Reverend Clare Butterfield, Executive Director of Faith in Place in Chicago, Illinois, works with over 700 congregations of all faiths, to help them connect with what their faith teaches about environmental stewardship. In this video, Rev. Butterfield explains that different religions have different teachings that relate to environmental stewardship. For example, in the Bahai faith, people understand that the natural world reflects the nature and presence of the Creator, so that whatever people do to nature is done to the Creator. This relational view is familiar to the Judeo-Christian teachings with which many Americans are most familiar.
In Islam, Rev. Butterfield explains that a key teaching of the Koran is balance. Islamic Scriptures teach that people need not take more than they need, which translates into moderation in the use of natural resources. So when it comes to different religious traditions, there are lessons about moderation, and relationship and care – all of which support the idea that natural resources are valued as sacred gifts.
In this video, two Illinois congregations – one from Chicago, and another from Oak Park, show how they are putting their faith into practice. The Sixth Grace (Sixth Grace) Presbyterian church believes it is their responsibility to teach people in their neighborhood about protecting the Earth as a gift from God. One way they accomplish this is by working with Faith in Place, who has provided the church with weatherization kits. Sixth Grace hosts monthly Barbershop Rap meetings for boys in the neighborhood where they get their hair cut, enjoy pizza, and learn how to install weatherization measures in homes in their neighborhoods. The boys get paid for teaching their neighbors how to install weatherization measures.
The congregation at Euclid Methodist Church in Oak Park believes it is their responsibility to think globally and act locally, and that their congregation can set an example for others. So when their church building needed a new furnace, the congregation decided to insall a geothermal heating and cooling system to reduce carbon emissions. This act made them trailblazers in Oak Park because they were among the first building owners to install a geothermal system.
Rev. Butterfield’s has allowed her to gain a wide perspective and uniquely qualifies her to answer the question of what helps religious people move more deeply towards an ethic of environmental stewardship. The key insight she offers is to learn what your faith tradition says about human relationship to nature, and think about how that relationship informs all of our relationships. “So if our religion teaches us to be kind, if our religion teaches us that we need to consider the needs of others in the decisions that we make, then that needs to carryover to our environmental relationships, so we need to think about what they are.”