A Model Congregation - Georgetown Gospel Chapel
A church in an economically challenged neighborhood, Georgetown Gospel Chapel in Seattle, WA, focused their greening efforts on energy conservation and organic gardening. These actions provided financial and health benefits.
Georgetown Gospel Chapel is a small, Full Gospel congregation that sits in the heart of Seattle’s most industrial area, in the middle of one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in the city.
The Georgetown neighborhood abuts an active Superfund site and contains several toxic “brownfields.” In addition, the neighborhood also sits next to
Boeing field and deals with incessant noise pollution. In this compromised context, and in spite of the fact the Chapel itself faces financial challenges, it stands an abundant oasis. It’s an oasis for its own members, for its neighbors, and for other creatures.
The Chapel’s first memorial garden (dedicated to a neighbor who lost her life in a drug-related crime) is one of the Chapel’s many gardens that nourish the soul; other vegetable gardens also nourish the body and serve as important habitat for birds and wildlife seldom seen in this industrial core.
Pastor Leroy Hedman explains how twenty years ago, the Chapel faced a decision of whether or not to pay $2,000 to repair their lawn’s sprinkler system. This made little sense to the members as they considered the pressing needs of the community, as well as their own financial needs. They decided to tear out the sprinkler system (and almost the entire lawn) and turned the church property into a large garden that could nourish the broader community. The garden’s beautiful produce is free for the taking and helps to supplement the diets of neighbors who often must decide between paying rent, paying for utilities, and buying food.
The Chapel’s rainwater reclamation system helps to provide water for the gardens. This saves them money on utility bills and also prevents storm water from running directly into the adjacent, salmon-bearing Duwamish River – carrying with it chemicals from neighboring lawns and industries, and leaked oil from cars.
Among the many ministries provided by the Chapel, Pastor Hedman offers his skills to the community as a certified master gardener and a composter. He and Chapel members help build gardens for neighbors and provide them with seeds and gardening/composting training. They also host a recreation/tutoring/mentoring program for children and youth -- one that (in addition to being pure fun!) also introduces dozens of young people to basic Earth-care principles and activities.
The Chapel has also “adopted” their street. Not only do they keep it litter-free, but they’ve also distributed hundreds of tree seedlings to residents there. The trees greatly help to enhance beauty, air quality, and habitat for other creatures.
Inside the Chapel, members are responding to a call to live more justly and equitably within the global community: they’re lessening their contribution to global warming through various types of energy conservation. Every light in their sanctuary contains an energy efficient compact florescent light bulb. Changing from 100-watt bulbs to 25-watt compact florescent bulbs reduced the amount of energy they consume by 75%.
Another example of energy conservation is the Chapel’s exit signs (which must stay “on” at all times). This 3-watt “LED” exit sign will save the congregation $50 per sign, per year, over older units that use more than 50 watts per sign.
The Chapel also saves money and prevents energy waste through the addition of controlled compact and tubular florescent lighting and better insulation and windows, reducing heating and cooling needs, and investing in many energy efficient appliances over time. By establishing a foundation and remaining dedicated to energy efficiency, the chapel can expect to see benefits for many years to come. Savings each year are estimated at approximately $3,000 to $5,000, not to mention the prevention of 60,000 pounds of CO2 from entering into the atmosphere.
The Chapel first used their financial savings to reimburse the initial costs of the retrofits, and now donates the money to missions projects, to a local Christian camp for their own energy retrofits, and to purchasing materials to help financially-strapped members and neighbors retrofit their own homes. For all of these efficient, creation-conscious efforts, in 1999 the Chapel was the first congregation to receive an EPA Energy Star Award.
Chapel members and neighbors have many opportunities to learn more about caring for creation through adult study times, an after school program for neighborhood children, sermons, and the Chapel’s basement library. The Chapel also serves as the repository for publicly accessible documents related to the cleanup of a neighboring Superfund site and a brownfield. This accessibility allows neighbors to know about the cleanup processes and empowers them to work with government agencies and local businesses to help carry out the processes.
Pastor Hedman and the Chapel have much to be proud of – they are a blessing to creation and a model Earth Ministry “Greening Congregations Partner”.