Maroubra Junction Uniting Church, NSW
Project Green Church is the grass roots environmental project of Maroubra Junction Uniting Church. It stems from our belief in social and ecological justice and that as a church, and as global citizens, we have a moral imperative to act. If we want to leave our children an inhabitable planet we have to stop destroying our environment. The project was designed to make the church more environmentally sustainable and to help inspire others to follow our example. Our activities cover three main areas – buildings and property, possession and skill sharing, and mission and outreach. In addition to our website, we have also created an 18 minute documentary about our story.
When we began Project Green Church, we looked at ways we could reduce our water usage. In July 2006, we installed a 5000 litre water tank that services the toilets for our preschool and our garden hose. We received subsidies totalling $2550 from Randwick City Council and Sydney Water. This simple step saves our church hundreds of litres per day.
We appreciated our water tank, which we have affectionately named Delilah, but wanted to dress her up a bit. So after watching a documentary about Sydney hip hop and graffiti artist, Mistery, on ABC’s Compass program, we contacted Mistery and asked him if he’d like to help us beautify Delilah with a mural. We chose the image of the “Woman at the Well” not only for its water symbology but also for its strong social justice message. The woman at the well was a Samaritan, at the time when Samaritans were considered the arch enemies of the Jews. Moreover, she was a woman alone at midday which meant she was even outcast from her own community. According the traditions of the time, Jesus should not have spoken to her, but he subverted this convention and reached out to her in the form of a teaching. So by using this image we are trying to send the message that we believe in equality, inclusiveness and justice for the marginalised.
Sharing possessions is one way that we can reduce our use of material resources. By sharing our skills and our knowledge, we can learn to live more locally and reduce our impact on the environment. In sharing with each other, we also work together and build up our community.
In early 2007 we became members of GoGet carshare, allowing church members to join the scheme through the church account. Carshare schemes are beneficial for creation because they allow members to forgo a personal car, but still allows them access to one for the odd occasion where public transport, cycling or walking will not suffice. Church members receive cheaper access to the service through our system as they only have to pay the usage charges. There is a car stationed at Maroubra Junction, and there are currently 18 church members participating in the scheme.
We have also started a vegetable garden, formal recycling scheme, cycling club, and have purchased a cordless electric mower known as the “ecomower” and we share it with our community. We use the mower to do the lawns for those who can’t manage it themselves such as the elderly and the infirm. When we told Randwick council what we were up to they thought it was such a good idea they bought us a second one. Likewise Victa Lawn Mowers also thought it was such a good idea that they provided us with the mowers at wholesale price. So now we load up our eco mowers into Yorrick the Yaris (our car share car) and go to the homes of those who can’t tend their own lawns.
Looking at ways we could conserve energy and save money, we installed two solar hot water systems on the rooves of our student accommodation.
We have installed two of the latest model solar hot water systems from Solahart on the rooves of our student accommodation. These systems provide 100% of our hot water needs during summer and will provide up to 80% of our needs during winter. These energy savings mean that within 7 years the units will have paid for themselves, which is pretty good considering they have a 20 year life expectancy. The decision to install these units was made even easier by Solahart giving us a 20% discount.
We encourage our church members to choose GreenPower for their homes. The “GreenPower Challenge” was run in 2007-2008 as a way of tracking how many members had switched and to report back to the congregation on carbon saved. Approximately 40% of our congregation members have switched over to GreenPower.
We also wanted to save more water and in late 2007, we installed two Nubian Oasis grey water treatment systems on our student accommodation. The water is collected from the showers, hand basins and washing machines, and is treated and recycled for use in the washing machines, toilets and outdoors. This project was funded by an Australian Government Community Water Grants program.
In March 20008 our church got together with Gracepoint Christian Church Randwick (a Baptist Church) to organise Clean Up Australia Day at Coogee Beach in March 2008. Gracepoint had been involved in Clean Up Australia Day for about five years. This was the first year that the two churches worked together. We ran a series of clean ups in various sites at Coogee, and after the clean up we had a community festival on the theme “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The festival had environmental stalls and speakers, community games, kids’ activities, food, bands, and community art.
A team of half a dozen people from Maroubra Junction and Gracepoint Church looked after the planning for the event. Other people from both churches helped us on the day – looking after things like site setup, running community games, etc. Randwick City Council supported the event in various ways, including covering some of the expenses for the day.
We chose to become involved in Clean Up Australia Day because it is a flagship day for environmental awareness and action; and it was also a way that we could build relationships and work together with a diversity of other churches and community groups to help bring “good news” in our locality.
A small disappointment, after all the planning, was the rain on the day. Nonetheless, we still had a good number of volunteers cleaning up. The weather also cleared in time for a great community festival.
There are a lot of organisations involved in an ambitious event such as this, which taxed our organisers heavily – a number of whom were new to event organisation. Still, the relationships that we built in our planning team and with others in the broader community were more than worth the effort.
The two churches – Maroubra Junction Uniting and Gracepoint, have grown closer together as a result of this work. We also received a lot of satisfaction from putting together on such a fantastic event in the local community, and we hope that a growing number of groups will join us in future years.
Worship at Maroubra Junction Uniting Church is ecologically sensitive. Our liturgy and worship includes:
- An acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land
- An affirmation of faith which includes a profession of faith in the Christ through whom all is reconciled, and a commitment to live with respect in creation
- Regular singing of hymns with ecological content, such as “Turn Us to You”, “How Long”, “For You, Deep Stillness”, “Touch the Earth Lightly”.
- Regular preaching on ecological issues.
- Regular inclusion of ecological issues in intercessory prayers.
Intermittently, we have had a “green testimony” during the announcements slot in worship, where a member of the congregation gets up and shares something that they have been doing to protect the environment in their own life. The person shares their learnings and struggles, and encourages others to take action. Examples of actions that individuals have spoken of include reducing their meat consumption, growing food, and saving energy in the home.
In 2010 Maroubra Junction Uniting Church applied for, and received, the Five Leaf Eco-Awards Basic Certificate. This award was presented at the inaugural Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) Eco-Awards Dinner on World Environment Day 2010.
For more information see http://www.mjuniting.org.au/Default.aspx?aCateId=557