Cool Congregations Award

February 5, 2020

2019 Cool Congregations Challenge Winners logo

Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the five national Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) 2019 Cool Congregations Challenge winners. The annual contest accepts applications from churches around the United States that are working to address global warming by shrinking their carbon footprint and creating models of sustainability within their communities.  More information about this program is available at:

Aldersgate United Methodist Church won the Sacred Grounds award for transforming its 1.9 acres of lawn into a neighborhood arboretum with a nature-based playground.  The vision is to benefit the environment and serve the community by providing habitat for wildlife, immersion in nature, and nature-based play for children.  With public streets and sidewalks bordering three sides of its property, Aldersgate has an ideal location for creating a small neighborhood park.   

Since 2017, the church has planted 94 trees, 396 shrubs, 436 perennials, 129 grass plants, and 3,500 native grass plugs.   This includes many different varieties of plants; most are native to this area.  A 1,000 square foot raingarden intercepts runoff from the church’s roofs and an acre of land.  The nature-based playground features an 11-foot, 1.5-ton section from an ash tree as a climbing structure, and the upper deck of a nearby fort reaches into the branches of a large tree.  A sand pit measuring 10’ x 6’, a toddler swing, and a 7’ hill slide provide other play opportunites. 

The trees already planted will sequester an average of 1.4 tons of carbon per year over the next 25 years.  In 50 years when the trees are mature they will sequester 8 tons per year.

“We are thrilled to receive a first place award. For many years the congregation has made environmental issues and energy efficiency a priority.  It is nice to be recognized for our efforts, but much work still remains to be done,” said Joseph Rafique, pastor at Aldersgate.

“Aldersgate United Methodist Church and the other four national winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” said Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light.

The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action – with or without support of government policies. The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes.  Interfaith Power & Light is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Interfaith Power And Light

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