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Brunswick First UMC team focuses on creation care, conservation

9/3/2021

By Kara Witherow, Editor

Wednesday Night Suppers are nearly as Methodist as the itineracy.

But in many United Methodist churches, when the food comes out, so do piles of plastic and Styrofoam. Foam plates, plastic bowls, and foam cups. And it all ends up in the trashcan and then in a landfill.

Looking around her church’s Wednesday Night Supper, Kathryn Schiliro wanted to do better.

“I noticed that we were using a lot of Styrofoam. Everybody likes coffee and we use a lot of Styrofoam cups,” said Schiliro, a member of Brunswick First United Methodist Church. “I did some research and saw that it takes Styrofoam at least 500 years to decompose.”

Schiliro spoke with fellow church members and Brunswick First UMC pastor Rev. Bill Culpepper about her concerns. With Rev. Culpepper’s blessing, the group formed the church’s environmental task force, dubbed “The Green Team.”

After a well attended community meeting this past spring, they’ve organized the Golden Isles branch of Precious Plastic, an international organization that offers open-source tools and machines to promote, collect, recycle, and repurpose plastic.

Through the Green Team and Precious Plastics, Schiliro hopes to help raise awareness of plastic and foam usage in the community and be better stewards of God’s creation.

“It’s one step we can take to decrease the plastic in our church and community,” she said.

Where, though, does faith fit into recycling and the work of the Green Team?

Believers are called to be the caretakers of creation, not just consumers, said Alexandria Tipton, director of Brunswick First UMC’s children and youth ministry and a member of the church’s Green Team.

“We’re created in (God’s) image and we’re given authority over all these things,” she said.

Schiliro agrees, saying humans are to be stewards of God’s creation.

“God created this – all of this, all of us – and we’re responsible for the ways that we use the earth and misuse the earth,” she said. “So we’ve got to come together and take steps to prevent further damage and try to undo some of the damage we’ve done.”

Through Precious Plastic, the Brunswick First UMC Green Team hopes to connect with other like-minded individuals and begin raising money; building machines; and collecting the plastic that can then be shredded, extruded, and made into new products.

While its Precious Plastic initiative is one way the Brunswick First UMC’s Green Team is caring for creation, it’s just one facet of the church’s creation care program.

The team is working with Georgia Interfaith Power and Light to conduct a power audit of the church, the congregation has begun using coffee mugs instead of foam cups, and they’re continually evaluating their usage and waste, Schiliro said.

“Creation is near and dear to my heart, and caring for it is one of the places where I feel like I can serve God best.”

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