Bethany Christian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, is a Certified Cool Congregation at the 10% or above level for their exemplary work in reducing their carbon footprint.
Read more in the words of Lora VanEtten, Office Manager of Bethany Christian,
“Our main concern was to take an aging building that needed updates and to do them in a fiscally responsible and environmentally-friendly manner. In the building, we had a number of concerns: Inefficient lighting throughout the building, drafty windows in the sanctuary, an ill-fitting door, asbestos flooring, and safety features that were outdated.
Covid hit and provided challenges, but also opportunities. With the congregation not meeting, we could complete some projects without disruption. Meetings were done via email and zoom for a while. During a dark time, we were able to look toward the future, think about our stewardship of the earth, and find creative ways to get things accomplished.
We ran a capital campaign to raise $100,000 to update our building and grounds, and we expect to save $3,000 a year on energy bills due to the upgrades.
We applied for certification as a Green Chalice Church, a program of the Disciples of Christ denomination that provided resources and guidance on becoming more sustainable in 4 areas: Building/Facility, Grounds/Property, Worship & Church practices, and Education/Outreach/Justice.
We became the 18th Disciples of Christ church to be nationally certified and the first in Nebraska!
We accomplished a lot as we worked our way through the Green Chalice certification process. We removed the asbestos in Fellowship Hall and added a handicapped bathroom with energy-efficient fixtures. All the light fixtures were changed out to LED – including outdoor lights, which also have a dusk-to-dawn timer. Storm windows were added to the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary. The west doors were replaced with properly fitting ones that don’t allow breezes into the building! Motion detectors were installed in seldom-used areas. CO2 detectors were installed as well as other safety features. It is estimated we will save over $3000 on energy savings in the first year. Figures have been hard to estimate as we are slow to return to pre-pandemic attendance.
We also expanded our recycling efforts. Outside, trees were planted, and a native pollinator garden was added. At Lent in 2022, we themed the season to Hearing the Cries of the Earth. We had speakers, the local raptor rescue, recycled artwork by the youth, and sermons all geared towards encouraging stewardship of the earth. We have changed all our cleaners over to nontoxic, mulch the grass on the grounds, and don’t use toxic pesticides. We also switched from mailing newsletters on a monthly basis to sending them via email. We are saving over $1000 on mailing/printing costs.
Carri Honz of the Raptor Conservation Alliance presents Halsey the Great Horned Owl
Our projects show that a small, determined number of people can make a difference and get things done. The projects brought together our congregation with a unified purpose and let everyone work in areas that allowed their passions/skills to be highlighted.
Building, Worship, Education, and our Creation Care and Green Team members worked on the project. Jack Richardson headed up building improvements over the last couple of years. Lora VanEtten handled project management and paperwork, and Judy Mueller was the leader in outdoor improvements. Rev. Daryl Lauber headed the worship element of the project. Marion Price has done an exemplary job on recycling and education related to that end.
We are setting an example to our youth and community that we are stewards of the earth, and that we can all do something to make a change. An example of inspiration is that we have done most of our work inside, but outside, our changes are being noticed by the community. People have come up asking about the plants, how to get starts or seeds, and attracted to the butterflies that were on them this fall! Another example is the compliments we get on our email newsletter that goes out to subscribers – we get a number of comments each month. And most importantly, those in the congregation know that the improvements to the building will be lasting and help with our future.”