Ryan P. Snow

“Be just. Be green. Be real.”

This single line summarized the fervent message of the awe-inspiring Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the first female Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the opening service of Green For All's Green the Church Summit last month in Chicago.

For 13 years I’ve been getting my dose of inspiration from the powerful speakers at Greenbuild.  So while a prominently African American religious service may seem like an unlikely venue to hear the gospel of green, the fervent message of Bishop McKenzie, our host Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III and Rev. Dr. Lance Watson who encouraged us to do something based on Biblical teachings (Acts 10:38).

But why was this conversation happening at a prominent African American Church on the South Side of Chicago?

“For far too long, people of color have been at the bottom of the pile”, said Rev. Ambrose Carrol, Green for All Fellow and founder of the Green the Church Campaign. “We really want to bring the African American church online when it comes to environmental issues. We want to help to both educate and empower the African American church to take leadership in their communities of origin, and also just to have a wider look, nationally, at what environmental changes mean for our communities.”

For three days, faith leaders, green innovators, and hundreds of church members were brought together for worship, community-building, discussion, and action. The summit is part of the larger Green the Church Campaign, which has the three pillars: amplify green, promote sustainable practices, and build power for change.

USGBC is joining forces with Green for All in support of the campaign through ADVANCE—USGBC’s framework for social equity and mainstreaming green. ADVANCE opens access to the resources and expertise of the global green building marketplace to help community-based organizations identify goals, develop a realistic plan and apply sound green strategies that make sense for their buildings and communities. 

Together with staff of USGBC Illinois, we exhibited at an expo for about 400 summit attendees and the broader community.  The following day, 130 church leaders participated in KickSTART, a module from the ADVANCE framework that helps participants frame the value of sustainability in their own terms. Local green building volunteers and partners like Faith in Place worked hand-in-hand with church participants to identify opportunities and assemble the right team of people to advance sustainability from within their community.

Check out a recap of the Summit on Twitter

Interested in getting involved with Green the Church, ADVANCE or helping to green the places you love? Let us know!