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A Journey Toward a Green Church

Bruce and Carolyn Gillette

“We first came to the church because of its solar
panels—because taking care of the environment
matters to us, and we were happy to see that it
And to continue with our solar emphasis, a mission
group from our congregation recently took solar
matters to this congregation.” This is the answer flashlights to share with a very poor community in
that our church’s elders have heard several times rural Honduras, to make a real difference in the daily
recently when they have asked new members, lives of the people (the mission trip participants also
“What brought you to this church?” The church’s helped to build a school, and three doctors provided
journey toward becoming a more “green” church— much-needed medical care).
one that cares for God’s creation—has had many
benefits for the congregation, including attracting
new members. The 180 solar panels on the sanctuary “The Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1)
roof—along with a large outdoor banner, “The Earth
is the Lord’s”—make a clear statement: This church The church’s environmental awareness and
wants to make a difference in the world, through action begins with the Bible. A congregation’s
the way it is taking care of all that God has given us. concern for God’s creation needs to be grounded in
The church’s efforts benefit the environment, help the book that “rules our faith and life.” Unfortunately,
the church grow in membership, and save money until recently there have been too few sermons, Bible
that can then be used for other ministries. studies, or theological studies on this important
While some of the work leading up to this concern. In his 1978 Warfield Lectures at Princeton
project may have seemed dull and boring, like the Seminary, the then 74-year-old George S. Hendry
many long meetings to review technical analyses lamented how he had rarely heard a sermon on
of possible projects, our church also has felt times nature during his long life. (These lectures were
of wonderful excitement. Church members tell published as Theology of Nature by Westminster
proudly about friends and neighbors commenting Press in 1980 and still make good theological
to them, “Oh, your church is the one with the reading today.)
solar panels—what a great thing to do.” The church Thirty years earlier, Hendry, a pastor in the
building is more visible in the community. Almost Church of Scotland, wrote an overture for a modern
every week, at least one homeowner or business English translation of the Bible that led to the creation
person from the community contacts the church of the New English Bible. Thirty years after Hendry’s
for information about the solar project, asking lectures, a helpful resource for preachers and teachers
where they can get information about doing a solar of the Bible was released in October 2008 when
project too. Emails from around the country come HarperCollins published The Green Bible for this
from people exploring the church’s solar Web page purpose: “The Green Bible will equip and encourage
that includes hourly energy production reports: people to see God’s vision for creation and help

Bruce and Carolyn Gillette are co-pastors of the Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

22 Volume 42.4, 2009

them engage in the work of healing and sustaining of the sea and over the birds of the air and
it.1 With more than 1,000 references to the earth in over every living thing that moves upon the
the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and earth.” (NRSV)
530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful
message for the earth.” The Green Bible has its New These translations (“subdue,” “rule over,” and
Revised Standard Version biblical texts related to “have dominion”) have created problems. Lynn
creation care in green letters, an index to key passages, White wrote an influential article, “The Historical
and a collection of essays by N.T. Wright, Barbara Roots of our Ecological Crisis,” arguing that Genesis
Brown Taylor, Desmond Tutu, Brian McLaren, and 1:28 says creation is “explicitly for man’s benefit
others. The appendix has suggestions for further and rule: no item in the physical creation had any
readings as well as practical steps for better caring purpose save to serve man’s purposes.”2 White
for God’s creation. The Green Bible is a joint project believes the verse is an underlying cause of our
of the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of present environmental problems. While some good
Churches, the Sierra Club, and the Humane Society scholars have countered White’s position, one
of the United States. The publisher took seriously the wonders if we might have had the same problems
authors’ reflections; this Bible is printed on “recycled if people had pondered the better wording (“take
paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover.” charge” and “be responsible for”) used by Eugene
The Green Bible got rare press attention for the Peterson for the same verse in his The Message:3
publication of a new Bible, with reports in USA Today,
on National Public Radio, and elsewhere. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill
To help adult education Bible study groups, the Earth! Take charge!
Christian Reformed Church’s Faith Alive Publisher Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in
has an excellent six-session study titled Earth-wise: the air,
A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. The for every living thing that moves on the face
study’s author is Calvin B. DeWitt, an environmental of Earth.”
studies professor at University of Wisconsin–
Madison and president emeritus of the Au Sable In addition to looking at various biblical
Institute of Environmental Studies, which provides translations, it is helpful for a preacher or teacher
university-level courses on creation care for more to use the resources in good study Bibles. Terence
than 50 colleges and universities. The Thoughtful Fretheim of Luther Seminary in St. Paul makes a
Christian, developed by Presbyterian Publishing helpful comment in the Genesis 1:28 footnote of the
Corporation, has resources designed for one or two new Discipleship Study Bible, a study Bible that seeks
sessions: Global Climate Change: Facts and Solutions, to help people “called to discipleship in the world”:4
What Would Jesus Drive?, An Inconvenient Truth:
Facts about Global Warming and An Inconvenient 1:28 Subdue . . . have dominion—God shares
Truth: Ethical Challenges. power with the human, choosing not to be
It is always good to look at a variety of biblical the only one who has creative and ruling
translations when preparing to preach or teach. The capacities. Having dominion is understood
first chapter of Genesis provides a key text (1:28) by in terms of caregiving, not exploitation; it
which one can look at the rest of Bible: has its roots in the ideal conception of royal
dominion (see Ps. 72:8–14, Ezek. 24:1–4)
God blessed them and said to them, “Be and focuses on the animals. The command
fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth to “subdue” relates to the earth, particularly
and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea the difficult task of cultivation. While the verb
and the birds of the air and over every living may have a coercive aspect in interhuman
creature that moves on the ground.” (NIV) relationships (Num. 32:22, 29) no enemies
are in view here. More generally, these verbs
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be assume ongoing development in the created
fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and order, rather than a finished product. So
subdue it; and have dominion over the fish God’s world is not a static state of affairs.

Volume 42.4, 2009 23 A Journey Toward a Green Church

Barbara Brown Taylor has a wonderful sermon, toward being a green church. The confessions
“The Dominion of Love,” in The Green Bible guide “the church in its study and interpretation of
reminding us that biblical interpretation includes the Scriptures” and “declares to its members and to
reading biblical texts in their literary context. She the world who and what it is, what it believes, what
comments on her resulting discovery that human it resolves to do” (G-2.0100 b, a). The Confession
beings are not the only creatures made on the sixth of 1967 was one of the first creeds to lift up
day of the creation story: environmental concerns:6

I cannot tell you how many times I read the first God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ
chapter of Genesis before I noticed something embraces the whole of man’s life: social and
new on day six. For years and years I thought cultural, economic and political, scientific
that humans had day six all to ourselves—you and technological, individual and corporate.
know, the pinnacle of the story—God’s last, It includes man’s natural environment as
best word in the utterance of creation. With all exploited and despoiled by sin. It is the will of
lesser creatures out of the way, the sixth day God that his purpose for human life shall be
finally arrived . . . Then I noticed for the first fulfilled under the rule of Christ and all evil be
time that day six does not start there. Day six banished from his creation. (9.53)
starts two verses earlier, with the creation of
land animals—cattle, to be exact. The text does Our Song of Hope (1978) by the Reformed
not mention any other animals by name except Church in America continued this theme the
cattle—twice, in fact, along with unspecified following decade:7
creeping things and wild animals . . . Still,
this new information is a real come down—a We know Christ to be our only hope.
reminder that while God may have made We have enmeshed our world in a realm of sin,
human beings for special purpose, we were rebelled against God,
not made of any more special stuff than the accepted inhuman oppression of humanity,
rest of creation. We were made on the same and even crucified God’s son.
day as cows and creeping things and wild God’s world has been trapped by our fall,
animals of every kind. God gave us dominion, governments entangled by human pride,
it is true, but God did not pronounce us better and nature polluted by human greed. (II.2)
than anything else that God had made.
A Brief Statement of Faith (1991) of the
For those interested in scholarly biblical studies Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was the first to
on creation care, a team based in Australia has describe poor environmental stewardship having
coordinated the international efforts of the Earth the potential to do global harm in very severe terms:8
Bible Project, which has produced the five-volume
collection of essays: Volume 1: “Readings from Ignoring God’s commandments,
the Perspective of Earth”; Volume 2: “The Earth we violate the image of God in others
Story in Genesis”; Volume 3: “The Earth Story in and ourselves,
Wisdom Traditions”; Volume 4: “The Earth Story in accept lies as truth,
the Psalms and the Prophets”; and Volume 5: “The exploit neighbor and nature,
Earth Story in the New Testament.”5 In these books, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to
biblical scholars help readers gain new insights into our care. (10.34–38)
even well-known texts, for example, “An Earth Bible
Reading of the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9–13” The World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ 24th
by Vicky Balabanski, a New Testament scholar on General Council meeting in Accra, Ghana, July 30 to
the faculty of Uniting Church in Australia’s Parkin- August 13, 2004, issued the prophetic “Confession of
Wesley College. Faith in the Face of Economic Injustice and Ecological
The church’s confessional statements also Destruction,” often called the “Accra Confession.”9
provide a guide that can move a congregation Though not a doctrinal confession like the Heidelberg

Call to Worship 24 Volume 42.4, 2009

Catechism or Westminster Confession, the Accra Nov. 17, 2007: The UN IPCC (Inter-
Confession challenges current economic doctrines governmental Panel on Climate Change)
with the traditional Reformed criticism of idols (i.e., releases its final assessment paper in Valencia,
Mammon, consumerism, the financial and speculative Spain. The Synthesis Report finds that the world
markets) that deny God’s life-giving sovereignty and will have to end its growth of carbon emissions
“defy God’s covenant by excluding the poor, the within seven years and become mostly free of
vulnerable, and the whole of Creation from the carbon-emitting technologies in about four
fullness of life” (p. 2). This statement can be used not decades to avoid widespread extinctions of
only in adult Bible studies, but also in worship. Part species, slowing of global currents, decreased
of the Accra Confesion (numbered 17–36) is written food production, loss of 30 percent of global
in liturgical confessional form. wetlands, flooding for millions of people and
The Confession of 1967 teaches us “. . . effective higher deaths from heat waves.13
preaching, teaching, and personal witness require
disciplined study of both the Bible and the Newsweek reported in its July 7–14, 2008,
contemporary world” (9.49). In 1990, a PC(USA) issue that scientists have found “Global Warming
General Assembly (1990) study paper, “Restoring Is a Cause of This Year’s Extreme Weather.”14
Creation for Ecology and Justice,” found “the “Climate Change and its Impacts on the Poor” is a
global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse moving workshop presentation by Andrew Kang
effect) represents one of the most serious global Bartlett available as a PowerPoint presentation
environmental challenges to the health, security, and that can be downloaded from the Presbyterian
stability of human life and natural ecosystems. . . .”10 Hunger Program website (
The Holy Spirit can work through “secular” openresource.htm#1). If energy-wasting lifestyles
sciences to help Christians move toward of individuals (and churches) are hurting the poor
environmental stewardship. John Calvin pointed around the world through climate change and its
out the benefits of secular science in the sixteenth resulting impact, one wonders if a modern Amos
century in his most famous work:11 “If we regard might proclaim they offer no acceptable worship
the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we (Amos 5:21–24).
shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it The Directory for Worship includes a final
wherever it shall appear unless we wish to dishonor chapter, “Worship and the Ministry of the Church
the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the in the World” with a section on “Caring for Creation
Spirit in slight esteem, we condemn and reproach and Life.” It concludes with:15
the Spirit himself. But if the Lord has willed that
we be helped in physics, dialectic and mathematics, As stewards of God’s creation who hold the
and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry earth in trust, the people of God are called to:
of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we use the earth’s resources responsibly without
neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we plundering, polluting, or destroying,
ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths.”
So Christians have an opportunity and even an a. use the earth’s resources responsibly
obligation to learn from scientific findings as we without plundering, polluting, or destroying,
seek to be faithful in God’s world. Unfortunately, b. develop technological methods and
scientific findings are increasing in their level of processes that work together with the earth’s
alarm and calling for significant changes in the way environment to preserve and enhance life,
we have lived:12 c. produce and consume in ways that make
available to all people what is sufficient for life,
Climate change will likely affect human health d. work for responsible attitudes and practices
in the future. Potential impacts include heat in procreation and reproduction,
stress, increased air pollution, and lack of e. use and shape earth’s goods to create
food due to drought or other agricultural beauty, order, health, and peace in ways that
stresses. Climate change can also influence reflect God’s love for all creatures.
the spread of infectious diseases.

Volume 42.4, 2009 25 A Journey Toward a Green Church

Our faithful worship will encourage the church we served as co-pastors (First Presbyterian Church
on the journey of environmental faithfulness. in Pitman, New Jersey, and Limestone Presbyterian
What we say and do in worship is interconnected Church in Wilmington, Delaware). The result of his
with the way we live out our faithfulness in the careful review of churches is a notebook of analysis
world. “Christian worship, at particular times, in filled with practical suggestions. Both churches,
special places, with the use of God’s material gifts, along with the many others he has analyzed over
should lead the church into the life of the world the years, have saved thousands of dollars due
to participate in God’s purpose to redeem time, to reduced energy use. Less energy means less
to sanctify space, and to transform material reality pollution, so everyone wins—the church’s budget
for the glory of God.”16 In other words, Sunday and the environment.
morning worship leads to daily, faithful living in The Interfaith Coalition on Energy’s website
God’s creation. ( includes free, in-depth
This is seen in a visible way every Sunday studies like “Swing Low, Sweet Thermostat” (the
morning when the congregation gathers to worship. benefits of setting back the temperature as low as
Together we read psalms praising God’s handiwork 45°F inside buildings when they are not in use);
in shaping creation. In our prayers, we thank God “Ceiling Fans—Blowing Your Money?” (reasons why
for the gifts of creation. From our hymnbooks, we not to use ceiling fans during the heating season);
sing “For the Beauty of the Earth.” In our “children’s and “Energy Priorities for Congregations” that
time” during worship, we talk about the changing include these common-sense suggestions:
seasons and God’s gifts to us in nature. In presenting
our tithes and offerings, we acknowledge that all Turn things off because nothing beats off.
things—not just our money and possessions—belong It doesn’t matter how small or efficient a
to God, who made all of creation. In our pews, we lamp, appliance, boiler, air conditioner or
sit with our children snuggled next to us, and we motor is—the greatest savings comes from
ponder their future living in a world that we haven’t turning it off and keeping it off. The more
cared for very well. We offer a prayer that we can inefficient an appliance is, the greater the
do a better job of living as God calls us to live. At savings from keeping it off. Since religious
the end of worship, we receive the blessing and buildings are used intermittently, keeping
benediction, and we go out into the world called to things off matters even more than in more
be faithful to God, who created us and who calls us heavily-used buildings.
to care for the creation.
Saving money can be a major motivating Buy the least expensive energy. There are
factor that moves a church toward being green. many forms of energy—green electricity,
Church buildings come in many architectural brown electricity, natural gas, propane, fuel
designs and sizes, but most of them need energy oil, gasoline, and so on. Once a congregation
to heat and/or cool their buildings. Energy costs has chosen the type of energy they want,
keep going up at the same time scientists warn us they should continually seek to purchase the
of the growing threat of climate change to God’s least expensive energy. Factors continually
creation. Churches are motivated to conserve change. In the fall of 2000 we are facing much
energy to help the church’s finances. Savings can higher natural gas and fuel oil prices. Electric
be used elsewhere for missions, staff salaries, and suppliers change their terms in a deregulated
creative ministries. market. Each utility offers different types of
Andy Rudin has been the answer to many rates; for example, congregations generally
churches’ prayers about how to be better stewards save money with time-of-use electric rates.
of the environment and of church property. As the Congregations can purchase contracts
director of the Interfaith Coalition on Energy, Rudin is of fixed-price fuel oil. They can purchase
the recognized authority on energy conservation for transportation gas through marketers. Other
churches by a top ecumenical think tank, the Alban factors are how energy costs are included in
Institute, and by the U.S. Department of Energy. He leasing space, whether or not a congregation
has done energy audits for two congregations where needs to pay state sales tax or federal excise

Call to Worship 26 Volume 42.4, 2009

tax. Whatever choice they make in the type of The solar project at Limestone Presbyterian
energy purchased, they need to continually Church is the result of the hard work of many
shop for better deals. church members and friends over a year. Gary Bell
(a retired school administrator, scout supporter,
Tune systems to optimal performance. and grandfather) met with many roofing and solar
Building operators should continually contractors, carefully explored all of the options,
adjust water temperatures, air temperatures, and came up with excellent recommendations. Roy
dampers, the height of pilot light flames, and Timmer (retired engineer) did helpful research.
so on. Tune oil and gas burners with the help Dr. Steven Hegedus of the Institute of Energy
of a contractor. Use natural ventilation instead Conversion at the University of Delaware is a leading
of compressor air conditioning overnight and expert on solar energy and graciously taught an adult
during appropriate days. class at Limestone and answered countless emailed
questions (University of Delaware built “Solar
Purchase efficient replacements. Everything One,” one of the world’s first photovoltaic-powered
is crumbling into dust. Congregations will residences, in 1973, a milestone in “the history of
eventually replace motors, air conditioners, solar”). Libby Jonczyk recruited her husband Ralf,
heating systems, lamps, ballasts, appliances, an engineer who works for GE Solar. Engineers
office equipment and so on. The premium cost Tim Bell and his friend Greg Taylor did excellent,
of more efficient equipment is usually justified in-depth analysis of the project. Electrical engineers
when purchasing replacement equipment. Be Mike Casale (Sierra Club webmaster) and Dr. Doug
very wary of cutting-edge technology without Tipton brought their expertise to meetings. Long-
a track record of measured performance. range planning chair (and engineer) Larry Campbell
Look for the EnergyStar logo indicating more with Alexis Cooper, Roy Timmer, Mike Casale,
energy efficient products. Barbara Hoover, and Carolyn Allen gave support
and coordination with upcoming church renovation/
Purchase renewable energy. Your building projects. Finance committee chair Tom
congregation can install solar electric panels Loomis with elders Ruth Smith and Ted Elder were
on your roof to generate electricity whenever assisted by church treasurer Dr. Fred Kirschman
the sun shines. Deals vary locally. In the in dealing with the financial aspects of the project.
PECO Energy service territory, for example, Industrial contractor Roger Jolly served as a contact
grants up to $25,000 are available to help for the roofers and solar contractors once they
offset for the upfront costs. PLUS, the Energy started their work. Bob VanderDecker, co-chair of the
Cooperative of Pennsylvania will purchase church’s property committee, who worked for years
your electricity at above PECO prices! at the Salem Nuclear Plant, attended many meetings
and helped Roger Jolly as a contact. Following
Limestone Church had worked for several years special meetings and committee discussions as well
to accomplish energy savings through more efficient as several of their own meetings, the session voted
appliances and lighting. There were those in the unanimously to approve the roof solar project at its
church who had a vision to do something more. May 6, 2008, meeting.
One church member expressed concern for the
environment because he has a grandchild with asthma.
Others talked about what it means for us to love our How much did the solar project cost?
neighbors around the world, including the poor—
who are affected in large numbers by pollution and Limestone Presbyterian Church’s solar project
global warming. Jesus was concerned with the whole cost $251,790, but half of its cost ($125,895) was
person, including each person’s physical well-being. covered by an already approved Delaware Energy
We are called to follow his example and do what Alternatives Program rebate (most states have such
we can to help everyone’s health. Church leaders at rebate programs, and there is a federal tax credit for
Limestone came to realize that the solar panels would individuals). Limestone’s solar panels are guaranteed
result in less pollution and better health. for 25 years by General Electric. The savings we will

Volume 42.4, 2009 27 A Journey Toward a Green Church

drawing by Roger Jolly

have by producing our own electricity, along with and raised more than $1,300. New church members,
funds we will get from “renewal energy credits” originally attracted to the church because of the solar
(RECs) for producing nonpolluting electricity, will panels, will enrich the church in many ways in the
pay off the ten-year loan according to a careful coming years beyond their financial contributions.
analysis of the project done by several engineers.
Once the loan is paid, the church will have more than
fifteen years of power produced freely by the solar Powerful Benefits
panels as well as additional income from the RECs.
We also needed to pay for a $30,000 new roof Limestone’s 36 kW system of solar panels will
on which the solar panels were installed, but the produce 45,784 kW hours annually. Climate and
congregation was very willing to raise that money electrical uses will vary, but many typical four-
since a roof would have been needed soon anyway. person homes will use about 12,000 kW hours
We had several thousand dollars contributed by annually. In Delaware, the church’s solar panels will
nonmembers who wanted to support the solar prevent the generation of 90,237 pounds of carbon
project and understood it could not happen without dioxide annually. This is equivalent to emissions
the new roof. Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from driving 100,264 miles in an average U.S.
had car washes at the church for the solar project passenger car each year.

Call to Worship 28 Volume 42.4, 2009

Solar Work and Soul-filled Worship We used the occasion to remember that worship
doesn’t depend on the particular worship space.
The work on the new roof and solar project Some early Christians worshiped in hidden places,
took place in the summer of 2008. It began on a in the midst of persecution. Christians throughout
Sunday after worship when volunteers covered the developing world today may not have buildings
the sanctuary with huge sheets of plastic to protect to worship in, so a congregation may gather under
the carpet, pews, and sanctuary furnishings from a tree or in a school. Our worship that Sunday,
dust while the new roof was being installed. The outside of our usual space, was a celebration that
next Sunday, the service was a joyful adventure as church is not about a place as much as it is about a
the congregation worshiped in the fellowship hall. people gathered to worship God.
For the next couple
weeks, church members kept
an eye on the church roof
whenever they drove by (the
church is next to a major
road) or when they drove into
the parking lot for meetings
or activities. Soon the work
was completed and it was
time for Solar Dedication
Sunday on July 20, 2008.
Although Earth Sunday is in
April, Limestone Church had
its own summer celebration
of God’s beautiful creation.
The emphasis was on what
God has done—in creating a
beautiful world, in calling us
to care for creation, and in
giving us minds, talents, and
resources to provide that care.
In Bruce’s sermon that
Sunday, he talked about how
we all need to put on green
sunglasses to see the “green”
teachings in the Bible. A
bulletin insert for that
worship service included
the helpful collection of
photo courtesy of Limestone Presbyterian Church

Scriptures found on the

Evangelical Environmental
Network website (www.
From the Scripture
readings to the children’s
time to the hymns to the
sermon, the theme was about
responding to God’s gifts in
creation by caring for what
God has given. The worship

Volume 42.4, 2009 29 A Journey Toward a Green Church

photo courtesy of Limestone Presbyterian Church
service included the singing of a new hymn written there, along with offering a free medical clinic with
by Carolyn Gillette for the solar dedication. Note three doctors who came with the group, providing
that there is an alternate line below the hymn so that three hand-cranked sewing machines for a local
it can be used for any church’s celebration of caring sewing project, and assisting in building a school.
for the environment—not just for a solar dedication. Bruce testified in two state hearings in favor a
proposal for a wind farm off the Delaware coast.
This project, now approved, was featured in the
Limestone’s Other Environmental Work Sept. 14, 2008, cover story of The New York Times
Magazine. Two doctorate students in marine studies
The congregation has done a variety of creative from the University of Delaware, Jon Lilley and
environmental-related actions in addition to the Meredith Blaydes Lilley, have joined Limestone
installation of solar panels. Church and helped to teach educational programs
When the church sent a mission group to Kenya at the church.
in June 2006, where former Limestone pastor Lyle In the summer of 2008, the church chose a
Dykstra is now serving, the Limestone Presbyterians vacation Bible school curriculum in which one of
planted hundreds of trees in addition to helping the major themes was caring for God’s creation.
with the construction of a church and school. We had solar panels installed on our home
Reforestation efforts are very important in many in December 2007 after our son John carefully
developing countries. Kenya’s Wangari Maathai researched the project. Several Limestone
won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her Green Belt Presbyterians and their friends are now signing
Movement, a grassroots environmental organization contracts to have solar panels installed on their
that now has planted more than 40 million trees homes. The church is people, not a building, but it
across Kenya. is a joy to see individual church members’ homes
Limestone Presbyterians went on a mission changing to solar power—in some way an extension
trip to the Gulf Coast in 2007, which helped in of their church home’s green witness.
the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina, a Limestone Presbyterian Church has not arrived
devastating storm that many scientists believe was on its journey to being a green church. There are
more severe due to climate change. many areas in our congregation’s life and in the
Limestone Presbyterians went on a mission trip to lives of individual church members and pastors that
Honduras in June 2008. The group gave out “Bogo” still need work. The ecumenical Web of Creation
solar lights to dozens of families in a rural village website ( has numerous

Call to Worship 30 Volume 42.4, 2009

ideas that we can try so that we all can be better meeting, 2004. North American Covenanting for
stewards. We hope that through a combination of Justice Working Group, RCA Communication and
worship (corporate, family, and individual), study, Production Services, 2007, p. 2. Available at www.
and service, we will continue to grow in our witness
that the “earth is the Lord’s.” 10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “Restoring Creation
for Ecology and Justice,” (Louisville, KY: Office of
the General Assembly, 1990), available at www.
1. Barbara Brown Taylor, “The dominion of love,” The 11. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol.
Green Bible (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1, ed. John T. McNeill, trans., Ford Lewis Battles
2008) I-87–I-88. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), II.2.15–16.
2. Lynn White, “The historical roots of our ecological 12. Amanda Staudt, Nancy Huddleston, and Sandi
crisis,” Science 155 (1967): 1203–7. Rudenstein, Understanding and Responding to Climate
3. Eugene Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Change: Highlights of National Academies Reports,
Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: United States National Academy of Sciences, National
NavPress, 2002). Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine
4. Terrence Fretheim, Discipleship Study Bible (Louisville: and the National Research Council (Washington:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), xii, 5. National Academies Press, 2005), 16.
5. Centre for Science, Theology and Culture at Flinders 13. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
University of South Australia, Earth Bible Project on Change, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report—An
Web of Creation. Available at www.webofcreation. Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
org/Earthbible/ebtoc1.html. Change. IPCC Plenary XXVII (Valencia, Spain: 2007);
6. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “The Confession of reported in “Milestones in climate change policy,”
1967,” The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church The Washington Post, December 3, 2007, available
(U.S.A.): Part I: The Book of Confessions (Louisville, at
KY: Office of the General Assembly, 2004), 262; article/2007/12/03/AR2007120301375.html.
italics mine. See related issues in 9.45–47. 14. Sharon Begley, “Global warming Is a cause of this
7. Reformed Church in America, “Our Song of year’s extreme weather,” Newsweek, July 7–14, 2008.
Hope,” italics mine. Available at Available at
aspx?pid=313. 15. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Constitution of the
8. The Book of Confessions, italics mine. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Part II: Book of Order
9. World Alliance of Reformed Churches, “The Accra (Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly,
Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy 2004), W-7.5003.
and the Earth,” (Accra, Ghana: World Alliance 16. Ibid., W-1.3040.
of Reformed Churches’ 24th General Council

Volume 42.4, 2009 31 A Journey Toward a Green Church

At the Dawn of Your Creation
hymn to joy D (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”)

At the dawn of your creation, God, you spoke, “Let there be light!”
You divided earth from heaven, you created day and night.
You made sunbeams dance with shadows, you created energy!
Peaceful evenings, bright tomorrows, all began with “Let there be . . . !”

By your word, you formed creation: dry land, water, ocean breeze.
Soon there burst forth vegetation—plants with fruit, majestic trees.
Rain and snow and changing seasons, creatures filling land and sea—
God, your very good creation all began with “Let there be . . . !”

When you made us as your children, sending us throughout your lands,

You commanded, “Have dominion—care for earth; it’s in your hands.”
Yet we hurt this world you’ve given; we harm earth and sky and sea.
We forget it’s your creation—you, who once said, “Let there be . . . !”

At this solar dedication, may we hear your word anew:*

May we care for your creation, knowing it’s a trust from you.
Just as daily there’s a dawning, bringing light to all we see,
So we daily hear your calling—you, who once said, “Let there be . . . !”

*Alternate line: At this joyful celebration, may we hear your word anew:
(This alternate line enables the hymn to be used for any church’s celebration of caring for
the environment.)

Tune: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1824.

Text: Copyright © 2008 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is author of Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship (Geneva Press, 2000), Songs
of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources, 2009), and serves with her husband,
Bruce, as the co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Links to twenty of
Carolyn’s recent hymns can be found on the worship page of the General Board of Discipleship of the United
Methodist Church (,22,1131).
The Church World Service website ( has a page of her hymns related to social
justice, peace, and disaster relief efforts. Another of her creation care hymns, “The Earth is the Lord’s,” is
found on both of these websites.

Call to Worship 32 Volume 42.4, 2009

Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching and the Arts
42.4 Environment and Worship (May 2009)

Welcoming the Earth to Christian Worship

Samuel Torvend

Ecological Catechesis for Holy Things

Fred Edie

A Journey Toward a Green Church

Bruce and Carolyn Gillette

Reimagining our Environment: Looking at Worship Spaces with New Perspective

Nathan Proctor and David Sims

Total Praise: A Vision for Holistic and Interconnected Christian Lives

Debra Mumford

Michael Morgan on “green” hymns
Kristin Saldine on the relationship between geography and preaching
An interview with John Ferguson on renovating the chapel at St. Olaf College
The Work of Our Hands: The Liturgical Furniture of Erich Thompson

This issue of Call to Worship is the first green PCUSA publication! Our paper is made from
sustainable forests and all inks are soy-based.

Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts offers insight and inspiration for
pastors, church musicians, artists and other worship leaders. This quarterly journal is published
by the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

To order a copy of this issue ($8.75 each) or to subscribe to the journal, email or call her at 888-728-7228 x 5331.

The journal can also be ordered from Presbyterian Distribution Service at 800-524-2612 and
online at

Send check or money order along with a request to: Call to Worship, Voucher Remittance
Processing, P O Box 643660, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3660

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