Riverkeepers Launch “Stewards for Streams” Faith Initiative

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On December 1, 2016, representatives from faith communities in the Midshore region gathered in partnership with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake to launch a new community initiative, Stewards for Streams: Faith-Based Conservation. Outreach so far has included congregants from Christ Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Greater New Hope Church & Ministries, Islamic Society of Easton, Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Parish, Smith Island United Methodist Church, Temple B’nai Israel, and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, to name a few. The mission of Stewards for Streams is to engage congregations of every denomination in environmental stewardship. Environmental stewardship is the responsible use of natural resources and protection of the environment.

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Members of Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church in Cambridge, along with Elizabeth Brown (center) and Suzanne Sullivan (seated with dogs) from MRC staff, celebrate the completion of their new rain garden, a completed project under MRC’s Stewards for Streams initiative.

The message of environmental stewardship has origins in the teachings of major religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. In recent years, there has been renewed focus on the growing connection between faith communities and environmental action. In 2015, Pope Francis drew global attention to the cause when he called for an “ecological conversion” in his encyclical address and stated “as stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family.”

At the December 1st kick-off event, MRC facilitated an evening of open conversation about community needs and local environmental issues. Pastor Rick Edmunds spoke of his experience as a religious leader on Smith Island, a community threatened by rising tides in the Chesapeake Bay. A short documentary, Faith Against Fracking, highlighted the powerful impact our collective voices can have in environmental policy. Interfaith Partners led discussions about congregation needs, challenges, and solutions through community partnerships. As a result of this gathering, congregations signed up for activities to engage and educate their communities. These free activities are provided by MRC and include adult and youth environmental retreats, environmental film series, and volunteer opportunities. Congregations also signed up for restoration projects, such as rain gardens or rain barrels, to reduce runoff from their property.

Following this kickoff event, MRC received a $75,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to continue working with faith organizations to develop and install pollution-reducing practices on their campuses.

Stewards for Streams is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Delaplaine Foundation of Maryland. MRC encourages all interested congregations to join the initiative. To become involved or learn more, contact Suzanne Sullivan at Suzanne@midshoreriverkeeper.org or 443-385-0511.

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