Having made a decision to remain in the central city rather than relocating to the suburbs, Pilgrim Congregational Church is aiming to tie itself even more closely to its Mother Earth.
Earlier this year, the church voted unanimously to self-designate as an EarthChurch. As such, the congregation is committed to sustainable lifestyles.
The Rev. David Brown, senior pastor of Pilgrim Congregational, said he is not aware of other local churches that have made such a designation even though many are taking steps to become more environmentally friendly.
"There is no one form or style (of being an EarthChurch)," he said. "It would vary from church to church. But all would have the same essential spirit - a general concern for the care of the Earth."
While Mr. Brown said the United Church of Christ denomination has encouraged such a designation, it's not a narrow denominational concern.
"We're not more wonderful than others," he said. "Each is trying to do what they can to make a difference."
Sandy Kurtz, a member of Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga and the local representative for Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light, said churches can be effective advocates for environmentalism.
"The spiritual community is needed to move this care of creation forward," she said. "It's a strong model for others to follow."
Ms. Kurtz said she had discussed her denomination's Green Sanctuary Program and the interfaith advocacy group's ideas with some members of Pilgrim Congregational and that congregation may have adopted some of their ideas into its EarthChurch Covenant.
"Modeling and sharing and exchanging information has been what Interfaith Power & Light has been about," she said.
Among the efforts Pilgrim Congregational has already made are an energy-efficiency audit by EPB (with implementation of several recommendations), replacement of inefficient windows with Energy Star windows, installation of low-flow toilets, use of eco-friendly cleaning products and recycled office paper, replacement of traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs and elimination of plastics and paper as much as possible.
Mr. Brown said the church used part of the proceeds of the sale of some property it owned in East Brainerd - and had considered building on - to renew and refurbish its Glenwood Drive facility.
Later this year, he said, the church plans to host a food conference. Its goal is to recommend the use of locally grown food that respects the integrity of the environment, stress the importance of sharing food with those who need it and tout the availability of its food pantry.
He said the congregation also plans to work with volunteers from Notre Dame High School - which he referred to as "very responsible and caring neighbors" - to develop a natural trail and wildlife refuge that would stretch from Glenwood Drive through the school's campus and up toward Missionary Ridge.
"This is not only for the beauty of nature," Mr. Brown said, "but (for people) to get better in touch with God as well."