Pastor Grace Hackney D’03, whose Cedar Grove United Methodist Church north of Hillsborough, N.C., is rebuilding after a fire three years ago, will be at the conference with her congregation’s architect and builder.
“One of the things we want to learn is what we can do to be more responsible—how we can make our building a sign of God’s presence in the community,” Hackney said. The church has recycled stones from its 1934 structure to build an outdoor altar, which may continue to be used for open-air services or become a part of the new church.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity we’ve been given to build a building that will be dedicated to worship,” said Hackney. “We know we can learn things that we need to be watchful of.”
The Rural Church Division of The Duke Endowment, which is supporting the Greening Sacred Spaces conference, encourages churches to build responsibly. That’s not new territory for the organization, which spends about $3 million per year to help with construction and renovation projects at rural Methodist churches throughout North Carolina, said Joe Mann, director of the Rural Church Division and adjunct professor for the practice of Christian ministry at the divinity school.
A decade ago, Mann’s organization led an effort to weatherproof rural Methodist churches in the state, spending about $750,000 to help some 300 churches install insulation, weather stripping, ceiling fans and more. The idea was to save energy, the fuel needed to produce it, and the money needed to buy it. It’s long been time for churches to address ecological issues with a conference, Mann said.
“I think we certainly want to help architects, designers and builders have a better theological understanding of what it means to be church—the liturgical and communal needs of a congregation,” he said. “Also, I hope we will convince some people that they ought to be thinking about the design of churches in terms of green.”
The Rural Church Division is willing to back up that sentiment with another kind of green. Although he doesn’t cite a specific figure, Mann said his division of The Duke Endowment stands ready to help rural churches pay for some of the up-front costs of environmentally sensitive design—such as energy efficient fixtures, which may be more costly than less efficient fixtures, but save both power and money over time.
Andrew Coon D’05 credits DUGI with leading the way at the university and setting the stage for significant divinity school involvement in promoting green building. Now is the time for divinity students to embrace responsibility for stewardship of the earth.
“We’re the ones who are going to go out there and become pastors and be aware of green,” he said. “We are to be stewards of the earth as God is the steward of us.”
Ellen Davis gives much of the credit for the conference, and the overall church greening initiative, to Coon and fellow divinity students who have worked closely with DUGI.
“It’s quite amazing what these students have done,” she said. “They’re the ones who have been asking the questions about how we can build churches that
meet higher environmental standards.”
For details about the conference, call 919-660-3448 or visit www.divinity.duke.edu/learningforlife/Events/greening.htm
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