About ELT/Green Sanctuary

First Parish was accredited as a Green Sanctuary congregation by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in 2009. In 2016 we applied successfully for reaccreditation. For full up-to-date information about the denomination’s Green Sanctuary program, click here.

The Seventh Principle of our UU faith affirms our “respect for the interdependent web of existence, of which we are a part.” The Environmental Leadership Team (ELT) provides leadership for First Parish in translating this principle into individual and community action. ELT is advisory in nature and is available to assist congregants, committees and affiliates of First Parish as we all work to create a more sustainable world. We welcome new members, ideas, and inquiries.

Currently active ELT members (June, 2017): Peter Lowitt (Chair), Bob Andrews, Debbie Barr, Ted Bayne, Joyce Biggs, Laura Bremner-Benedict, Bruce Blumberg, Bob Brack, Topher Buck, Kate Crosby, Brad Hubbard-Nelson, Berni Jenkins, Richard Keleher, and Janet Rothrock. For information, contact Peter Lowitt.

History/Getting Started

Interest in having First Parish in Concord become a “Green Sanctuary” dates back many years. There was an active Green Sanctuary Committee in place as far back as 2007, when members of that committee worked with Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education and other local organizations to support a very successful “Global Warming Symposium and Fair” at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.

This symposium, in turn, led to the formation of a local climate action organization, known as ConcordCAN! The membership of ELT and ConcordCAN! has always overlapped, facilitating collaboration and co-sponsorship. ConcordCAN! has been the recipient of SAC grants several times.

Alongside its involvement in the community, the Green Sanctuary Committee launched a campaign to heighten awareness within the church of what it means to be a Green Sanctuary, and to prepare the congregation for an informed vote at its’ annual meeting in June, 2009,to seek Green Sanctuary accreditation. A formal vote was, in fact, taken; and the following statement was adopted as church policy:

“First Parish in Concord pledges our personal and congregational commitment to live and act as a Green Sanctuary: 1) to incorporate the Seventh Principle values and practices into our worship services, celebrations, religious education programs, church operations, and personal lives; 2) to live lightly on the Earth and strive to continually improve our environmental impact; 3) to affirm and promote programs to raise awareness of human behaviors that affect the health and sustainability of the living Earth.”

Click here.to read the original Green Sanctuary application, submitted in 2010 and approved by the UUA in 2011.

Once First Parish became an accredited Green Sanctuary church, the existing Green Sanctuary Committee was dissolved. After a period of “Green Visioning,” facilitated by the Reverend Jenny Rankin, a new Environmental Leadership Team was created that was officially recognized as a Church Committee under the umbrella of the Social Action Community. The Director of Social Action was charged with providing staff support to the team. The Team’s role was defined as one that emphasized guidance and consultation to all church programs and church leaders on how they might most effectively contribute to meeting the goals of the Green Sanctuary program.

Achievements To Date

Over the next five years ELT accomplished a great deal. A few highlights have been:

  • Creation of Guidelines for Church Events.
  • Special ELT-led or inspired environmental workshops and forums offered to the church membership. These were, at times, a part of the Sunday Morning Forum.
  • Collaboration with other organizations in the community in sponsoring the “Climate Solutions: Meeting the Challenge Speaker Series”
  • Advocacy within the church for divestment from fossil fuel funds to be undertaken by the Trustees for Donations.
  • Advocacy within the church for installing solar panels on the roof of the church building and then successfully raising the money to cover project expenses through a “Adopt a Solar Panel” campaign.
  • Working with Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light to conduct an energy audit of the church and make recommendations based on that assessment to the church’s energy committee.
  • Advocacy for the hiring of a part time Climate Justice Organizer to work with us and a broader network of Massachusetts UU churches in planning and initiating climate justice projects.
  • Sponsorship, alongside of the Senior Minister and other church leaders, of two buses to transport 120 people from the Concord area, including high school students, to the April, 2017 People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

Reaccreditation

After five years the UUA requires of all Green Sanctuary congregations a reaccreditation application. That application contains extensive information about what the church has done to achieve its goals and what it plans to do going forward.

In brief, the application included, as required, concrete plans for each of the following areas:

  •  Sustainable living (two projects): How do we, as a congregation, consider our impact on the environment and all living beings, current and future, in all of our congregational activities?
  • Worship and Celebration: Are environmental topics and themes consistently and repeatedly incorporated into our Sunday morning services?
  • Religious Education: What are our children learning about how to value, protect , and preserve the natural environment?
  • Environmental Justice: How do we reach out into the world to advocate for a fair and equitable approach to protecting the environment?

The UUA reaccreditation process called upon us to seek input from the congregation to help us generate these projects. Once we had done this, we solicited feedback on them from the UUA’s Green Sanctuary Review Team; revised the plan based on this input; completed the required on-line forms in order to get formal reaccreditation status; and then celebrated the occasion with the Congregation.To read the application in full, click here.