First Parish wins Cool Congregations Challenge

First Parish Unitarian Universalist (FPUU) of Medfield was recently announced as one of five winners in a national competition sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light (IPL).

The Cool Congregations Challenge is a united effort by religious congregations across the country to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint and serve as models of sustainability to their members and communities. Winners were selected from five categories: Cool Planner, Sacred Grounds Steward, Energy Saver, Renewable Role Model, and Community Inspiration. First Parish UU Medfield won in the Community Inspiration category by featuring their efforts to educate Medfield residents about the anti-idling state law and its benefits to the environment and everyone’s health.

“We are grateful to Interfaith Power and Light for providing resources for us to strengthen our mission of caring for the Earth and addressing climate change in any way that we can," states Jeanette Ruyle, chairperson of FPUU’s Green Sanctuary Committee. "We see it as a vital part of building beloved community.”

Interfaith Power and Light received thousands of submissions. “These five congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” said President of Interfaith Power and Light Rev. Susan Hendershot. “The projects that were selected demonstrate that faith communities are living out their calling to care for Creation, while also freeing up resources to invest in their mission and ministries in their communities.”

The Cool Congregations Challenge is an annual contest held by IPL that is open to congregations all over the country, from every faith tradition. Judging criteria included: a well-defined project with measurable benefits for the climate; creativity and resourcefulness in executing the project; congregant engagement in the project; and community inspiration. The faith communities represent many different religious backgrounds, but all share a common mission – to be good stewards of creation by addressing global warming as a moral imperative.

The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action – with or without support of government policies. The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes.

FPUU won in the Community Inspiration category for their community-wide anti-idling awareness project. The objective was to raise consciousness in Medfield about the anti-idling law and its many good reasons for existence, such as reduced carbon emissions, stop wasting money, and reduced public health problems. Through a multi-year effort, FPUU was able to form a community-wide coalition of Medfield churches, governmental committees, police, schools, board of health, and the garden club. High school students got involved. Flyers regarding the anti-idling law were distributed and permanent signs erected by the police. A TV show was filmed by Medfield TV. Newspaper articles were written.

As an accredited “Green Sanctuary” of the Unitarian Universalist Association, FPUU wants to raise consciousness about the environment, motivate people to undertake change, generate commitment to community action, and address environmental justice. This anti-idling project was just one of the ways FPUU reaches out into the community at large in order to make Medfield a sustainable and caring community.

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