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  • Practicing Congregation: The Liturgical Color of Green, by Tim Moore

    by  Tim Moore

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    The color of green covers Christian sanctuaries during the weeks following Epiphany with green paraments covering pulpits, lecterns and communion tables, while black robed pastors drape green stoles around their necks. While the liturgical color of Epiphany (and the season after Pentecost) is green is that green enough for the Church?

    Green has come of age. As the preferred word for being environmentally friendly, green is a popular term these days. Sustainable and/or renewable energy, technology, farming, architecture, and transportation breakthroughs are happening everyday. 

    College campuses cannot brag enough about green majors, internships, or buildings. Architects and builders might use the term LEED, meaning “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” when certifying a new building’s use of renewal energy or its low carbon footprint, but everyone else just says it’s green. Green is cool.

    Which makes you wonder why more churches haven’t become green all year long.

    Churches have more reasons than other institutions to be green, for our faith is founded in the God who created heaven and earth and all that is in them. Both creation stories on the first pages of the Bible state that human beings have a God-given responsibility to care for the earth. The humans in the Garden of Eden were supposed to be caretakers of the garden, while in the first creation story humans were given dominion over the plants and animals.

    For most congregations the first steps to getting green either saves money or is relatively easy to do. Simple steps can save on energy costs and water usage. Recycling with your community program may cost you nothing but a little time and effort. A community garden or setting aside community green space on church property not only invites persons onto church grounds but also reinforces the biodiversity of your community. If you need some ideas about how to make your congregation greener, one place to start is at GreenFaith

    Concern that the new Trump administration will erode environmental protection laws, increase fossil fuels, and cut back on renewable energy is motivating many persons to become politically involved. Advocacy for the environment is a worthy mission activity, particularly at this time, which makes it more important than ever for congregations to practice what they preach. And speaking of preaching, if you need some sermon and liturgical ideas, an alternative earth and environmental lectionary is available at Season of Creation, which lays out five weeks of scripture texts on a three-year cycle each fall.

    In just a couple of weeks churches will be replacing the green in their sanctuaries with the Lenten color of purple, but the question of becoming greener with our energy use, transportation, buildings and grounds should continue throughout the year.  

    Tim Moore holds the title of writer-in-residence at Sardis Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C., where he was pastor for 19 years. Tim and his wife, Magay Shepard, are the proud parents of teenage triplets, Abby, Hannah and Michael. He holds degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, Alliance partner Andover Newton Theological School, and Mars Hill College. He returns to the Alliance board, where he served in the early 1990s.