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Religion begat recycling: Elachee Nature Science Center, churches push the cause

POSTED: April 25, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Keith Butterworth, left, shows Westside Baptist Church interim pastor, the Rev. Mike Taylor, right, and Chairman of deacons A.W. Stover, center, a few types of materials that can be recycled before Butterworth speaks to the church about the importance of recycling Sunday afternoon at the Atlanta Highway church. Taylor is interested in using a recycling program as a way to reach out to the community.

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Liberals have long touted the benefits of recycling, but some traditionally conservative Baptist churches are considering adopting the practice some pastors now call practical — and biblical.

The Rev. Mike Taylor, interim pastor at Westside Baptist Church on Atlanta Highway, asked his congregation Sunday to consider enacting a recycling program at the church. Taylor said Christians nationwide are embracing the idea of caring for God’s Earth, and recycling is just one avenue in which to worship God and care for his creation.

"I believe we should be taking care of God’s Earth, 11 a.m. and the church should be leading the way," Taylor said. "Recycling is one way we can work across denominational lines to make a difference in our community ... and work in cooperation with God’s organized universe."

Taylor’s sermon took place while an interfaith service on "stewardship and sustainability" was under way at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.

Elachee Nature Science Center sponsored the interfaith service as well as a public forum that will take place at 7 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church on Enota Drive. The forum will feature a panel of environmental ethicists and theologians, including the "father" of environmental ethics and former Presbyterian minister Holmes Rolston III.

Taylor said he previously was interim minister at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Browns Bridge Road, where the congregation implemented a recycling program in January.

"I was surprised how well it was received by the congregation," Taylor said. "I was surprised to read in the church bulletin that they collected $800 worth of materials in two weeks. So if we do things God’s way, there’s a practical benefit to it."

He said recycling could incorporate the church’s Hispanic neighbors into the ministry.

"Even though some of them might not speak our language, they do understand how we can take care of the earth. It would benefit the community. (With funds from recycling) we could build a playground at the church that our Hispanic neighbors could use to provide a safe place for the community children to grow up in."

Taylor asked Keith Butterworth, a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, to attend the evening service Sunday at Westside Baptist Church to expose the congregation to the idea of incorporating a recycling ministry into the church.

Butterworth said at Pleasant Hill Baptist, church members constructed two recycling bins and placed them on church grounds. Members of the congregation bring their paper, plastic, cardboard and metal to the bins.

All of the items are recycled at the Hall County recycling center, Butterworth said, except for metal materials that generate small amounts of revenue once they are sold to Blaze Recycling and Metals. He said a large percentage of the congregation continues to bring in recyclable household items, even clothes dryers, and the church has generated more than $1,000 so far this year from recycled metals such as aluminum foil and cans.

Butterworth said the church has yet to determine how the funds will be spent.

A.W. Stover, chairman of the deacons at Westside Baptist Church, said he will consider adopting a recycling program like Butterworth’s.

"It’s all new to me," Stover said. "I don’t see it as a liberal or a conservative issue, it’s something we’re all connected in. And Westside has always had a very conservative base."

Butterworth told about 20 members of Westside Baptist Church that recycling opens another door through which to minister.

"There’s a lot of potential to help a lot of people and possibly impact the community," Butterworth said. "I see how we may have overlooked environmental needs and maybe mislabeled people who are interested in environmental issues. It’s arrogant to take what God’s given us and trash it without utilizing it to the best of our abilities."


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