In 2016 and again in 2018 the Irvington, Beechfield, and Westgate neighborhoods of west Baltimore that sit on the Maiden Choice Run of the Gwynn Falls watershed experienced two one thousand year floods. Six feet of water flowed down Frederick Avenue trapping riders in a city bus and wreaking havoc in over 200 homes. Stillmeadow Community Fellowship sits high on a hill, but it was flooded too. They, along with several other congregations, assisted with the emergency response, helping to provide food and services that their neighbors needed, coordinating with FEMA and other government agencies.
Pastor Michael Martin, their relatively new pastor having been recently reassigned from a church in Los Angeles CA to Baltimore, realized that something had to change. Some of his congregants had just “introduced” him to “da’ woods”- a nine acre track of forested land with a stream that the church owns. After just one walk in the forest together they decided that they would transform this overgrown and neglected area into a “PeacePark”. The vision is to restore the woods into a healthy place of community healing and spiritual renewal. They are transforming their property that has a huge parking lot and tremendous roof into a model of stormwater management. This decision has grown into a massive undertaking of hundreds of volunteers committing their hearts, souls and sweat - transforming the woods into walkable trails and planting thousands of trees. The effort brings together people from all over central Maryland and beyond, from all walks of life and faiths in this common cause.
Miracle City Church, which is just upstream from Stillmeadow Community Fellowship’s PeacePark, and whose property is adjacent, also helped in the disaster response, and noticed what Stillmeadow was doing. Miracle City also has a large parking lot and expansive roof - - and acres of trees in need of care. Miracle City has received a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant for $85,000 to help them to create a plan on how to best address the polluted stormwater created on their property so that they too, can be part of the solution.
Travel west, less than five miles from Stillmeadow and Miracle City, from the city to Baltimore County and you will arrive at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. During Eid, 15,000 worshippers gather to observe the Muslim holiday that concludes the holy month of Ramadan. Their property is also home to a stream - and a huge parking lot and roof. They, too, have received a CBT design grant for $63,600 to develop a plan on how to best treat their stormwater runoff.
Go another 10 miles north and west-you will still be in Gwynn Falls Watershed. You will come to Mount Olive United Methodist Church. An historic congregation with a large property that contains a cemetery - also with a tremendous parking lot and roof. Their Green Team has spearheaded an effort to create a community garden that helps provide fresh produce for people in need in their community. They have planted some trees and have committed to planting many more - - while also submitting a grant application to study the best way to treat the stormwater created on their property that they know flows downstream to the churches below.
All along the Gwynn Falls, the Jones Falls and beyond, through the One Water Partnership, IPC is helping to build such networks of congregations educating their members and neighbors, striving to improve the health and vitality of their surrounding communities - - one faith community at a time.
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