In the heart of Lancaster County, congregations are stepping up to care for Creation, setting remarkable examples of environmental stewardship and community engagement, while also contributing towards achieving Lancaster’s Countywide Action Plan (CAP). How exactly are these congregations making a significant impact on water quality and sustainability?

Akron Mennonite Church: A Testament to Life and Death

Akron Mennonite Church, an IPC Partner Congregation with a trained green team through the Faithful Green Leaders Training Program, has turned four acres of church property into a breathtaking nature preserve and memory garden. This exceptional project goes beyond aesthetics—it serves as an outdoor classroom for the Diamond Street Early Childhood Center, benefitting over 150 preschool students and the wider community. The green burial space within the preserve is a testament to honoring both life and death, drawing attention and sparking conversations about embracing natural cycles.

Bright Side Baptist Church: Capturing Rainwater and Setting Examples

After participating in IPC's Faithful Green Leaders Training Program, Bright Side Baptist Church took transformative action by implementing a rain garden—a highlight of Lancaster Water Week Tour. Their rain garden captures rainwater from 217 square feet of the roof, storing over 320 gallons of water, reducing stormwater, and setting an example for other congregations. Beyond their grounds, they showcase how individual efforts improve water quality downstream, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our watershed.

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd

This steadfast Partner Congregation of IPC also recently installed a rain garden to address stormwater runoff issues they were facing. Helen Book, the Landscape Director at the church, highlighted that there was no push-back from their members, which underscores their commitment to environmental stewardship and community resilience. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd has an active green team that has hosted a native plant giveaway and a walk through the meadow on their grounds in the past. They even have plans to install a second rain garden – stay tuned for more green initiatives at this congregation!

Hope Episcopal Church: Creating a Birdhouse Trail

Hope Episcopal Church is taking flight with a bird-friendly habitat design! Since December, members have designed and built a dozen bird-houses and two winter roosting-boxes, which they will begin to set-up around the property within the next month. They are now designing a small bird-feeding station and a native plant garden dedicated to plants that songbirds and hummingbirds will love to visit! This initiative will complement their ongoing greening projects, which also include a retention basin, rain garden, tree plantings, and additional conservation landscaping practices; all of this also serves to foster a sense of community and a deeper appreciation for our watershed.

Ascension Lutheran Church: Commitment to Conservation Landscaping

Ascension Lutheran Church, in cooperation with IPC and Lancaster Clean Water Partners (LCWP), has approved a conservation landscaping plan. This includes installing wildlife-friendly native trees and shrubs, a small meadow, and a wet bioswale. Their plan, funded in part by Growing Greener dollars, marks the beginning of a more extensive project that aims to enhance native meadows, bioswales, retention basins, and buffers near the stream on their property.

Mike Hudson, IPC's Outreach Coordinator for Lancaster County has been working with these congregations and feels that he has discovered the reason why congregations are becoming so involved in clean water initiatives:

Expanding Impact Across Congregations Through the Lancaster One Water Partnership

In collaboration with Penn State's Agriculture and Environment Center, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC) is excited to be part of an innovative initiative to address water pollution in the lower Susquehanna River basin. This three-year, $1 million project, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, aims to accelerate conservation efforts in the region. Led by Penn State's team of outreach staff and extension educators, the project focuses on building and enhancing watershed partnerships to combat nutrient runoff from agriculture, a significant issue affecting the watershed.

IPC is also a proud recipient of Growing Greener dollars for the Lancaster One Water Partnership project. This initiative will provide technical assistance to congregations, collaborating with partners like the Center for Watershed Protection, LCWP, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The project aims to design and permit stormwater management projects at up to five congregations, fostering community engagement through green team training, maintenance programs, and educational events.

The collective impact of these projects showcases the interconnectedness of environmental initiatives, spanning from agricultural landscapes to faith communities.