On my fridge is a magnet imprinted with the famous Ghandi quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world." The magnet serves as a constant reminder that change isn't about telling someone else they need to fix something...change starts from within.
Change at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Covenant started with Bernadine Coates. At a stature of about 4'11", Bernadine is a formidable leader with devout love for her God and God's Creation, and a humble respect for the slow process of change. She had taken classes at a local conservancy about planting native species. After dabbling with it at home, she wanted to help her church do this, too. That’s when they heard about Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC).
We helped them connect with Blue Water Baltimore, who conducted a water audit and guided them through the process of implementing stormwater management projects on their grounds. IPC met with a large crowd from her church to help them understand why reducing stormwater is our moral responsibility. We guided them through a process to envision their church as a vehicle for healing the environment…to envision themselves as the change they want to see. Immediately after that meeting, one of the attendees walked out to their parking lot and noticed the downstream street drain was mucked up with trash and leaves, and cleaned it out right then and there! Change was beginning to take root.
The church’s 23,000-square foot parking lot/roof generates 650,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually. After securing $72,000 in grant funds for the design and implementation of two rain gardens, they will soon begin construction of the project which will treat ~25% of their impervious surfaces. They have been patiently and steadily working on this effort for over 2 years…the slow process of change.
And, Bernadine and her church didn’t stop there. They continue to engage their community in educational programs and advocacy. Bernadine brought several women from her church to Annapolis for the Environmental Legislative Summit in January. She also shares our e-newsletters and advocacy action alerts with her fellow congregants. Bernadine’s church recognizes their ability to be change agents – on their grounds, in their messaging, and in the halls of power.
Christians started the season of Lent last week. It is a season of change, but we’re also reminded in the Bible that we shouldn’t be proud or boastful about the changes we’re making. It should be a quiet journey with our God -- one that shows by example, not by words, the love and mystery of the God's Kingdom. You will never hear Bernadine boast about the work her church has done or the changes they are slowly making within. But, you can see it when you visit them, you can hear it when you speak to her, and you can witness it when they engage in public discourse in Annapolis.
Be inspired to be that witness in your community…be that quiet, committed, constant change.