Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake


  • Reflection: "We Should Plant More Trees"
  • Tree Planting Opportunities
  • Outdoor Experience for Young Adults - Sessions 1 & 2 were Full!
  • NEW DATES Announced for Stewardship Service Days
  • Funding, Funding, Funding!
  • Maryland Climate Expos
  • Upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities

"We Should Plant More Trees"

On a picture perfect Sunday in October, 40+ volunteers gathered at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center’s Meeting House in Columbia, MD to plant 60 trees on our grounds. I wish I could say it was easy.  But, like most worthwhile undertakings, there were definitely bumps in the road and at times during the planning stages, I didn’t think this would ever really happen.

When I first started as Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s Congregational Outreach Coordinator and learned about our Trees for Sacred Places Program, I realized that the facility where my own faith community worships, Columbia Jewish Congregation (CJC), had the capacity to participate. Still, I hesitated to raise my hand. Why you might ask? Since the Meeting House is home to five different congregations, I knew the challenges we would face to get approval through all the individual clergy, committees, Boards of Directors of each congregation, an overarching OMI Board and even an Architectural Review Committee for the Oakland Mills Village Center would take much time and patience.  (Pictured above Bonnie with her youngest son Aaron).



(Pictured above the OMI Planting Team)

However, with the wonderful support of CJC’s Green Team and our Tikkun Olam Committee, I found an “angel volunteer” in Sheila Robinson. She understood the role of trees as "Creation's Cure-all", and was determined to get these trees in the ground. There were many negotiations over the number and types of trees (despite Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s professionally prepared planting plan!) I also believe there was a divine hand in making a connection with Marge Trenkle from St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church’s Social Justice Committee, who brought in Alan Pultyniewicz from their Knights of Columbus whose support was immeasurable. The final approval didn’t come until probably the very last possible moment - - but it did come!!! A few dedicated volunteers coming from different faith backgrounds united around a common goal...and isn't that what Interfaith Partners is all about?

Despite the planning struggles, on planting day, we had a wonderful gathering of congregants - young and old - from different faith communities to learn about the threats to the Chesapeake Bay watershed and how planting trees is one great step to help. A message in St. John’s Bulletin to draw attention to the project called on scripture and said, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-- a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.”  Psalm 84:3 (Full Inspiring announcement HERE). 
Rabbi Seth Bernstein (on left) from Temple Bet Aviv shared a beautiful poem which he had written and concluded with “Grant us strength and skill on this day of planting.  Give us commitment, perseverance and dedication in the months and years ahead when we will need to water, tend, and prune that which we are about to plant in Your precious soil. Blessed are You, Source of all Life for the manifold creations that You have made:  healthy trees and healthy bodies that have the duty to continually tend to all the resources of this precious planet. Amen.” (Full Poem HERE). Even complete strangers who were passing by were inspired to help plant a tree.


(above a St. John's family planting together)

In the end, one of the children came bounding up to me and said, “We should plant more trees!” I responded, “Yes, honey, we should!” We ALL should...all faiths, all leaders, all backgrounds...uniting around a common goal.

Bonnie Sorak, IPC's Congregational Outreach Coordinator (and CJC Green Team Chairperson) Contact me at[email protected] to PLANT MORE TREES at your congregation!

Tree Planting Opportunities

We are also still enrolling faith communities for free tree plantings for 2016. Trees for Sacred Places provides everything your community needs for the tree planting, customized support, and an educational/spiritual workshop specific for your faith tradition. This program is available throughout the state of Maryland and we are especially looking for congregations in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.  Contact Bonnie Sorak at [email protected] or 410-609-6852View and download Flyer here.  

You are welcome to witness our next fall tree planting: 

Nov. 14 Tree Planting at Holy Family Catholic Church beginning with a blessing by Fr. Andy Aaron at8:15 am, followed by the workshop led by Kolya Braun-Greiner, and concluding by noon.


Outdoor Experience for Young Adults

Over the past month, roughly 30 different young adults (aged 20s and 30s) have participated in Sessions 1 or 2 (and for some, both!) of the "Our Common Home" outdoor experience of Laudato Si'. They've paddled at Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary and learned how wetlands are the kidneys of our watershed, taking care of us silently and serving as the first line of defense from extreme weather. They've alsopaddled on the Patuxent, in the shadows of the large coal plant that has been the root of a complex environmental justice story in Eagle Harbor, an African American community established as a safe haven in Maryland, but home to a coal plant. One attendee responded after this session, "I am not surprised, but still appalled, that this highly polluting plant was constructed in a community where the majority of residents were not white."  And thus, the status quo has been it is time for the "what can I do to help?"

Session 3 will answer that question. We will offer insights from a wide variety of activists on how to translate that call into action. Click here for more information and registration. 

Session 3 - Responding in Faith: Saturday, November 14, St. Camillus Catholic Church, Silver Spring, MD, 10am - 3pm. Witness a faith community working to heal creation and tour the bay-friendly practices they have installed on their grounds. Keynote speaker is Shantha Ready Alonso of Creation Justice Ministries. Panelists include Joelle Novey of Interfaith Power & Light, Jose Aguto from Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Ashley Wilson from NETWORK Catholic Lobby. The panel will be moderated by Jill Witkowski Heaps of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. This session will be one your young people won't want to miss. 

If you would like to participate in this program in the future, have thoughts on content for the program, or would like to see this type of program offered to all adults regardless of age, please contact[email protected] to share your ideas. We will be putting together a task force to work on redeveloping this program based on this pilot for future offerings and we welcome your feedback and participation in that task force.

Advocacy: Support for Plastic Bag Ban in Baltimore... and Beyond LetterWriting_Image.jpg

Inspired by its study of the Pope's Encyclical to care more deeply for Creation and coached by IPC as a participating congregation in the Covenantal Partners Program, St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore is sponsoring a parish-wide letter signing in support of a plastic bag ban in Baltimore to be sent to the Mayor and their City Council representative.  During its masses this past weekend, parishioners had the opportunity of signing the letter and 88 signatures were collected! The letter, which was written in conjunction with Trash Free Maryland, is an example of a letter signing effort that can be replicated in your congregation if you wish to support a bag ban in Baltimore City or at the state level. Afterall a statewide bag ban will be considered in the 2016 legislative session.  Enactment of similar legislation in Washington D.C. has shown a 60% reduction in bag use, and a 60% reduction in litter. So IPC is gearing up for when the state legislature will be in session next year (Jan-April) and are inviting churches to consider following the example of St. Matthew's by endorsing such a letter calling for the ban on plastic bags.  See St. Matthew's letter here to create your own!  


Stewardship Service Days - New Dates!

Announcing New Dates for this mega tree planting in Pasadena, Anne Arundel County. Saturday, March 12th & Saturday, April 9th Beginning at 9 AM

More than 200 volunteers of all faiths are needed for an interfaith mega-planting to help restore Rock Creek and Stoney Creek. This can be for youth groups, family groups, men’s groups, etc. We seek to partner with 20 congregations or other faith-based volunteer groups, each bringing 10-20 volunteers to participate together. Activities will include a kickoff interfaith liturgy in the morning, followed by tree and shrub planting. We provide everything – tools, gloves, and training! Congregational groups will work together with a pre-assigned trained crew leader.

Thank you to American Turkish Friends Association who are sponsoring this even and have committed to bringing 50 Muslim friends each Saturday! A kickoff interfaith liturgy will be held each Saturday at 9 amat Mt. Zion Magothy Church in Pasadena.

Sign up today... If you can bring a group of any aged volunteers ready to get to work, please contact Bonnie Sorak to pre-register at [email protected]  or call 410-609-6852. Download and share the flyer HERE.

 Funding, Funding, Funding!

There are many open grant opportunities right now. We are providing limited information below, but you're welcome to reach out to us if you need help in preparing a plan of action or seek advice on applying for a grant. Contact us at 410-609-6852 for support!

Maryland Climate Expos!

Please plan to attend one of these Maryland Climate Expos near you, and volunteer a couple of hoursto help IPC staff a table at these events. Without you, IPC will miss the opportunity to spread the word about the great work being done by faith communities and to engage new people in the movement. We will provide you with everything you need. Contact Bonnie Sorak at [email protected] or443-799-0349. More information about these events can be found HERE:


Columbia-Tuesday, November 17th7-9 pm Columbia East Library, Center for Aging 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD 21045

BaltimoreSaturday, November 21st, 11am-2pm Baltimore City Community College 2901 Liberty Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215

 Upcoming Events

  • Nov. 11th - Western Regional Episcopalian Churches Meeting, 6 PM at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 22 Cumberland St., Clearspring- Bonnie speaking about Trees for Sacred Places
  • Nov. 13 - A Concert inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si' sponsored by St. Joseph Catholic ChurchOur Lady of the Fields Catholic Church, and St. Andrew by the Bay Catholic Church 7:30 PM at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1283 Odenton Road, Odenton MD 21113 410-674-9238 Free and open to the public
  • Nov. 14th - Our Common Home Session 3 - St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, 10-3, click here for registration information
  • Nov. 15th - Earth Forum of Howard County 2 - 4:45 PMFirst Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle, Columbia, MD 21045,  "Seeking Just Solutions for Climate Change Impacts" featuring The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director,  National Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church, USA in Washington, DC
  • Nov. 18th - A presentation on Pope Francis' encyclical, 7-8:30 PM St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall, presented by Fr. Vincent Cushing OFM Former President, Washington Theological Union
  • Nov. 22nd - Blessing of the Cistern at Silver Spring United Methodist Church, about 10:30am(between 9:30am and 11am worship services)
  • Nov. 22nd - Baltimore Green Forum4-6:30 PM, Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Road, Towson, MD 21286"Electric Vehhicles (EVs) and EV-ready Transit Hubs", Speakers: Jill A. T. Sorensen and Paul E. Schoen
  • Nov. 24th - RiverWise Stewards' Commissioning, 6:30-8 PM, Mt. Olive AME Church, 2 Hicks Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401


IPC Needs Volunteers 

  • Help with our Database
  • Table at events
  • Become a member of our Speaker’s Bureau
  • Help with Administrative Tasks
  • Assist with Website updates
  • We’ll tailor something to suit your expertise!

If you have some time and would like to help us to spread our message more effectively please contact Bonnie Sorak at [email protected]