Feature Article No: 01/21
1 June 2021
By Susan Kim (*)
The European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) will present the Roman Juriga Award to the GreenHouse ministry on 1 June, commending its creative response to our world’s environmental challenges. Below is the story behind the inspiring initiative.
At the Bogafjell Church in Norway, you’ll find young people outdoors turning compost, constructing insect hotels and gardening. And you’ll find them indoors turning and growing the spirit of what it means to be a green church.
Through their ministry, called GreenHouse, they are looking through a green lens at every aspect of church life.
Sometimes, that means looking at the world from an insect’s point of view. “We are working with biodiversity,” explained youth pastor Eivind Kråvik. “An insect hotel is a place where insects can build nests and multiply.”
Often, insects seek out habitats—such as dead roots or trees—regarded by humans as messy or undesirable. But dropping our human-centric stance is part of living into a green ministry, said Kråvik.
The GreenHouse programme began in 2018, during a record-breaking hot, dry summer. “I realized I couldn’t ignore all the media attention on the climate crisis,” said Kråvik. “I realized I had to make some changes to my own life, and it couldn’t just be about my private life, that I could also take this with me to work.”
So he approached the Bogafjell Church Youth Club about becoming more green. “They all said ‘yes,’ of course!” recalled Kråvik. “The youth already learn a lot about climate change in school. They have a lot of knowledge about it—but they didn’t necessarily have any place to live it out.”
Since then, GreenHouse has become a way of life both outdoors and indoors. In every board meeting at the church, leaders take a moment for a “creative green round,” to ensure every event is planned with environmental impact considered.
The church band is moving from paper music to digital versions. Church technicians look more at repairing broken gear than automatically replacing it. Cooks in the kitchen have reduced meat consumption and now grow their own food. As part of planning travel or an event, the church plans how to recycle on the road.
“We try to integrate GreenHouse into every action we take,” said Kråvik.
How does the group stay inspired? By helping each other find new and creative ways to live the green change and see possibilities instead of limitations, said Kråvik.
“When the realization about the climate crisis hit me in 2018, I could feel it in my body: we had to do something very quickly,” said Kråvik. “But, as a pastor, I work with people in crisis, and the body can’t cope with a crisis over the long-term. You slowly have to find a way to live with it.”
That’s why GreenHouse aims to make changes over the long term, he said. “The young people at Bogafjell Church now have a place where they can live into their green change,” he said. “And we who are grownups have to start living into the same change.”
ECEN inspires youth to go even greener
ECEN, currently convening for its assembly, is working to inspire young people to become even stronger leaders in caring for creation.
ECEN, working closely with the Conference of European Churches, promotes sharing, cooperation, action and theological reflection across different countries and traditions.
Young people are an integral part of both the assembly and the overall efforts of ECEN, said ECEN secretary Rev. Dr Peter Pavlovic.
“As we work toward climate justice in the world today, youth organisations hold the innovative ideas and the fresh determination that will inspire us all to treat God’s gift of creation with both reverence and with practical, thoughtful care,” he said.
On 1 June, a special session of the ECEN Assembly will offer youth an opportunity for sharing information about their engagement, concerns and activities related to climate change and climate justice. A panel discussion with representatives of several youth ecumenical organisations will highlight several notable youth projects from diverse contexts.
The ECEN will also present the Roman Juriga Award, which recognises interesting and inspirational projects in responding to current environmental challenges. The winner is GreenHouse youth ministry in Bogafjell Church in Norway.
The award is named in memory of Roman Juriga, one of the founding members of ECEN and a Christian leader who worked tirelessly with his church and with partners across Europe to develop new and exciting green initiatives, especially with a focus on renewable energy technology and underpinned by a passion to respect and protect the integrity of God’s inhabited Earth.
The ECEN Assembly, held 31 May through 1 June, is offering a space for theological inputs, as well as for dialogue with representatives of politics, civil society organsiations and an opportunity for presenting church initiatives on protecting the environment and responding to climate change. The assembly theme is “Reconciled with Creation: A Call for Urgent Action on Climate and Biodiversity.”
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States