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Danish churches are involving themselves in climate and environmental issues

By State of Green, September 16, 2019

Danish churches are are broadening their focus to include the environment. 218 so-called ‘green churches’ now exist in Denmark.

Masses that focus on climate and environmental issues, electronic newspaper subscriptions and LED lights instead of incandescent light bulbs are examples of the way in which Danish churches are attempting to be eco-friendly.

There currently exists 218 so-called ‘Green Churches’ in Denmark – a development which has increased by 14 per cent over the last two years, according to the regional Danish radio station, P4.

“This development has gained momentum over the last few years. More and more churches are becoming green churches, which is very positive,” says parish priest and foreman of the ‘Green Church’ initiative in Denmark, Keld Balmer Hansen, to P4.

The National Council of Churches in Denmark is responsible for the initiative. To become a part of the initiative, churches have to work with a checklist containing 48 points and be able to fulfil a minimum of 25 of the criteria contained in the checklist.

Criteria includes turning off the heating when the church is empty, abstaining from the use of plastic cups and paper plates and holding meetings over Skype in order to minimise travel.

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“Every time a church joins the Green Church network, we can sense that many deliberations have taken place before joining and the new churches ooze enthusiasm,” continues Keld Balmer Hansen.

One of the churches that has joined the initiative and already fulfils 39 of the 48 points on the list is Bellahøj church in Copenhagen. They do so via initiatives such as reducing heating consumption, traveling via bike, holding masses that focus on the environment and encouraging parish goers to think and act more sustainably.

“We have set up a large number of containers, where we collect glasses, old keys and candle stumps. All these things can be reused,” says Hanna Smidt to P4.

Hanna is a parishioner at Bellahøj church and was responsible for the church joining the Green Church network. She views the earth as a gift from God and something we should nurture.

“The planet is facing immense environmental and climate challenges. All of us have to play a part in overcoming these challenges and churches as well,” Hanna continues.

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The Green church movement creates debate about the role of the church

According to Marie Vejrup, Head of Contemporary Religion at Aarhus University, it is only natural that society’s increasing focus on the environment and the climate is being felt in churches.

“The Green Church movement has existed for a while now, but it is evident that the trend is gaining momentum. It is a contemporary issue and churches are supported in this movement by the social debate taking place in Denmark,” says Marie Vejrup.

However, the movement has not passed unnoticed in parishes and parish church councils.

“It is only natural that by engaging in an issue that is considered highly political by some, that a debate in churches arises. People question whether this is an area that churches should involve themselves in,” comments Marie Vejrup.

Employees at Bellahøj church and the parish’s church council supported the church’s decision to become a green church unreservedly. Hanna Smidt hopes that there will come a time when all churches in Denmark are green.

“The more churches that are a part of the ‘Green Church’ movement, the more it will draw attention to the fact that climate issues are important,” she concludes.

Source: Energy Supply (in Danish)

Photo: Joel Peel on Unsplash

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