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Shelter Island Presbyterian Church leading environmental effort

“God has entrusted us with these gifts. We seek to be good stewards.”

The speaker was Rev. Stephen Adkison, Ph.D., explaining why the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church congregation has chosen to become “Earth Care certified.”

He sparked the program with a sermon that quickly engaged parishioners to embrace the theme and pledge to take roles in cherishing, protecting and restoring the earth.

That may seem like a natural project for a congregation in a town graced with so much natural beauty and respect for the environment. But to become an Earth Care community requires far more than simply appreciation of the environment.

Through worship, education, management and upgrading of facilities, and outreach to the wider community, the congregation must document actions that demonstrate the commitment to bettering what already exists.

The church’s Mission Committee, led by Marilynn Pysher and members Amy Taylor, Karin Bennett, Alison Binder and Colleen Smith, have been recruiting others. They hope by the end of the year outreach will bear fruit in being certified by the Social Justice and Peacemaking Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But once certified, they must re-apply annually, Ms. Pysher said, noting the process of initial certification is more intensive than the annual reviews.

That the Earth Care program is linked to the church is natural, Rev. Adkison said, adding, “If the church doesn’t take good care of the earth, who does?”

A bulletin board in the church’s Fellowship Hall enables people to sign up for activities that further the effort and provides information to inspire ways to become activists.

The church has replaced all of its antique windows in the sanctuary at a cost of $84,000. The new windows are eco-friendly and don’t come cheap, Rev. Adkison said. Two new energy efficient boilers have been installed at a cost of $67,000. Early in the summer, the manse needed a new hot water heater. Rev. Adkison noted the building dates to pre-Revolutionary days, so there’s always something that need to be fixed.

“We’re not rolling in money,” Ms. Pysher said. Members and residents in the community have been generous in contributing to these projects, but to take on costly projects, more is needed, Rev. Adkison said.

Church Clerk Ellen Gove reported in the church’s “Fall Tidings” newsletter that a $27,000 contribution from the Shelter Island Cemetery Association has been received and a “Furnace Fund” drive is underway. “We continue to be blessed by folks who assist in keeping our building in great shape,” she wrote.

Rev. Adkison said the church is a hub for the community, opening its doors to the town’s nutrition program, hosting musical program, running programs on race relations, a book club focused on nonfiction tomes with depth, and children’s programs themed around “Imagination Island” programs.

The church also provides space for the town’s nutrition program and the Early Childhood Learning Center.

In the area of education about Earth Care, the congregation has welcomed Shavonne Smith, environmental director for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor), who has fostered many environmental efforts to benefit the entire state.

But the outreach doesn’t stop there, church officials said. Despite its tight budget, the church manages to give micro loans to mostly women in developing countries who are starting businesses through KIVA, a worldwide online lending platform that fosters entrepreneurship.

Closer to home, the congregation has bag lunches on Fridays for homeless people throughout the East End who are served by Maureen’s Haven, providing food and shelter in cold months to those in need. They also are among the volunteers who cook dinners for guests of Maureen’s Haven.

Rev. Adkison is a trained therapist to render he is willing to meet with anyone on the Island in need of such services without charge. They need not be church members, he added. His approach is non-judgmental and based in love, he said. “Who doesn’t need more unconditional love,” he said.

He encourages people to view the church website sipchurch.org to become familiar with the activities and programs that are offered.