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Charlevoix church among those to receive $100K sustainability grants

Greensky Hill Indian United Methodist Church in Charlevoix County. (Photo provided by Jonathan Mays)
Jonathan Mays
Greensky Hill Indian United Methodist Church in Charlevoix County (Photo provided by Jonathan Mays)

Greensky Hill is a United Methodist church in Charlevoix County that has a majority Native American congregation.

Its 100 members meet in a small wood building under a thick cover of trees.

And Pastor Jonathan Mays said it's a critical community space to celebrate Anishinabek traditions.

As a recipient of the Sacred Spaces Clean Energy Grant, Mays said his congregation can continue with what he calls, “the greening of Greensky Hill.”

The grants come from the state Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and stem from federal funding.

Eleven total congregations across the state are each getting around $100,000 from the program to become more energy efficient.

Mays said the grants “came at a perfect time," and that Greensky Hill recently set its sustainability goals which include energy improvements, better waste management and more.

“The church is 190 years old, and the hall was built in the 90s,” Mays said. "Both of them are overdue for upgrades like moving of liquid propane and far more energy efficient lighting systems.”

Other recipients include the Muslim Center Mosque and Community Center in Detroit and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church located in Chassell Township, on the Upper Peninsula's Keweenaw Peninsula.

EGLE spokesperson Jeff Johnston says the role faith-organizations play in community life makes them ideal for meeting sustainability goals.

“This grant included a requirement that these congregations and facilities had to be open to the public and offer services to the community such as food, pantries, health clinics, that sort of thing,” he said.

Other requirements included having annual budgets under $250,000, 50 or more members, at least 10 years of operation.

According to an EGLE press release, the grant program is a pilot project of the Climate Witness Project, a partnership between the nonprofit group World Renew and the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Both are located in Grand Rapids.

Johnston said the Sacred Spaces Clean Energy Grant is the first of its kind in Michigan.

It stems from the 2017 Supreme Court ruling Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, in which it was decided faith organizations can’t use government money for “inherently religious activities” but can use the funding to support non-religious social services.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.