitat, and places to breed for native bees, butterflies, and birds;
  • Natalie Molnar, Program Coordinator, Eco-Strategies, BWL Hometown Energy Savers, Live Green Lansing, which, among other eco-friendly services, provides energy-saving tips (Molnar also handed out free led night lights at the fair);
  • Rene Franco, Ingham County Health Department, which provides, among its multi-faceted concerns, information on appropriate disposal practices for hazardous waste and related topics, including ones specific to that county;
  • Jim Detjen, representing Michigan Interfaith Power and Light; and
  • Bethlehem member Jane Reiter, who provided crafts for kids using recycled materials.

“We had a great response,” Kroll said, “and it was a good way to get things started.”

A bicycle trip across British Columbia is just one of many experiences that has committed Ellie Ibarra to caring for the earth.

A bicycle trip across British Columbia is just one of many experiences that has committed Ellie Ibarra to caring for the earth.

Green Team member Ellie Ibarra is excited about Bethlehem’s growing commitment to ecological friendliness.

“Ellie has been a long time green person and big recycler,” Viele said. “She installed passive solar maybe thirty years ago – way ahead of the rest of us.”

“I grew up working in the garden with my grandmother,” Ibarra said, “climbing apple trees, biking on country roads, and have loved being outdoors ever since then.”

It was travel that cemented Ibarra’s commitment to caring for Mother Earth.

“I was mesmerized by my first view of the Pacific Ocean, the beauty of the mountains and landscapes as we camped as a family across the country to visit my other grandmother, south of San Diego,” she said.

“When biking cross-country in 1990, as well as in 1991 across British Columbia, where I was at one point all alone in its vast beauty, I couldn’t help but sing ‘How Great Thou Art’.”

That commitment has not wavered.

“Following the environmental issues has fed the desire to preserve this awesome planet for our grandchildren,” Ibarra said. “I am thrilled to have a pastor who cares to promote environmental awareness and I hope to support him in our congregation’s Green Team efforts.”

What can your congregation do to GO GREEN?

What can your congregation do to GO GREEN?

Contact information:

Michigan Interfaith Power and Light – http://www.miipl.org

Compost Katie – http://compostkatie.com; consumercompost@gmail.com; 517-367-8279

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter – www.michigan.sierraclub.org; cecilia.garcia@sierraclub.org; 517-484-2372

Wild Ones, Red Cedar Chapter – http://www.wildoneslansing.org; seagull@msu.edu

Living Green Lansing – 517-702-6597

Ingham County Health Department – Rfranco@ingham.org

Thank you to sparlette.net, freeimages.com, gogreen.inplix.com, and kennleonhardt.com for the use of photos.