An “Earth Stewardship” conference at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestertown, Nov. 15, drew 55 attendees for discussion of the Chesapeake Bay and how the faith community can address environmental issues.
The conference was organized by Chesapeake Covenant Community, an interfaith group that aims to promote environmental awareness, specifically in the bay's watershed, among the religious community. The meeting included several speakers, as well as panel discussions of local environmental issues, of bringing people of faith into work for the environment, and on moving from awareness to action. “There was a lot of give and take” from the “active” audience, Carl Gallegos said on Friday.
Gallegos, an expert on forestry, said highlights of the meeting included an “inspiring” address by Rabbi Nina Cardin in which she looked at the environment in the context of the Biblical creation story.
In her talk, she referred to God's giving “dominion” over creation to humanity, but suggested that the word in Genesis implies the need to care for creation rather than ownership of it, Allen La Montagne, pastor of St. Paul's, said. “You have to do chores in the house you live in,” he quoted her as saying.
La Montagne said on Friday that the meeting “had the same spirit” as a meeting of the same groups held at the church in spring 2011. “People are looking for a way to respond to climate change and global warming in the context of their faith traditions,” he said. He said that a goal of the conference was to bring the findings of the scientific community to the faith community: “Science and religion need to talk to each other.”
A presentation on the Environmental Protection Agency's watershed implementation plan by Alan Girard, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, included discussion of the resistance to the plans in many counties on Maryland's Eastern Shore. “The cost issues are overblown,” Gallegos said, noting that funds are available to bring the plan into action. Improving water quality “is not about me, it's about us,” he quoted Girard as saying. He said that whatever the impact of silt from the Conowingo Dam, which some have blamed for many of the bay's problems, rivers entering the bay still need to be cleaned up.
Gallegos also praised a report by Nancy Hastings, of Old Trinity Church in Cecil County, on obtaining grants to create a living shoreline to repair erosion on the church's lands.
One local effort Gallegos cited was the “frog watch” by the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River. Frogs are the “canaries in the coal mine” for the local environment, Gallegos said. The UU fellowship has teams of volunteers in three communities, Chestertown, Rock Hall and Betterton, he said.
One of the goals for the future is to get more youth involved in the Covenant Community, Gallegos said. Students in the Washington College bay curriculum were invited to the conference, but the students in the program were in Peru, he said. The group also would like to get Boy and Girl Scouts and high school groups involved.
For more information on Chesapeake Covenant Community, visit www.chesapeakecovenant.org or call Executive Director Dottie Yunger at 202-674-7788.