Last week, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, Darlington hosted a potluck dinner for area churches and community partners. The event was part of what our diocesan environmental stewardship team is calling the GreenGrace Roadshow. Did you know that our GreenGrace team is happy to send a representative to your church to help the congregation and individuals become better environmental stewards? The team can perform and environmental audit, connect you to creation care projects in your area, help you discern your call to environmental stewardship and more!

The Rev. Lisa Bornt, rector, Grace, Darlington, gathered the community to learn more about GreenGrace and more about being a congregation focused on creation care, which is also a top priority of the worldwide Episcopal Church. Lisa commented that the GreenGrace program was a success. “It showed me that Grace Memorial does have passion for creation care in the form of environmental stewardship.”

You’ll want to check out GreenGrace’s newly launched website (linked below) to learn more about the work they are doing and how you can get involved. The blog contains a wealth of resources on area environmental happenings, as well as tips and plans for yourself and your congregation.

The GREENGRACE program was a success. It showed me that Grace Memorial does have passion for creation care in the form of environmental stewardship. We had a great group discussion around, what we might we do as a parish for the environment.” And, all the better, we were able to name specific goals to work toward while celebrating how far we have come already. The Rev. Lisa Bornt

Rector, Grace, Darlington

A GreenGrace representative is ready to consult with you!

You want to have a GREENGRACE representative to come to your parish, because it will make you think about and see your parish practices through fresh eyes. I didn’t recognize how the availability of ceramic coffee mugs, the parish hall bulbs, and current recycling practices were already great steps being taken by Grace Memorial for environmental preservation. And, we can do better with compostable serving items (cups, plates, etc.) as well as exploring installing a bottle filling station and working with a local school to raise awareness around TerraCycling.
It is easy to focus solely on the call of Matthew 25 – Jesus rightly calls us to that work. And, we must remember the call of a Genesis 1 and 2: to live into our identity as stewards for all of God’s Creation.

When getting to the slide that included a picture of a water fountain and filling station mounted on a wall of my church’s upper parish hall during a recent meeting, I described the video the Bishop asked GreenGrace to make about the harm of single-use plastic water bottles and other disposables that was presented at the May Diocesan Convention to great acclaim. I then offered some confidence that Grace Episcopal’s green team could find grant support for such a purchase and installation which might cost, all-said-and-done, upwards of a grand. Maybe the Chesapeake Bay Trust?  Responses began to bubble at the tables where Grace parishioners and others sat. 

Anne Burton said, “What about the coffee house, we bring in lots of plastic water bottles for that? This is what we should do,” or words to that effect. That just lit my fire all over again.  The capper was that we found out a little later that the Rev. Lisa Bornt, Grace’s Rector, had taken a grant writing seminar offered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust in the summer. 

So, that’s the purpose of the GreenGrace Roadshow; to stimulate further green thinking about Creation Care projects.  Let me note that my fellow presenter, Ellen Hoitsma of Church of the Good Shepherd (Ruxton), and I were happy to hear the parishioners recounting all of the green initiatives they’ve already accomplished.

Dr. Dick Williams

Creation is at Risk Throughout the World

by Mary Klein, diocesan archivist

The 1988 General Convention called for the Church to develop a policy and plan of action regarding stewardship of the global environment, and in 1990, St. Anne’s Parish, Annapolis, submitted a responsive resolution to Diocesan Convention. The resolution began, “Whereas creation is at risk throughout the world,” and went on to resolve that, among other things, the bishop appoint a diocesan Committee on the Environment. The resolution was adopted by Convention, which urged each congregation, as well as the Diocesan Center, to hold at least one educational program on the environment, to look at their use of resources, and to replace non-biodegradable materials with recyclable materials. The resolution also urged each household to serve as “models for the world, as we learn to adopt more environmentally responsible habits”. As part of the explanation for the resolution, St. Anne’s advocated that, “the Diocese of Maryland can, amidst the unique environmental challenges of the Chesapeake Bay, start now to foster awareness of and participation in new habits of caring for creation.”

Hearings on various topics were scheduled to be held at the 1991 Diocesan Convention, but because convention was running an hour and twenty minutes behind schedule, half of the hearings were cancelled. However, the hearing on Environmental Concerns went ahead as did hearings on Human Sexuality, General Convention, Ordained Ministry, and Allocations. The bishop did appoint a committee, and the first listing of the nine members of the Committee on the Environment was published in the 1992 Convention Journal; by 1993, the number in the group increased to seventeen.

By fall of 1995, the committee had been restructured and renewed, breaking itself into a parish sub-committee and an advocacy committee which would alert congregations to bills being considered in Annapolis affecting the environment. The committee also submitted a resolution to the 1996 Convention entitled “Stewardship of God’s Creation”, which proposed that “the diocese assumes a leading role in the stewardship of God’s creation by encouraging all parishes and all individuals to be active caretakers of ‘the fragile earth, our island home.'” Specifically, the resolution mandated that parishes “shall eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups by September 1, 1996.” After discussion, the wording was changed to “recommend that you eliminate”, and the resolution passed as amended, although the amendment eliminated the teeth of the resolution.

Undeterred, the Committee submitted another resolution in 1997 entitled “Parish Environmental Stewardship Programs”, which stipulated that each parish “will adopt at least one congregational project in which members will participate and give witness to the loving stewardship of God’s creation”. Recommendations included developing a church garden, gradually phasing out the use of disposable products, performing an energy audit, and introducing a Creation Cycle liturgy. The resolution passed as presented. Again in 1998, the committee sponsored a resolution urging each congregation to perform an environmental audit of church facilities, and to implement the findings. Again the resolution passed.

“Preference for Triple Certified Coffee” was the title of a 2004 resolution which explained the benefits of congregations choosing to buy only fairly traded, organically and shade-grown coffee, and encouraged its use at all functions of parishes and the diocese. Samples of the triple-certified coffee were served, and the convention passed the resolution. The 2007 resolution “Caring for God’s creation through waste prevention and recycling,” which was approved by convention, encouraged all congregations to be good stewards of God’s creation and to protect it by reducing, reusing and recycling.

2010 saw two environmental resolutions approved by convention. After amendments, Resolution 2010-1 recommended that every parish and diocesan organization refrain from excessive use or misapplication of synthetic and other herbicides; and Resolution 2010-2 urged “all parishes and Episcopal facilities to stop the use of bottled water.” The 2012 Convention approved the declaration of September as Environmental Stewardship Month, encouraging each congregation to hold an outdoor service to “bring awareness of God’s presence and action in all creation.” In 2013, the convention affirmed the mission developed by the Anglican Consultative Council, specifically to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” And in 2014, Convention approved a resolution entitled “Give God’s Earth A Break Day”, calling upon individuals, on a specific day, to use public transportation, change light bulbs to low-energy types, reduce electricity use and prepare a meal from locally sourced food.

Although the name of the group has changed through the years from the Committee on the Environment, to the Environmental Steering Committee, to the Maryland Episcopal Environmental Faith Partners to GreenGrace, the goal has been the same, “to encourage and promote conscious stewardship of our physical environment through education, positive action and congregational programs.”