CARING FOR GOD’S CREATION
Christians are motivated by Scripture to care for God’s creation of Earth and Nature and to preserve the quality of the environment for all God’s children, present and future.
Westminster Presbyterian Church takes this responsibility seriously and is one of currently 264 churches across the country that have committed to caring for Creation by becoming PC(USA)-certified Earth Care Congregations. These congregations have made efforts to include earth care in worship, education, facilities and outreach.
Our Westminster Earth Care Ministry Committee coordinates our local activities of information and outreach, maintains a butterfly garden, and, in general, encourages active participation in sustaining a healthy environment.
Westminster has been certified as an Earth Care Congregation since 2014.
Each year we report our earth care related activities to PC(USA) in order to become re-certified for the subsequent year. With this designation, we are pleased to commit ourselves to answer God’s call to be responsible stewards of His precious creation.
The Time to Act is Now
A Letter from the Earth Care Ministry Committee
Dear Westminster Friends and Family,
Because we are not able to celebrate Earth Day in our usual format, we are writing this letter to you to encourage you to continue the conscientious work we as a church and you as individuals are engaged in to improve the environment and preserve our planet.
This past year, like no other, we have all experienced considerable stress on how we live our lives. The ominous threat posed by Covid 19 has required our immediate and undivided attention in an effort to avoid this deadly disease and to stay healthy. At the same time, our Earth is facing an equally dangerous and imminent threat to its ability to provide a balanced environment for all living plants and organisms, including human beings.
Earth Day Sunday, which we celebrate this year on April 18, is an occasion for us to recognize that, just as we are giving so much attention to combating Covid 19, we need to give equal and ongoing attention to sustaining our planet. The Earth Care Ministry Committee at Westminster is working hard to find ways we as individuals can act. There are countless things we can do, but we have chosen to highlight several that are easy for us to do and especially meaningful as described. As we are a nationally certified Earth Care church, we want to strive to live up to continuing the certification we receive each year. While the cause is serious, many of the efforts we make can be very enjoyable. The time to act is now.
1. Join the Ecochallenge – Each year around the time of Earth Day, Westminster Church participates in an Ecochallenge competition. Individuals take specific actions related to personal or public health and environmental improvements. Points are awarded for one-time or daily actions, which are simple steps, things you might already be doing, such as recycling, conserving the use of water, reducing single-use disposables, engaging in the work of environmental groups, etc. One earns points by reporting one’s efforts on the website. The points are accumulated by our team, which for us is “WPC Earth Care.” Betty Jax has so kindly volunteered, as in years past, to be our Captain. Please go to ecochallenge.org. (select “take action” then “register now” in the earth month ecochallenge drawdown) to join our team. The program runs from April 1 to 30, and you may join at any time during April. Your individual actions will make a difference.
2. Participate in the Butterfly Highway Initiative – Monarch butterflies that migrate through Florida on their spectacular 3000-mile journey to Mexico are rapidly declining. Over the past 20 years, their population has declined by 90%. The butterflies depend on a habitat of mainly milkweed to provide shelter, food, and a place to lay their eggs. There are many other plants that attract not only the Monarch butterfly, but also other pollinators such as bees, insects, and birds, all of which are threatened .If you have not done so already, our committee would like to help you get started in our effort to restore our butterfly population. We have available packets of seeds that you might like to plant to start a butterfly garden in your own yard as we have done at Westminster. It has been found that such plantings have already served to increase the number of butterflies flying south each year. We will have seeds and information on planting such a garden available at our church and will let you know when we are ready to distribute them. You may also want to log onto highcountrygardens.com for information on the wildflower seeds that are available. We hope that once the pandemic is over, we can organize a tour of some of our gardens and invite the young people of Gainesville to join us.
3. Produce Ecobricks –Ecobricks are juice bottles filled with plastic waste materials. By using a same-size plastic container and filling it with the mountain of plastic that we all have to face each day, we create an ecobrick. When enough have been produced, they are used to create borders in our gardens, planters, walls and even homes in countries throughout the world. Such structures are an excellent way to reuse the overflow of plastic we face worldwide. We are in the process of building a small ecobrick border at the back of our butterfly garden at Westminster as a demonstration. If you can make some bricks, we will add them to those already in place. Log onto ecobricks.org for general information and use 64 oz. rectangular bottles for the ecobricks we can use in our church’s garden.
4. Support Our Young People –The engagement of our young people the world over is a cause for enormous joy and hope. Locally one of our schools and perhaps others in our area, are working together with young people throughout the U.S. and the world to limit the effects of climate change. They demonstrate, contact political leaders, and work to educate themselves in remarkable ways. They work both locally and worldwide for individual and collective actions for climate justice, addressing inequalities in communities that lack resources and public health support, as well as other efforts. Many of these youth groups are part of the Sierra Student Coalition. Please go to Sierra Club.org to see the excellent way in which the Sierra Club educates and trains our youth to take action. We need to support our youth and also encourage them to join us in our efforts at Westminster. They are eager to do so.
5. Join the iNaturalist City Challenge -If you are interested in identifying the variety of plants growing in your yard and neighborhood, the iNaturalist project will interest you. The program is designed to aid urban developers in creating healthy biodiversity in our cities. The general public is asked to take photos of vegetation and wildlife in their yards and community. The iNaturalist app will identify the plants for you. You may then submit your photos to a data bank. Professor Mark Hostetler at UF has created a video to show us how this is done. Please go to iNaturalist.com for general information and to the link below to see Dr. Hostetler’s video.
Collecting data in our yards and surrounding areas is a fun way for children to become involved in environmental awareness and is a great family activity.
6. Become an activist in environmental issues – Although there are many actions that we as individuals can take to improve our environment, at some point, we must become politically active. Vote for candidates who share your views. Keep yourself informed and raise your voice on issues of local concern. Two current examples here in Florida are opposing the M-Cores highway proposal designed to create three major toll roads through Florida’s landscape at the expense of the environment, and the excessive withdrawal of spring water by aggressive commercial corporations. Go to 1000 Friends of Florida ( 1000fof.org) or The League of Women Voters ( lwv.org) for information on these and other projects. We must also support international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as it will take all countries working together to really make a difference.
A Final Word
Above are suggestions for you and your family’s involvement in environmental projects and initiatives, as individuals, as members of our Earth Care church, as neighbors in our local community, and as responsible inhabitants in our global society. Get involved, make a difference, and remember: The Time to Act is Now.
We wish you a meaningful Earth Day that will encourage you to act in small and big ways to improve the environment and save our planet. We must answer God’s call to be responsible stewards of His precious creation. We look forward to such a time when once again we can observe Earth Day in our usual way.
Your Earth Care Ministry Committee