You need darkness in order to truly appreciate light. I know this because each year when my family finishes decorating our Christmas tree, the first thing we do is turn off the lights to watch the tree glow in the dark. My coworker Bonnie Sorak says it's the same in her family for Menorah candles -- the darkness helps us truly experience the light.
This time of year, our awareness of light is heightened. Days are getting shorter, so light becomes markedly treasured and uplifting. Hanukkah is coming to an end December 10th and is a celebration of the light that lasted for eight days in the temple after the Maccabees’ repaired their temple from the three-year war. A parable in the Qur’an describes God as light: “Allah is the light of the heavens and earth.” (Sura an-Nur 24:36) Christians light candles in late December to celebrate the birth of Jesus, believing he was the light of the world.
Light is a gift meant to be shared, and it abounds at IPC through the selfless actions of so many. So many of you fuel all of this light with your financial support, giving generously year after year. I witness this light in IPC’s team of dedicated staff and board who work tirelessly in the fight for clean water. I witness it in the hundreds of faithful like you who are inspiring people to think and act differently.
As we reflect on the light of the past year, I want to share the story of one young girl at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Baltimore. A teenager from the church was exposed to watershed stewardship through one of our Jones Falls One Water Partnership Inspirational Bus Tours. Touched by what she learned, she is now focusing her Girl Scouts activities on watershed restoration and is building a rain garden at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church. Who knows where this girl will go with her passions? What light will she bring to the next generation? How beautiful was the light she saw at her church that has forever changed her worldview.
This Season of Light, remember that in all of the darkness around us, you are bringing forth light in the humble, small, perfect ways that are uniquely your calling. Through your leadership, actions, and financial support, you are restoring and protecting our shared watershed. And, maybe just maybe, we all treasure this light more fully because of the darkness in today’s world.
May the light in those around you touch your heart. Thank you for all the ways you have participated in IPC’s work this past year and for the light you show me every day.
Every year I make choices about the organizations I donate to. And every year, I choose Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake.
Ever since I was a child, I have felt something special, something deep, something comforting in the presence of nature. Before I really knew what the word “spiritual” meant, I felt an energy from flowing streams, pounding surf, and the solitude of the forest - a sense of hope that I was part of something far bigger than myself.
Gandhi said, "a spiritual relationship is far more precious than a physical one. The physical divorced from spiritual is like body without soul." And from a different vantage point, Chief Sitting Bull said, “Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being.” Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical on the environment, “Concern for the environment needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings.”
We have much work to do to repair the environment and the health of our communities. The challenges are daunting and the brokenness around us is profound. However, the power of the faith community to effect change is greater than the challenges. Diverse cultures are uniting in stewardship of the natural world. I have found this to be a tremendous source of hope.
That hope is what excites me about the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and why I give generously to support their work. This giving season, and particularly on Giving Tuesday, November 27th, I invite you to do the same.
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake works hard every day to ignite the power of the faith community to take action. They are creating hubs of environmental action, cultivating champions and leaders, guiding congregations in on-the-ground restoration work, speaking out in defense of environmental justice, and supporting policies that care for the web of life. With IPC’s help, congregations are uniting to address whole watershed challenges like stormwater, deforestation, and polluted communities. They are restoring the earth by changing hearts and forming faithful stewards.
Please join me in standing up for the important work of the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. Click here to donate on our website, and remember us on Giving Tuesday, November 27th.
Be as generous as you can. Any amount will make a difference.
Vice-Chair of the Board for Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
We are excited to announce that the One Water Partnership™ program has been awarded a 3-year grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation! Through this program, we will mobilize 100 congregations, of which 36 will commit to deep engagement and high-impact stormwater management or restoration projects. Click HERE to read more.
Why do you find yourself among this circle of activists restoring clean water and fighting for environmentally moral policies? What or Who is calling you here? How are you helping to restore clean water?
Our staff and board recently went through a process to reflect on our “Why” and “How”. We shared personal reasons, like “I’m on this board for my grandchildren’s future” or “I work here because it aligns with my personal mission in life”. We also shared organizational reasons of why IPC exists:
- To help repair the broken relationship we humans have with the local environment
- To provide resources to leaders like you to help you restore your local waters
- To activate people of faith to advocate for policies that protect water and promote environmental justice
- To provide hope and resilience at this time of environmental urgency
Your stories inspired us, too: why you keep going, how you inspire others to join you, and what support you need. And we know we are making a difference -- we are restoring clean water.
Our discussions about purpose and how to restore clean water became IPC’s new Strategic Plan. We invite you to read through it grow with us. Our plan calls for IPC to ignite the power of faith communities in the Chesapeake region to honor all of Creation by working together to protect and restore our shared watershed.
- We will create congregational hubs in Maryland, District of Columbia and Pennsylvania to magnify our impact and inspire new congregations
- We will create leadership training and support programs, tools, and resources to make it easier for you to lead your congregation.
- We will grow our partnerships and diversify our support.
- We will achieve organizational excellence with a strong board and diverse and talented staff.
We invite you to grow with us and join us in our shared vision for a restored Chesapeake watershed. Here are some ways you can help:
- Read our Strategic Plan, our Core Values and Guiding Principles. Pray for all of us that this plan may guide our work in ways that give glory to God.
- Reflect on your why and how. Where is the overlap between your plan and our plan? How can we support you, and how can you support us? Complete the Stay Connected form so that we can build a hub around your congregation.
- Donate to IPC to support our work. One of our core values is being accountable and responsible with the resources entrusted to us. Help us ignite the power of faith communities to make a difference by donating cash or stock.
I have had the honor of serving as IPC’s Executive Director since 2013. In the past five years, and by God’s mercy and grace, IPC has grown tremendously: engaged 200+ congregations, planted thousands of trees, treated millions of gallons of stormwater, educated thousands of faithful of all races and faiths, added four more part-time staff to our team, and grew our funding five-fold. I promise to continue to hold IPC accountable and monitor our progress. Those might sound like corporate words, but they are rooted in deep conviction, purpose, and love...Love for all of Creation and future generations who are forever at the mercy of the choices -- and plans -- we make today.
Grow with us and be part of IPC’s future impact.
As we honor and remember the contributions of the great civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it offers a time for us to reflect on one of Dr. King's central tenants: the Beloved Community, based upon equality, justice and love among one another. Dr. King was dedicated to the manifestation of the Beloved Community throughout his ministry, from the marches to secure freedom from discrimination based upon race, to the final year of King's life when he spoke out for peace calling for an end to the Vietnam war. We can garner courage and inspiration from his example of taking a stand and organizing for the betterment of communities everywhere, bringing his words to life: Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
As we embark on a new year, IPC is at a critical juncture to expand our work more broadly to manifest a beloved community within the Chesapeake Bay. IPC, with gratitude and excitement, celebrates the granting of $1M from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as an opportunity to contribute to the creation of the beloved community as we take a stand for a clean healthy environment for all through education, advocacy and action creating a qualitative change for all life within our watershed communities. With this grant over the next 3 years, we will continue to engage faith communities in deepening their connection and understanding of their local watershed, it's beauty and it's challenges. In doing so, we are responding to Dr. King's call for people to be of service to their community: Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' Through our organizing efforts with partners, we will be offering more opportunities for you to serve your own beloved community!
Building upon the successful One Water Partnership in the Jones Falls watershed (see here for results), IPC, along with these partners - Blue Water Baltimore, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Watershed Stewards Academies in Anne Arundel County and Harford County, Interfaith Power & Light-DMV, Lower Shore Land Trust, Wicomico Environmental Trust, READY of Anne Arundel County, and the University of Maryland Extension Office Sea Grant, will continue to build upon our work in Baltimore and Harford County, while also expanding to Anne Arundel, Wicomico County on the lower Eastern Shore, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Through the award of this 3-year grant program, we will mobilize 100 congregations, of which 36 will commit to deep engagement and high-impact stormwater management or restoration projects.
Read more here and sign up to learn more or participate in this wonderful and exciting development for IPC as we, along with you, contribute to this beloved community of the Chesapeake Bay.
Andrea Proctor published Sacred Waters Teach Environmental Justice in Newsletter 2018-10-05 14:45:40 -0400
Former IPC board member Rev. Allen LaMontagne, now pastoring in Jacksonville, FL, called us because he was bringing his youth group to DC to learn about justice and advocacy...and fighting for clean water was on his mind. Together, Rev. LaMontagne and IPC built an immersion experience for his group that explored the impact of human action on the waters and communities of the Anacostia region. We offer this story of their “Pilgrimage” and invite you to consider replicating this environmental justice experience for your own faith communities.
To begin our day, prayers of blessing for the waters were to be offered from a member of the Piscataway tribe, the original inhabitants (along with other tribes) of this watershed along with selections from scripture (Job 12:7-8, Psalm 24:1-3, Isaiah 24:5) about our relationship to the land, waters and wildlife. Direct experiences of witnessing challenges to the local waters were schueduled with these local partners: Groundwork Anacostia, the Anacostia Riverkeeper, and Earth Conservation Corps. We were poised to fulfill the motto for this pilgrimage: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience ~ Teilhard de Chardin.
The week of the Pilgrimage finally arrived in July when metro DC received record levels of rainfall with almost daily flash flood warnings. The direct result of so much stormwater runoff was vividly evident by the amount of trash floating throughout the river. Highpoints along the river were sightings of an eagle perched in a tree, turtles sunning themselves on riverbank logs, the chattering of a Kingfisher flying overhead and the beauty of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens where the lotus flowers were in full bloom, all gifts of Creation which many in DC hardly know about!
We learned that the eagles now flourishing in the Anacostia watershed were re-introduced in 1992 by youth members of Earth Conservation Corps. Indeed the capstone experience of the day, ECC addresses both pollution and poverty by building leadership among youth from Anacostia neighborhoods rife with drugs, violence, and premature death due to these. An original ECC member, Burell Dunkin shared both the pain of experience (26 youth from the program have been killed in the 26 year history of the organization) and the joy of being part of the solution that offers life-transforming opportunities for 20 youth every year.
A service project for the group was to join the Groundwork Anacostia youth in cleaning out the Bandalong Trash Trap located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Trash traps are just as they sound: floating booms that collect trash that washes into the river from stormwater drains throughout DC and upstream. This cleanout task offers volunteers a directl view of the huge amount of trash that gets accumulated. Getting us out on the river, Anacostia Riverkeeper (ARK) offered a free boat tour (fully funded by the DC plastic bag fee!) with an overview of the history of environmental injustice. This was evidenced by legacy toxics in the river caused by the siting of landfills, power plant, poor infrastructure and lack of access to the riverfront on the east side of the river, a largely low-income African American community. The toxic materials continues to impact the fish, many of which have lesions, andh threatens human health of those who catch them. A study showed that over 17,000 people fished there in one year, out of a river that is among the top 10 most polluted in the U.S. ARK educates people about doing “catch and release.”
The FL Pilgrimage youth group took away much to ponder in their hearts about the social and environmental disparities they witnessed in the Anacostia watershed. Their experience on the river and with people who are impacted informed how they may address environmental justice in their own home watershed. And you can too! Contact IPC if you are interested in replicating this experience for your faith community.
Kolya Braun-Greiner, MDiv
IPC Religious Educator
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake's story starts with an inspired group of individuals at a 2004 National Council of Churches "Holy Waters" conference in Annapolis, Maryland from which our organization, originally named Chesapeake Covenant Congregations, was created. Our founding and mission is rooted in a deep religious call to care for the Earth, recognition that the Chesapeake Bay is a significant ecological feature in our midst for which we have been entrusted its care, and an urgency to restore our local watershed. We became Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake in 2013 to reflect the diversity of faith communities in the Chesapeake region and the intention to bridge relationships and engage people across religious lines.
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC) ignites the power of faith communities in the Chesapeake Bay region to honor all of Creation by working together to protect and restore our shared watershed.
We envision a time when faith communities across the Chesapeake region honor, care for, and protect the watershed we share so all our communities, and future generations, may thrive.
We care deeply about the Earth, all it's people and life forms, but we focus on water, because water is the essence of all life. The purity of the water is a litmus test for the health of the world. Its health is determined by what we do, the patters of our lives, the choices we make, the quality of the air, the health of soil. The welfare of all depends on the welfare of the earth's waters.
Through water, we are unmistakably interconnected. Thus, through our respect and stewardship of water, we demonstrate respect and love for each other and for future generations. We therefore believe that we must work through communities of faith to bring about a transformation of awareness and action that reflects respect for this interconnectedness and the need for restored balance.
Our strategy to achieve our mission is rooted in our principles and beliefs. These serve as a filter to helps us assess options and make choices aligned with our mission and vision.
- All faith traditions share a fundamental belief that we have a moral responsibility to be good caretakers of Creation.
- Clean watersheds are necessary for communities to be healthy and thriving.
- When people experience and appreciate the beauty of Creation, they will love and protect it.
- Action at the local level is what drives people. People are connected to local issues, local needs, and local relationships.
- People are most energized when they can connect with one another on a personal level, lift each other up, work together to repair the brokenness, and demonstrate love and solidarity.
- Individual champions drive change and need to be supported.
- Networks of faith-based communities infect others and magnify our message and impact.
Our 3-year strategic direction for 2019-2021 lays out an ambitious, scalable pathway for Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake to bring initiatives to fruition, and to advance sustainable funding models that will guide organizational life beyond this plan. It builds on the significant achievements of the last two years and sets IPC on a pathway to organizational excellence.
We reflected on the success of creating the Jones Falls One Water Partnership in Baltimore, and the cultivation of a hub of faith leaders on the lower shore who have now named themselves Wicomico Interfaith Partners for Creation Care.
- IPC's One Water Partnership initiative encourages communities of multiple faiths to work individually and collectively to build awareness, advocacy and action in their local watershed. The cohort has begun to see themselves as a collaborative group and cross-congregational actions have hence been catalyzed.
- On the lower shore, IPC's work, resources and messaging were instrumental in initiating action from a group of faith leaders in Salisbury who continue to meet monthly and have hosted three annual Earth Day celebrations.
These two examples of network-building offer models for scaling our actions and impact throughout the broader Chesapeake Bay region from Maryland's western shore to the Eastern Shore, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania.
IPC strives to be the change we seek in all our relationships and actions. Our values guide the way IPC works and we aspire that congregations, faith-based leaders and individuals, our staff, our partners, and the community will experience these values in their interactions with IPC.
Respect – Out of love for our Creator and the entire web of life, we cherish and protect all Creation.
Action – We are rooted in faith and hope, and we live out our call to stewardship by taking action.
Justice - We work to achieve a healthy watershed for all community members of every socio-economic status and race.
Inclusion – We strive to build relationships with people of all faiths and races. We are designed by our Creator to be in community with one another.
Accountability – We operate responsibly with the resources entrusted to us, and expect the same from our partners.
Here is our mission statement and what each word means to us. The words have been chosen with care and intention.
Andrea Proctor published Spotlight on the Many Stars Among Us in Newsletter 2018-08-31 11:52:26 -0400
It’s that time again, when we get a chance to shine the light on some of our partner congregations who have one more thing to be grateful for on this wonderful Earth.
Congratulations are due to five congregations that were successful in obtaining grants through the Chesapeake Bay Trust Community Outreach and Engagement Mini Grants. With application guidance from Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, the following congregations received awards ranging from $4,500 to $5,000 to help support their outreach and restoration efforts. We look forward to watching their projects unfold!
Cathedral of the Incarnation is embarking on an array of projects including a rainwater harvesting project through the purchase of cisterns and rain barrels, storm drain stenciling in their neighborhood, and planting of native shrubs and plants on their property.
First Presbyterian Church of Howard County/Earth Forum organized four outdoor sessions that included invasive vine and plant removal, legacy tree planting, and storm drain stenciling. They also started a new program called LEAVES (Learning about the Environment and Volunteering as Earth Stewards) as a data recording and accounting system for maintaining volunteer time and work records included in the project. The credits earned will be used to determine recognition for the participants. Thirdly, they plan to provide two Baltimore Harbor Environmental Education programs designed to increase participants’ understanding of how the Patapsco River in Howard County is connected to the Chesapeake Bay by studying the dynamic relationship between the Port of Baltimore and the Patapsco River.
Our Lady of the Fields replaced native plants in their Pollinator Garden. Part of the funding they received went towards a straw bale garden that is expected to yield in excess of 600 pounds of organic vegetables for distribution to 350+ guests at the St. Vincent de Paul’s Catholic Church and to add to the pantries of the Serving People Across Neighborhoods (SPAN) non-profit organization.
St. Stephen Baptist Church/Project Bright Future is putting their grant to work through the organization of four community events where they will, among other things, educate participants about being good stewards of the environment and provide resources for their congregation about how they can become even more active members in these efforts.
Kadampa Meditation Center will install a cistern and conduct storm drain stenciling on their property in coordination with a local youth program.
If your congregation is interested in applying for a grant, please check out the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website by clicking HERE.
Thank You For Your Gift!
Your donation is a direct investment in meaningful outcomes and IPC’s impacts would not be possible without your support. Please accept our sincerest gratitude for your donation and your confidence in our work.
If you'd like to learn more about how you and your congregation can partner with IPC, please click on any of the links below.
Browse the many PROGRAMS IPC has available for congregations and faith-based organizations.
Take a look at the RESOURCES IPC has available to help individuals and congregations become better-informed and equipped for understanding and cherishing Creation, including seasonal resources, study guides, worship suggestions and videos.
View our MENU FOR ACTION, a one-stop-shop for ideas on how to save energy, begin recycling, address food issues, and more!
Be an ADVOCATE and add your voice to the growing number of individuals and congregations speaking out for responsible public policies to protect the Earth and its inhabitants.
“This is going to be bad” was our first thought. My husband and sons were unable to drive out of the neighborhood because the water had risen so high. Though we have lived in Ellicott City for almost 15 years and directly experienced the downtown flood in 2016 where our car was totaled, we had never seen the water rise like this in our neighborhood. Then I saw the 12 text messages from friends and relatives from all over the country to check on us. “Oh, Lord, please not again.”
By now, most people have seen the shocking images of the devastation left, yet again, from unprecedented stormwater runoff in Ellicott City. But people were affected all over – in Catonsville and Baltimore. And, although less dramatically and not making the national news, communities in Frederick are suffering from flooding from the rain just two weeks ago. These events are happening more frequently and more intensely than ever before.
How do people of faith respond? Well, as the wonderful folks at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul's Catholic Church and others in Ellicott City demonstrated, first you address immediate humanitarian needs, which they did with grace and generosity. But what else can congregations do?
The flooding in Ellicott City is a very complex problem that will require multi-faceted solutions. Those without hope will fold their hands and say this is a problem we can’t fix. But, others don’t debate the answers, they simply get to work. The words found in Pirkei Avot, which is part of the Jewish Mishnah, the first text of the Jewish oral law, instruct us: “Say little and do much”. And later in this text it says: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (2:21).
Many congregations in IPC’s network have installed rain gardens and cisterns and planted trees to increase tree canopy and slow down rainfall. These are direct ways to help slow runoff during storms. People of faith also worked to promote a policy for protecting Maryland’s healthy forests from further development, with many people signing a petition, calling their legislators, and preparing testimony to be heard at the bill hearing. We are disappointed it did not pass in 2018, and we vow to keep working toward policies that restore balance to the web of life.
IPC offers help to congregations to answer the call to action. Check out our One Water Partnership webpage to find the details about upcoming Interfaith Nature Walks and Action Planning and Grant Writing Workshops to see firsthand what is happening to our watershed communities and how faith institutions can be part of the complex solution. Encourage members of your congregation to participate to learn and be inspired to act. This is what IPC is all about. Let’s “say little and do much” together.
We extend our prayers for recovery to all those affected in Ellicott City, Baltimore, Frederick -- to anyone touched by the ravages of stormwater.
Bonnie Sorak, Outreach Coordinator
If you can volunteer with us, please complete our General Volunteer Signup Form.
Volunteer Needs Coming Up
- Want to volunteer more regularly during the Maryland Legislative Session for advocacy work? If yes, then you should sign up for our separate Action Alert emails.
- Are you willing to help us coordinate volunteers? We can use your help!
- Do you like photography? Videography? We are always looking for help taking photos at our events, and putting them together in slide shows.
- Are you willing to make 5-10 phone calls each week for us to help us follow up with engaged congregations?
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