February 9, 2014 - The third annual forum of the Muddy Branch Alliance, an Interfaith Workshop: “Greening Our Sacred Grounds,” brought congregations together to learn from one another, share praise for our Creator, and discuss projects that restore and heal Creation in our local environment. The event was co-sponsored by the Muddy Branch Alliance, Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, Watts Branch Watershed Alliance, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, Interfaith Power and Light (DC.MD.NoVA), and the International Cultural Center.
Beginning with an Open House at Dayspring Retreat Center, participants witnessed examples of the energy saving, earth care, and water management practices. The Center’s buildings feature solar panels to support sustainable living. The program continued at the Interfaith Conference at the International Cultural Center where Rev. Mary Gaut of Maryland Presbyterian Church offered a deeply meaningful reflection (full text here) on the meaning of care for the earth as a relationship with the whole of God’s creation. Our sacred texts are full of language that links God and the natural world. But in the industrial age we began to think in much more utilitarian terms, in which humans commodify the earth for its resources to serve our needs. A healing and restorative understanding that we and Earth are an interdependent family:
This is our story to tell: that everything from the rockfish and bay grasses to the osprey and the crazy humans that do the polar bear plunge every year is a member of the family of creation. When we recognize that all that has being is part of one family our language shifts from data, the language of science to compassion and love which is the language of the spiritual. Such language speaks not just to our minds. It also touches our hearts.
Sessions on Engaging Congregations included: “The Environment as an Educational Tool” (Green Muslims), “God Makes the Rain, We Make the Runoff” (Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake), Sacred Grounds Program (National Wildlife Federation), “The Care and Feeding of your Congregation’s Green Team”(Interfaith Power & Light - DC.MD.NoVa).
Then specific models of action were offered as Project Ideas for Faith Groups: “10,000 Trees Program” (Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake), “Cleaning the Streams” (Alice Ferguson Foundation), and “Less Lawn, More Life, Clean Water” (Merikay Smith, Master Gardener).
Approximately 60 people attended and picked up valuable information on the many ways we as leaders of our faith communities can model behavior that embodies a deep commitment to caring for Creation.