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From Revelation to Caring for Creation

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Reverend Carol Devine, a minister for a Kentucky Disciples of Christ church, teamed up with Disciples leaders across the state to form a new program that provides an easy pathway for congregations to walk more gently on the earth.  The program, called Green Chalice, has spurred almost 60 congregations to commit to stewardship, offering them resources and support to take sustainable steps in their own ministries.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Dr. Carol Devine
    Craft a compelling brand: Using the Disciples’ Red Chalice symbol for the Green Chalice program helped members instantly recognize its affiliation and purpose.
  • Encourage church-level creation care teams: According to Rev. Devine, a successful program requires the support of not just the leaders, but also the members.
  • Create a regional team to provide support: The formation of a regional team was critical to launching 20 of the 53 total Green Chalice Ministries.
  • Make it easy to get started: It’s relatively simple for congregations to become a Green Chalice Ministry, which is important for congregations just getting started.
  • Celebrate success to breed success: Participating congregations are publicly recognized and receive hard-copy certificates to build program support and visibility.

From Revelation to Action

“If everyone in the world lived like me, it would take the resources of four planets.” That revelation, from an exercise in her theology class, motivated Rev. Carol Devine to act. So when the Regional Minister of Kentucky for the Disciples of Christ, Rev. Greg Alexander, came to speak to her class, she asked him what the region was doing to help congregations walk more gently on the earth.

Rev. Carol Devine portrait

It isn’t just an Earth Day thing. It's an every Sunday, every prayer thing.

Rev. Carol Devine
Minister, Green Chalice
Reverend, Providence Christian Church

Rev. Alexander, who shares a passion for creation care, responded by calling together a group of pastors and laypersons from across Kentucky, including Rev. Devine, to explore the issue. They began by looking at what types of programs were already out there. Though there were models of creation care programs within other traditions, such as the Unitarian Green Sanctuary Program, many of these were so involved that it was difficult to imagine a church just getting started not being intimidated by their complex and rigorous standards. What they needed was a program with a lower barrier to entry to get the ball rolling. Their answer was Green Chalice.

Building a Program to Engage New Voices

Green Chalice is a name that immediately resonates for the Disciples of Christ members who have a red chalice as a defining symbol in their tradition, and even forms part of their denominational logo. “For disciples to see the red chalice green, they immediately get it,” said Rev. Devine.

Rev. Carol Devine giving sermon

The Green Chalice Program has two distinct levels. At the first level, congregations form a “green team,” sign a covenant to be good stewards of the earth, and implement three green actions of their choosing. Once congregations complete these actions, they are deemed “Green Chalice Ministries.” At the second level, congregations examine and make changes in every area of the church, including worship, education, outreach, as well as their buildings and grounds. Churches that implement these actions receive a “Green Chalice Certification.” All participating congregations are publicly recognized on a website and receive a certificate and a beautiful plaque made of sustainably harvested wood which helps to build support for the program and encourage others to get involved.

Providing Support to Multiply Success

Rev. Carol Devine outside of her church
Within just a few years, 20 congregations in Kentucky were deemed Green Chalice Ministries. Key to their success was a Kentucky regional team that provided ideas, support, and a platform for reaching new congregations. Rev. Devine and the team attended regional gatherings and provided people with the resources they needed to succeed, including regional green workshops for congregational representatives with theology and scripture studies. In addition, the team offered retreats for clergy and layperson to help them look at the Bible and the lectionary through a “green lens.” One retreat, held in North Carolina, drew in clergy from as far as Washington State and Florida. 

However, it is not enough to have a strong regional team to promote and expand the program. More than anything, according to Rev. Devine, the program's success depends on “green teams” at the church level to implement facility changes and inspire people to follow suit in their homes. To date, these changes have ranged from installing solar panels to creating church gardens to smaller actions, such as switching to reusable dishes and cups. According to Rev. Devine, lay-led (as opposed to pastor-led) initiatives are more successful and enduring. She stresses, “In order for it to have long-term legs, in order for it to be owned by the congregation, it really needs to be of the congregation.”

Looking to the Future

Rev. Carol Devine with children
Since its founding, the Green Chalice program has been adopted by the Disciples of Christ nationally, with Rev. Devine as a part-time staff member. The program now has its own branded website, Facebook page, and an e-newsletter, titled "Green Chalice News," with over 4,000 subscribers. As Rev. Devine continues to expand nationally, her vision is to recreate the success experienced in Kentucky by building regional teams capable of sharing their work at assemblies, leading workshops, and connecting area congregations. To date, Green Chalice has engaged almost 60 congregations, and a camp, retreat center, and regional office.

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