This has been a gradual awakening for Josias but something he’s now passionate about. He describes himself as ‘a theologian by training, an eco-theologian by conversion’.
Since Josias and others on the church’s Environmental Team started sharing their concerns about issues such as single-use plastics, many in the congregation have reached the same conclusion.
In one service during Plastic Free July in 2022, a young man on the team read from the pulpit a letter to the church about their ambition to become zero-waste.
‘Then our pastor, José Marcos, asked who had already started to use a reusable cup and about 30 percent of people raised their hand,’ says Josias. ‘And I was sitting in the back and I started to cry with happiness because I realised that this was the breath of the Spirit, and not just the enthusiasm of a few people in the church.’
A big part of Coqueiral Baptist Church’s journey towards zero-waste has been moving away from single-use plastics.
There can be little doubt that the local neighbourhood has been a powerful object lesson. Plastic pollution blights this corner of the city, clogging the River Tejipió, blocking sewers and exacerbating the floods that come every year now.
‘And when this water overflows, it doesn't [only] flood the streets, but it [also] invades the houses of people in the community,’ says Josias. ‘They realise it's the plastic, the disposable waste, causing this.’
The church’s ministry now includes disaster response, as well as advocacy and influencing. Its Clean River, Health City campaign, which inspired its zero-waste initiative, engages both local authorities and local community in caring for the river.