This month, the parish of St. Saviour’s in Vermilion has been celebrating the Season of Creation through worship, study and action.
Focusing on Creation Care was a natural fit for the parish which has been moving toward reducing its ecological footprint for several years. We have been slowly phasing out the use of foam and plastic items in our parish and in the booth we host at the annual Vermilion Fair. This year, we introduced bamboo forks and spoons, completing the move towards serving our delicious pies from the booth in an eco-friendly manner. Several customers commented favourably on our environmental awareness.
The parish itself ceased using disposable cups and plates many years ago, choosing instead to hand wash our coffee and lunch dishes. Rather than a chore, this time has been a valuable opportunity for fellowship and there is always a lot of laughter coming from the kitchen after each event.
It has been the custom of the parish to hold a garage sale every spring, but last year we moved it to the 3rd week of September (see picture). We see this as more than a fund raiser. It’s a mission opportunity. It not only provides a chance for people to recycle their no-longer-needed items, but all the funds raised are “converted into food.” The items are offered for sale by donation only, and all proceeds are distributed to the school Hot Lunch Program. This year, we raised close to $2400 to be split between our two community schools.
Last spring, as the market for recycling plastic dried up, the town of Vermilion ceased collection of plastics. The cry, “What do we do with all this plastic?” was heard through town, and together with Lakeland College Environmental Club, St. Saviour’s began to promote and build EcoBricks (www.ecobricks.org). EcoBricks are a way of sequestering the plastics that have invaded our lakes, rivers, oceans and land. Each EcoBrick is made from a 2 litre bottle which is tightly packed with a variety of household plastics. Each brick must weigh at least 200 grams, which represents a LOT of plastic. When completed, the bricks can be used for building items such as tables, chairs and benches. Many of our parishioners are involved in this activity and we are slowly collecting a supply of bricks which will be given to the Environmental Club at the College.
This activity has increased awareness of the huge amount of plastic that has become so ubiquitous in our consumer society. As we have become more aware of the overuse of plastics, we have begun to find ways to decrease the amount of plastic we consume. Most of us have started carrying our own bags with us, and we promote the use of mesh lingerie washing bags for purchasing fruits and vegetables. As time goes on we are seeking ways to lessen the use of plastic zip bags and plastic wrap. We are saving the beeswax ends from our altar candles and plan on making waxed cloth wraps to wrap or cover our leftovers.
Our focus on the environment during the Season of Creation has heightened our awareness of just how much our consumer culture has resulted in overloading our world. Over coffee after church, we often share ways that we can wean ourselves from consumerism. As a result of these conversations, we began collecting ideas and have put our ideas up on a wall for all to see and share. Some ideas include such things as recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent, shopping tips, a challenge to take a shopping moratorium for a period of time, and finding sources for items such as shampoo, so that we can refill our own bottles. When someone arrives at church with a lovely new outfit, the conversation often involves the proud boast, “I found it at the secondhand clothing store.” We continue to look for ways to lessen our need to purchase new items, learning to share instead.
Celebrating this Season of Creation has given us the opportunity, not only to focus on our created world, but to help us engage theologically with our already strong focus on environmental care. We have used the resources from the Anglican Church of Canada and have discovered that scripture has a strong underlying concern with the natural world. Last year, when a visitor to the fair remarked on our use of bamboo forks, our rector jokingly remarked, “Well, it’s part of our religion.” Celebrating the Season of Creation has helped us understand just how relevant the 5th Mark of Mission (to care for the resources of the earth) is to our lives and taking the time to consider this subject theologically has truly been transformational.
Submitted by the Rev. Elizabeth Metcalfe, Rector of St. Saviour’s Vermilion