Being green is a priority for The United Methodist Church of Red Bank and leaders there are not going to let social distancing and shelter in place orders stop them from holding their annual Green Fair to celebrate Earth Day. They will honor the earth with their annual Green Fair tradition, finding an alternative way to continue with their celebration in these extraordinary times.
While the church community has been forced to cancel its environmental festivities scheduled for April 19, church members formed other methods to still acknowledge and celebrate Earth Day which is celebrating its 50th anniversary,
“I remember the first Earth Day in 1970, and it was a big celebration. It was a great thing and brought a lot of awareness to people,” said Jane Schildge, GreenFaith Team chairperson and UMC Red Bank church member. “Our church will do as much as possible to celebrate online, on our church website, in virtual displays and in projects to do at home.”
She added that they are also working on photo displays and more for April as well as encouraging people to do things at home such as gardening, picking up litter and recycling all their extra plastics from supplies.
“We are educating about our earth and caring for it. We want people to share in our mission to protect and love the earth,” said Schildge.
UMC Red Bank members have been long-standing proponents for environmental protection and awareness as their church is the first United Methodist Church in the country to be certified green. As part of GreenFaith, New Jersey’s interfaith coalition for the environment founded in 1992 to inspire, educate and mobilize people of diverse spiritual backgrounds, UMC Red Bank has discovered their relationship with the sacred in nature and their need to restore the earth for future generations through shared beliefs of the world’s great religions.
“Our green certification started in 2009 when I began as chair of the team,” Schildge said. “In 2019 we celebrated 10 years as a green congregation and a recognized community leader in environmental stewardship. We are a progressive and reconciling congregation of about 400 members with a strong youth program.”
GreenFaith certification is designed to help houses of worship from diverse traditions become religious environmental leaders. The certification is the world’s first comprehensive interfaith, environmental certification program. Over two years, participating institutions carry out a range of initiatives to integrate environmental themes into worship, religious education, facility maintenance and social outreach with the goal of becoming a GreenFaith sanctuary through the direction of GreenFaith.
“The Green Team at our church applied for certification and was accepted, joining other churches and synagogues in Monmouth County in this environmental effort,” she said. “Our church wanted to be environmental stewards and share our enthusiasm for the earth, the air and the water around us and all that sustains us as humans.”
According to Schildge, caring for the earth is a religious value, and environmental stewardship is a moral responsibility. UMC Red Bank members performed an array of measures to become “green-friendly.”
“We did audits of all areas including trash and began recycling and alternatives to plastic. We added vegetarian options to all meals served and stopped pesticides on our grounds. Our United Methodist Women’s group began a garden plot where vegetables were raised and shared with the congregation and local soup kitchens,” she continued.
“We also joined a community sustained organic farm and volunteered there. Our church has banned plastics such as cups, containers, flatware and more. We only use reusable and washable. We grow spiritually through our relationship with the earth. Everyone has a right to live in a clean, safe environment. People of faith have a vital role to play in restoring healthy ecosystems around the world,” she said.
The church’s next environmentally-friendly step is its Trex Project, which grew out of their 2019 Green Fair. A group of local eighth graders invited church members to participate in their own Trex Challenge to which they readily accepted.
“The kids came out to the church to teach us about it. We signed up on Labor Day and have met their challenge and exceeded it! We saved 600 pounds of single use plastic film, bubble wrap and cereal liners. If you collect 500 pounds there is a Trex bench challenge. We are now putting our bench together, and we will show it online for our green presentation in March. We will be putting our Trex bench in our preschool playground where 100 kids will be using it. Trex is wonderful because it is made from 95% recycled materials as well as recycled plastic. Trex saves 400 million pounds of recycled material from landfills each year,” she said.
Schildge believes that because of UMC Red Bank’s vast environmental efforts during the past 10 years through outreach and educations programs, others can learn the vital importance of preserving Mother Earth in all her goodness.
“One of our goals has been to work with other faith communities to better care for the world around us. People of faith have a vital role in play in restoring healthy ecosystems around the world. We grow spiritually through our relationship with the earth,” she said.
The United Methodist Church of Red Bank is located at 247 Broad Street in Red Bank, NJ. For more information, visit www.umcredbank.org.