Congregations Unite for Creation Care

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Written by WSA Program Coordinator Noelle Chao.

Our RiverWise Congregations Dinner last Thursday was a big success! Over 40 partners representing 16 local congregations attended Uniting Congregations for Creation Care. Hosted by WSA at Mt. Olive in Annapolis with representatives from Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Our Creeks and Conservancy, clergy and lay stewards joined us for an evening of fellowship and inspiration. There were so many powerful moments, as clergy and lay stewards raised their voices in song and shared stories about how their faith has inspired them to take action in Anne Arundel County.

All guests participated in one of three interactive workshops, and I was lucky enough to attend Pastor K’s session on “Preaching a Green Message from Your Pulpit.” The conversation she led started with a challenge to the idea that the pulpit is the most effective place to share a message of creation care. (Guess what—pastors know that when they’re preaching from the pulpit, not everyone in the room is always listening!) After reminding the assembled Stewards and clergy that God has given us a responsibility to care for the Earth, she asked them, “How have you done this? How do we bring it about?” What followed was a lively, frank discussion about the challenge of leading a congregation to take action on an issue that might not be foremost on their minds, but which is nevertheless a clear mandate from God. Given that reality, there was a general consensus that the most effective leading happens from pastors taking an active, hands-on role by attending Green Team meetings, learning for themselves the various paths that stormwater takes on their congregations’ grounds, and participating in restoration projects and planting days. At the end, guests were reminded to be intentional, get the kids to reach the adults, and to include a prayer for their local waters during services.

A full recap of the event is below.

Reverend Veronica Wells delivered the opening prayer and led assembled guests in the hymn “What a Mighty God We Serve.” Afterwards, guests attended one of three interactive workshops. Pastor Karen Johnson of First Christian Community Church led “Preaching a Green Message from Your Pulpit,” about the best strategies for church leaders and clergy to share an environmental message with their congregations. During “Beautifying Your Green Spaces for Easter,” Suzanne Etgen and Rev. Johnny Calhoun discussed best practices for maintenance of rainscaping projects and shared information about the READY (Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth) Program, which improves the health of the Bay while creating green jobs for young adults. Bonnie Sorak, Outreach Coordinator for Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, shared environmental literacy resources for children’s programming that promote a message of creation care and responsible stewardship of the environment during “Sharing a Green Lesson with Your Children.”

After a vibrant discussion about the guests’ concerns about the environment and their suggestions for taking action, Bonnie and Suzanne shared information about One Water Partnership.

In the closing ceremony, a prayer for clean waters was paired with the spiritual “Wade in the Water,” with singing led by Rev. Calhoun.  Each guest was given a small, glass vial of blessed, clear water to commemorate the event.

We look forward to these congregations turning knowledge into collective action for healing the Earth!

Latin for Gardeners: March 2019

March’s Native Maryland Plant
Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link
(mur-TEN-see-uh vur-JIN-ih-kuh)

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March is optimism month – how appropriate. Nothing makes me feel more hopeful than seeing the emergence of spring flowers pushing through the ground in my garden – especially the Mertensia virginica! I was introduced to this ephemeral in May 2013 by my friend and fellow gardener, Aylene Gard. Early on as a Mstr. Gardener I volunteered to help Aylene pull garlic mustard from Middle Patuxent. After pulling buckets of spectacularly deep-rooted invasive plants we passed through a colony of Virginia bluebells, a glorious field of blue – how quickly it changed our mood.

I determined at that moment that I wanted to experience that feeling and that native blue flower in my garden every spring – I sought it out at native plant sales and planted it the following year. It has been a spectacular success, colonizing in both locations where I planted it. I have since learned that because of its ability to colonize quickly, it is a crucial spring pollinator plant, especially for female bumble bees.

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Mertensia sp.  flower buds are pink, the funnel shaped flowers are usually blue, but pink and white are also seen. They thrive in bright sun in spring where they are eventually shaded out by deciduous canopy.  They’ll bloom for weeks, each fertilized flower producing four flat seeds within wrinkled nuts; soon after they go dormant until the following spring.

Research tells us that optimistic people are better at doing one thing then those with a different outlook on life. They are problem-solvers, moving quickly from problem identification to problem-solving. I’ve already made plans to celebrate optimism every month, I’ll need to if I’m going to succeed at my next project: tackling my wet clay garden once and for all. April rains will be here soon!

 

~ Alison Milligan – MG/MN 2013
Master Watershed Steward Class 7
aligmilligan@gmail.com

2019 Steward and Consortium of the Year

Each year the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy honors volunteer Master Watershed Stewards and the environmental professionals who support their action for clean water.  The Master Watershed Steward of the Year is awarded to a Steward who excels in engaging their community to reduce pollution. The Consortium Member of the Year is awarded to an environmental professional who makes a significant impact on projects for clean water. The Master Watershed Steward and Consortium Member of the Year Awards were presented at WSA’s Annual “Spring into Action” Conference.

Master Watershed Steward of the Year Award
Master Watershed Steward Amy Clements (left) was honored for her dedication to clean water and her leadership with Spa Creek Conservancy. Amy became a Master Watershed Steward in WSA’s first certification course. Since then, she has led Spa Creek Conservancy to install over $10 million in restoration projects. Alongside Mel Wilkins, Amy led Spa Creek to complete hundreds of projects- from treating 98% of the runoff from Heritage Baptist Church to restoring whole streams in projects like the Spa Creek Headwaters Restoration. In addition to restoration, Amy continually engages her community in Annapolis. Amy led residents of Eastport Terrace and Harbor House to plant and mulch 200 trees and shrubs behind the Annapolis Housing Authority and Bates Middle School, then re engaged the community for a Kids on the Creek day to reconnect youth to the water.

WSA Consortium Member of the Year Award
Beth Ginter (right) was awarded Consortium Member of the Year for her work with the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) Certification. Throughout the years, Beth has committed to investing in the education surrounding green infrastructure. The CBLP certification teaches the professional landscape community to properly install and maintain rain gardens and conservation landscapes. In just a few years, Beth has certified over 400 CBLPs, creating a network of sustainable landscaping professionals spanning five states across our watershed.

Congratulations to Amy and Beth!