Local congregations are making a difference to stream health

Image of Damascus United Methodist Church rain barrel project.
February 14, 2013
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Eleven congregations and 72 Montgomery County residents came together on Sunday, February 10, to discuss how the faith-based community can play a role in improving local watersheds. The forum, “Greening Our Sacred Grounds”, was an opportunity for the congregations to share their successes, and roadblocks, in developing environmental projects.

Image of Damascus United Methodist Church rain barrel event.

Damascus United Methodist Church rain barrel event.

Opening the event was Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin of the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. Rabbi Cardin discussed the significance of the faith-based community as stewards and environmental advocates, who can be at the center of conversations about world environmental issues.

Many congregations lead clean-up projects as part of their commitment to community service. The first guest speaker, Alena Rosen of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, explained how her organization is using technology to make it easier for groups, such as the faith-based community, to track their data from volunteer cleanup events.  Event leaders can track their volunteers and progress over time.

 

RainScapes

Ann English of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and Dyan Backe of the City of Gaithersburg hosted a presentation on stormwater pollution and the County RainScapes and the City of Gaithersburg RainScapes programs. RainScapes is an incentive program offered by the County and by the City of Gaithersburg to include the public in stormwater reduction through projects on private residential, institutional and commercial properties. Several congregations have already built RainScapes projects including rain gardens, rain barrels and conservation landscaping.

 

Examples of Congregation Environmental Projects

Image of Geneva Day School rain garden after planting was completed.

Geneva Day School RainScape

Representatives from the different congregations present spoke about their stream or environmental projects, including:

  • The Epworth United Methodist Church of Gaithersburg engages youth and immigrant congregants in steam clean-up efforts
  • The Dayspring Church of Germantown has a multi-acre reserve that functions as a retreat for religious and environmental activities. They work with the Audubon Naturalist Society to monitor the water quality of the local creek.
  • The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville leads invasive species removal projects.
  • Potomac’s Geneva Presbyterian Church and the Geneva Day School have a RainScapes demonstration garden that reduces stormwater pollution and serves as an educational tool for the community.
  • St. James Episcopal Church in Potomac discussed their 3 RainScapes Rewards Rebate projects and how they used the County’s Rebate program as part of the match in funds to support their grant application to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The congregation was able to reduce their runoff without any net cost. The church also gained consensus from congregants and stakeholders in order to become more energy efficient and reduce stormwater runoff.

 

This unique forum was hosted by the Muddy Branch Alliance, an all-volunteer community group committed to improving the Muddy Branch stream and nearby natural resources.



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