Caring for Creation: Mount Lebanon Baptist Church
One of our proudest partnerships last year was with Mount Lebanon Baptist Church (MLBC). MLBC formed their Green Team in late 2017 as part of One Water Partnership, a network of faith communities joined together to care for their waterways. Blue Water Baltimore’s Senior Manager of Stormwater Programs, Jessie Hillman, worked in partnership with the Green Team to plan and execute a wide array of projects and events, culminating in a large stormwater system that captures and treats stormwater from the church’s roof.
Early on in this program, Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Franklin Lance told the Baltimore Sun, “We believe it’s important to have a tactile approach, so people can walk, see, feel, hear, touch and smell [the outdoors] so one gets a much better appreciation of the impact of the earth … this jewel that we’ve been given,” he said. “It’s a very simple thing: We need to take care of the Earth. It’s our home. It keeps us. It sustains us.”
Tangible interactions with the environment have been a focus throughout the partnership. In February 2019, a typically harsh month in Baltimore, the Green Team brought the outdoors inside by hosting a film screening of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, a film about climate change and water quality. A facilitated panel discussion allowed different congregations and neighborhood residents to share their thoughts and discuss their role in fighting climate change. Come spring, the Green Team hosted a neighborhood cleanup and shared the message that our streets are our streams, and storm drains lead directly to the nearest stream unfiltered.
In high summer, the Green Team worked with Blue Water Baltimore to complete a storm drain stencil workshop and stencil a drain right outside of MLBC. The Green Team also coordinated a guided nature walk through Gwynns Falls Park with Blue Water Baltimore’s ecoliteracy educator John Marra. While walking the trail, the team talked about the different health and psychological benefits of being in nature and visited sections of the stream badly damaged by powerful stormwater runoff.
At the close of summer, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church held a back-to-school fair focused on community health and invited Blue Water Baltimore to table. Bridging the gap between environmental and community health can be a big challenge, and the fair established a space to encourage that dialogue. Janell Belcher, the Green Team’s youngest member, wanted to convey the importance of proper water management, so she put together an informational brochure to be handed out to community members. She was awarded her Girl Scouts Gold Award as a result of her active participation in the Green Team and production of the water management brochure. Blue Water Baltimore is seeing more and more young environmentalists like Janell, and it was a privilege to partner with her through the Green Team.
One durable success of this partnership that spans many seasons was the installation of three stormwater planters and a 500-gallon cistern along the side of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church. Combined, they are treating 2,825 square feet of impervious surface from the church roof. The vegetation in the planters is entirely native, making it easier to manage and encouraging local pollinators. The Green Team and Blue Water Baltimore installed a large interpretive sign that explains the stormwater benefits of the planters and cistern and worked together to lay out a maintenance plan.
The partnership between Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and Blue Water Baltimore has been, in the Green Team’s words, a blessing. As a team, we have brought people together to learn about, explore and experience the environment, and most importantly, establish a connection. The Green Team hopes their restoration work will inspire others to consider ways that they can take action to reduce stormwater runoff, and we hope to continue to encourage relationships between faith organizations and the environment.
You can find out how to green your congregation by emailing Jessie Hillman, Senior Stormwater Program Manager [[email protected]].