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Oregon Churches: Saving Energy, Feeding Souls

June 19, 2008

Portland, OR – Churches in Oregon are finding new ways to incorporate conservation into their ministries, and a new report shows it's happening across the country. The Sierra Club says 67 percent of Americans claim to care about the environment "because it is God's creation."

Oregon faith communities are getting help with "green" goals from the Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns (INEC), which is part of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. INEC offers workshops and consulting services about such topics as solar power, energy efficiency, and sustainable agriculture. INEC Director Jenny Holmes says these efforts can save churches money – but that's not the point.

"All the religious traditions are now looking at their Scriptures and teachings with fresh eyes. I think it increasingly is making a difference to people to be attending a congregation that shares their core values – and in Oregon, a lot of people value stewardship of the environment."

The report, "Faith In Action," includes examples in every state of faith groups that are exploring innovative ways to combine their religious teachings with environmental awareness. Holmes says, for instance, most churches help feed the hungry. Now, they're adding an awareness about growing and buying the food locally.

"In the process, we educate congregation members about the importance of sustaining our local farmers – and also make them more aware of some of the struggles that their neighbors face, in getting enough food."

Oregon congregations have come up with creative ways to help low-income families, she adds, from food coupon books that can be used at farmers' markets, to gardening and canning food to donate and sponsoring crops earmarked for hunger relief.

Holmes says some faith groups choose to become politically active, advocating for environmental laws. She says there's plenty of help available for churches that want to launch conservation projects, from groups like INEC and the Energy Trust of Oregon. She notes that Oregon also has a law allowing nonprofit organizations to partner with businesses to get energy tax credits for weatherizing and other energy-saving steps.

Details about INEC's programs are available online at www.emoregon.org/earth-concerns.php. The "Faith in Action" report also is online, at www.sierraclub.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR