Never a Better Time
KAIROS Regina invites you on a journey of faith, one that challenges our comfortable lives and changes the very buildings we worship in. On October 15, 2022, they hosted a workshop called, “Creation Care in our Places of Prayer: Energy Retrofits and other Faith-based Climate Action.” Workshop recordings are now available and additional Creation Care resources collected or prepared by KAIROS Regina, including documents and slide decks shared at the workshop, can be found in this resource folder.
In the leadup to the workshop, KAIROS Regina offered six articles to prepare our hearts and minds for the deep transformation that is needed. This concluding article by Laura Stewart, climate activist and convenor for KAIROS Regina, names key ideas from the workshop and calls us to move ahead with action.
In the news in recent weeks, government budgets sit uneasily alongside the global carbon budget. Doubtless, many people look at the urgent calls from the IPCC to cut global emissions even faster, moving the net-zero target up to 2040—and shake their heads. I can hear them saying, “Impossible! It costs way too much. We can’t even afford to take care of [insert any of a long list of needs].”
I am haunted lately by these words of Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you.” He was referring to Deuteronomy, where God insists that all can live with abundance—and yet just a few verses later, also commands the people to share freely with the poor. God knows, sadly, that people will always make systems that create poverty, even amid abundance. I’m struck by Jesus’ phrasing, by the repetition of the word “you,” and by the word “will.” He seems to say, gently but firmly, “Poverty exists because you will it so. You don’t get to remember the poor only when you need them as an excuse.”
Humanity could choose to solve poverty. In many ways, acting for climate justice would address poverty as well. And the faster we act, the more climate disasters we avoid—disasters that create more poverty, pile harm on the poorest and most vulnerable, and steal the prosperity we need for further action. As followers of Jesus, we are called to act swiftly, while we have the clear need with us.
On October 15th, 2022, church folk from across Regina gathered to learn and plan how to take action on emissions in our own places of worship. We met at the Living Spirit Centre—where three denominations share a single building for significant savings in energy and costs—to seek ways to transform our church buildings, drastically cutting their energy use and eliminating their fossil fuel use altogether.
Eastside United Church is one of the congregations that meet at Living Spirit. In the opening segment of the workshop, Eastside’s minister, Russell Mitchell-Walker, noted that sharing space makes their utility bills as small as those of a household. Kathy Cameron gave a land acknowledgment reminding us that, as we seek ways to gather without harm to our environment, Indigenous people “have much to teach us” about living in right relationship with the land.
In the morning keynote session, Dr. Chris Hrynkow helped us consider how “creation care” could be a fruitful alternative to the “stewardship model” for fostering sustainability work. He gave a bit of history, condensed a whole course on theological sources of a creation care ethic into just over three minutes, presented the idea of “ecological conversion,” and then drew out insights from participants through a facilitated discussion time.
Turning from theological to practical inspiration, a panel presented local projects, with insights on process as well as product: opening the retrofits conversation at Broadway United, designing high efficiency into a new building at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, and convincing the congregation of Celebration Church that investing in solar would free up operating funds for ministry. For Lumsden Beach Camp, whose ministry includes nurturing care for nature, solar panels offered a way to embody that care as well. After sampling this banquet of possibilities, participants enjoyed a lunch of “food making a difference” from Munch Catering.
Workshop organizers learned a lesson in the value of simply getting started, when just days before the event, they were introduced to Mark Gibson from Net Zero Churches. This organization was less than a year old, active mainly in central Canada but seeking to extend its work across the country. Mark shared their approach to getting churches off gas with heat pumps, and invited cooperation to build regional expertise.
Net Zero Churches aims for rapid electrification. In the Prairies, where coal still contributes a significant share of electrical generation, creation care may call for bigger changes. Matt Dipple explained how a deep energy retrofit to a church building could drastically reduce its heating requirements, allowing for a smaller heat pump system with less electricity use. Matt also identified three “archetypes” of church buildings with different challenges and opportunities for energy upgrades.
The afternoon concluded with a round-up of tools and ideas for moving forward. Angie Bugg from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society outlined their energy saving programs including building audits, building operator training and an online page of “Stuff You Can Do.” Randy Haluza-Delay highlighted resources from KAIROS Canada and For the Love of Creation, and also offered wisdom from environmental sociology, urging us to tap into our networks and communities for alternative visions of living well, and to work joyfully together. Finally, the group asked questions and shared ideas for cooperating, focusing our efforts and resources, and discovering what will work in our own buildings, in our own region, in this moment of crisis for creation.
KAIROS Regina plans to follow up with some case studies of representative worship buildings in Regina and possible retrofit scenarios to move them urgently toward zero carbon emissions. This summer, I (Laura Stewart) will lead interested people from Regina and area through a “Theory of Change” planning process, guided by Chris Rotolo’s course offered through the Edge Network, towards a vision of decarbonized churches across our city. We invite everyone to join our efforts in whatever way possible. There will always be many needs, but never a better time to act on climate.