The Episcopal Church of the Ascension has been recognized as a GreenFaith Sanctuary after completing a rigorous 2-year GreenFaith Certification program through GreenFaith.org. Certification acknowledges religious-environmental leaders who have carried out a range of initiatives to integrate environmental themes into their worship, religious education, facility maintenance as well as social outreach actions over a two-year period. “The Certification Program is the most rigorous program of its kind in the country, and Church of the Ascension has had tremendous success,” says Stacey Kennealy, Certification Program Director. “It takes vision, creativity and energy to achieve what Church of the Ascension has done. They stand out as an inspiring example of the environmental and spiritual transformation that is possible through the Certification Program.”
“The Church of the Ascension committed to the Certification effort because the program equips parishioners to align their beliefs with positive action. Our mission, ‘Making Disciples Creative Stewards,’ acknowledges that God has called us to participate in responsible and prophetic stewardship of God’s creation,” emphasized the Rev. Marilyn Cornwell, Ascension’s Rector. “GreenFaith Certification marks the beginning of our ongoing efforts to bring about awareness, acceptance and action toward this mission.” Ascension established a Creation Care Team to organize and track progress toward the requirements for the GreenFaith Certification Program. These requirements were focused on three categories: Spirit, Stewardship, and Environmental Justice, plus an active internal and external communication commitment.
“For a small congregation like Ascension, the Certification requirements were achievable through intentional collaboration across regional and interfaith boundaries. Of particular significance for creative stewardship were our intergenerational activities focused on outreach and advocacy,” explained Rector Marilyn Cornwell. Building on Ascension’s tradition of an annual Eucharist in the Park, five of the neighborhood Christian churches gathered for an Ecumenical Eucharist outside on a summer Sunday morning. Ascension’s elders helped to build a garden box, and then coached Church School youth as they planted and then harvested produce from the garden box for the local food bank. Creation Care Team members collaborated with members of Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Temple Beth Am, and the Muslim Association of Puget Sound to host an “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium and to foster ongoing interfaith dialog on environmental concerns in Puget Sound. Ascension Members also collaborated with St. Mark’s Cathedral to address environmental justice concerns regarding the cleanup of the Duwamish River. The Creation Care Team equipped the congregation to engage in environmental justice advocacy for the WA State Toxic-Free Kids Act, and for amelioration of climate change through reforestation efforts in Haiti and the southern Philippines.
“Church of the Ascension represents environmental leadership in action,” says Stacey Kennealy, Certification Program Director of GreenFaith “from their beautiful and innovative eco-themed services, such as Eucharist in the Park, to the many ways they have reduced the environmental footprint of their building, and their very inspiring work around cleaning up the Duwamish River, they are a strong example for other congregations to follow.” “Our Creator God has called and equipped us to be creative stewards of creation. Our collaborative efforts are a visible witness to the whole community that how we live, work and play makes a vital difference, deeply affects the lives of all creatures, and can bring healing and hope to a hurting world. The Certification program helped us to invite, inspire and ignite our members to greater effectiveness as prophetic advocates of creation care,” summarized Rector Marilyn Cornwell. The GreenFaith Sanctuary certificate was presented to the Church of the Ascension parish at the Annual Meeting in January.