A Notable Creation Care Achievement by a Determined Parish – First Maintenance!

by Dick Williams, GREENGRACE Co-Lead

10/2020 UPDATE: Bernadine Coates asked Bonnie Sorak of IPC to help recruit volunteers to perform much-needed maintenance of the bioswale, a green infrastructure improvement with stormwater fee rebate. Among a number of those going to work were John Marra from Blue Water Baltimore, which helped with the grant to fund the making of it, Bernadine Coates, Bonnie Sorak, Fr. Dick Meadows, of St. James Lafayette Square and St. Michael’s & All Angels, and me.

Sadly, Holy Covenant was closed last fall, and the Bank of America branch facility on the other side of the bioswale, is also now closed. So no regular volunteers from either for semi-annual maintenance as both properties are now up for sale.

As per agreement with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works for its compliance with its MS4 stormwater management consent decree, if the bioswale is not maintained to a full level of functionality, the Diocese (which now controls the shuttered church property) would lose the stormwater fee credit for religious organizations.

As we wrapped up the job in the warmth of a sunny Saturday mid-afternoon, we celebrated our act of Creation Care. (Not to mention another chance to spend time outside during the pandemic.)

ORIGINAL POST- Green change at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Covenant started with Bernadine Coates. Working with Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC), she connected with Blue Water Baltimore which conducted a water audit, and guided church leadership through the process of implementing stormwater management projects on its grounds.

IPC met with a large Holy Covenant crowd to help them understand why reducing stormwater runoff and its ill effects on our steams and rivers is our moral responsibility as Christians. Attendees were guided through a process for envisioning the church as a vehicle for healing the environment–and to envision themselves as the change they want to see. Immediately after that meeting, one of the attendees walked out to the parking lot and, noticing the downstream storm drain clogged with trash and leaves, cleaned it out right then and there! Change was taking place already.

But, church green leaders didn’t stop there. Several went to Annapolis for the Environmental Legislative Summit in January 2017 to learn more about environmental stewardship while lobbying for more of it.

An assessment of the church’s combined 23,000 sq. ft. of surface parking and roof showed that 650,000 gal. of stormwater runs off the site annually. $72,000 in grant funds for the design and implementation of two rain gardens was obtained. A Blue Water Baltimore staffer supported rather than led the green teamers in their application for funding.  The congregants have been patiently and steadily working on this effort for about 4 years.

The dedication occurred in September, 2019. The completed project will mitigate an estimated 25% of the overall impervious surface on the property.  Congregants will meet Saturdays for a month to maintain the newly completed bioswale.

Church green leaders continue to otherwise engage their fellow congregants as “change agents” – on its grounds, in its messaging and in the halls of power.