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Shelburne Church Focuses on Environment - Bulington Free Press

Shelburne church focuses on environment By Lauren Ober Free Press Staff Writer March 17, 2008 There has long been a connection between spirituality and ecology. Many religious leaders see the environment as a gateway to the divine, and recently, with global climate change so much in the headlines, congregations are starting to take action. In Vermont, it is not uncommon to see churches of all stripes incorporating ecological ministries into their broader faith missions. One local church has taken its responsibility to the environment to a higher level. At All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, the environment is as much a focal point as spiritual growth. All Souls' environmental bent has garnered a great deal of national media attention since it opened its new green church building in late 2007. With its bamboo flooring, compact fluorescent lighting, pellet furnace and locally harvested wood, the church is a model of walking the talk. "CBS Sunday Morning" is planning a feature on the church and USAToday called it "one of the greenest churches in one of the greenest states," in a recent article on the congregation. The Rev. Mary Abele says her church is not unique in its attention to the environment but acknowledges that attention to the natural world is always on their minds at All Souls. To that effect, this year the environment is the theme guiding all of the church's youth and adult programs, including a forthcoming speakers series. The "Voices for the Environment" is a four-part series for the public focusing on green topics, including how to create organic backyard wildlife habitats and the future of Lake Champlain. The series, which begins Wednesday, supports the church's ecological mission, environment chairwoman Laurie Caswell Burke said. Plus, it reflects the lifestyle of the small 70-member congregation, Burke said. "The congregation is very conscious about how they live," Burke said. Wednesday's kickoff seminar features Charlotte Albers, a landscape designer whose work is aimed at conservation rather than ornamentation. As a National Wildlife Federation habitat steward, Albers teaches clients how to create a wild garden that attracts birds and butterflies while reducing run-off and erosion and combating greenhouse gases. "This type of gardening is a little more thoughtful," Albers said. "It's a deeper process." In addition to the Voices for the Environment series, All Souls is partnering with Shelburne Farms for a pilot interfaith residential program called "Spirit and Nature" that explores the intersection between the natural and spiritual worlds. Those four-day retreats will be offered in May and September. While the environment will always be at the forefront of the congregation's consciousness, Burke says next year's program theme at All Souls will most likely be the lake. "I think we're cutting edge with this. If you look at the people who go here, the environment is part of who they are," Burke said. Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

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