This summer, two much awaited events came to pass: the release of the pope's encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, and the due recognition of the Green Churches Network as a charitable organization.
"I've been working for Green Churches for 11 years; Laudato Si has authenticated my ministry. Finally, there is an official teaching of the Church that recognizes what I've been doing all these years! It feels great," said Norman Lévesque, a meteorologist and scientific popularizer, and director of Green Churches since 2009.
Green Churches is an independent organization, and has recently changed its name to the plural to highlight its oecumenical nature as a network. Its national office is located at the presbytery of Saint-Elzéar Parish, in Vimont, Laval.
"Our team has been working together for nine years as a project, and although we are becoming a charitable organization, our mission remains the same. We are simply solidifying it all by making the change from "project" to "organization."
So what is Green Churches' mission? "To help the parishes. We support Christian communities that wish to adopt environmental practices. Going green is not a simple task. It's not always easy to know where to begin, and generally people are not aware of the resources that are available to them. Our job is to answer all the questions and to provide hands-on assistance."
To become a part of the Green Churches Network, a parish simply has to set up a green committee. "It is not necessary to be green to register; we will help the parish develop this quality, at its own pace, through concrete action and awareness, and by helping the parish rediscover Christian spirituality, which is intrinsically sensitive to the environment."
Green Churches' website provides a slew of resources, including in particular its eight monthly "Green Tips" - biblical verses and all - which are generally quite witty.
"Some parishes present movies, documentaries, and invite guest speakers. There is even a parish priest that holds a Mass outdoors once a year to make way for the wonder of nature, as he puts it," explained Norman Lévesque.
Environmental concern is not absent from Christian spirituality, as Pope Francis himself wrote in Laudato Si. An excellent summary of the encyclical can be found on Green Churches' website with plenty of biblical references, among other things.
"Many people tell me that the environment is not a priority. I always answer that they could not be more right. It is not a priority, but it can be part of our faith, and it is very good that way. It is like a mother with her children: raising them well and seeing to their well-being are her priorities, and cleaning the house comes second, but would we accuse this mother of neglecting her children if she took the time to clean her floors? The same applies to Creation: as the pope says, cleaning our common home is part of our Christian life."
Norman Lévesque thinks big, as does his entire team, including its new member, Father André Beauchamp, a renowned Canadian theologian and ecologist. Their dreams for 2025? "To have 500 Canadian churches as members, as well as the national churches (United, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, the Evangelical Association, etc.); to be THE environmental reference for churches; to develop partnerships with the environmental groups (AQLPA, David Suzuki, Union paysanne, etc.); and to coordinate the distribution to churches of the provincial government's grants promoting energy efficiency," stated Norman enthusiastically.
Norman Lévesque has much to be happy about these days. Not only does he have the ministry of Creation; he also has the one of Procreation, for his first child is due to be born in less than a month...
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