Two congregations recognized for climate leadership

Courtney SheaBlount, East Knox

Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) announced the six national 2023 Cool Congregations Challenge winners including a Knoxville congregation. The annual contest awards religious congregations around the United States for outstanding efforts addressing climate change in their facilities by reducing their carbon footprint and creating models of sustainability within their communities.

Winners were selected from 150 entries across six categories: Community Inspiration, Cool Planner, Electric Vehicle Leader, Energy Saver, Renewable Role Model and Sacred Grounds Steward. “The Cool Congregations Challenge winners this year undertook a wide range of creative and inspiring projects to care for Creation and promote climate justice in their communities,” said the Rev. Susan Hendershot, IPL president.

The veggie delivery van from Battlefield Farm

Battlefield Farm/Harvest Fellowship of Knoxville was the first place winner in the Community Inspiration category with its efforts to address the food desert in Knoxville, especially for the innovation of a “veggie van” which provides weekly delivery of fresh local vegetables to areas without easy access to good produce. The van is named for Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights activist who established the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Mississippi in 1969 as a rural development and community organizing project.

New Providence Presbyterian Church is in the background; the foreground is land which will be used as a part of the project.

A second East Tennessee congregation, New Providence Presbyterian Church of Maryville was recognized as one of three runners-up in the Cool Planner category for the community garden which it is planning. This garden will be used to supplement a weekly meal currently offered by the church to anyone in the community. In addition to incorporating fresh vegetables into the meal and having produce available to guests to take home with them, future plans envision cooking and nutrition classes and opportunities for members of the community to learn gardening skills to practice on their own.

Tennessee IPL is also extremely proud of the eight other Tennessee houses of worship which submitted entries into the Cool Congregations challenge. In addition, one church, Woodmont Christian Church of Nashville, was certified as a Cool Congregation for reducing its overall energy consumption by more than 10%.

The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action. All entries provide strong role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect, demonstrating that acting on climate is a moral issue. See the national list of winning congregations below and read more here.

The mission of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light (TIPL) is to respond to climate change through upholding the sacredness of all life, protecting vulnerable communities and caring for the Earth. We demonstrate our spiritual values by reducing our carbon emissions within our daily lives, releasing the spiritual power of our faith communities and by advocating effective climate protection policies.

Courtney Shea is on the steering committee of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light


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