How can we align the daily act every one of us does – eating food – with our core faith-based values of social justice, animal welfare, environmental protection, and health? Theologians and food activists will explore this challenge in a special Earth Day program at St. Alban’s Church.
Keynote speaker will be Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter, whose book The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice merges a history of Black American foodways with a Christian ethical response to food injustice.
Other speakers will include:
- The Rev. Melanie Mullen (Director of Reconciliation, Justice, and Creation Care for The Episcopal Church);
- Aysha Akhtar, M.D. (neurologist, animal welfare activist, author);
- St. Alban’s parishioner Mary Beth Albright (journalist, author, food expert);
- Chef Todd Gray & Ellen Kassoff Gray (co-founders, Equinox Restaurant);
- Pamela Hess (Executive Dir., Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture);
- Danielle Nierenberg (President, Food Tank); Sara Polon (co-Founder & CEO, Soupergirl); and
- The Rev. Derrick Weston (Creation Justice Ministries).
Attendance is free of charge but registration is required in order to receive lunch. Register here
Nursery care and children’s programs will be available. The program will also be live-streamed.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, EMAIL MERY MONTENEGRO, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, ST. ALBAN’S CHURCH OR CALL 202-363-8286.
Sometimes God turns you into a happy robot. At least that’s what I thought when “Saplings for Sacraments” beamed into my brain last fall. By that time, I had served as the deacon at St. Dunstan’s, Bethesda, for almost two years and on the diocesan Creation Care Task Force for ten months. For as long as I could remember, I had loved trees; I was famous for sharing a third of my small place with an enormous fig. God had called me, I was certain, to care for the Earth, given all its beauty and vulnerability. But when and how?
Then, everything came together–as it does when the Creator is up to something. There I was in a church surrounded by trees, next to the Capital Crescent Trail and within the Little Falls Watershed. My rector, the Rev. Patty Alexander, was as moved as I was by the sorry state of the planet. Finally, one day in October, Abbott McCartney of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, invited other members of the task force to attend an international webinar on the brand-new Anglican Communion Forest. I had free time that afternoon, so I attended.
We had four baptisms scheduled for November and December. With help from the Little Falls Watershed Alliance, I got four native-tree saplings for free to give to the newly baptized or their sponsors and printed up tree-care instructions based on my time as a volunteer with Casey Trees. The cedar, magnolia, and maples didn’t look like much; three of them were leafless sticks. But the expression on the teen’s face was priceless when I introduced her to her new green-ish friend. Saplings for Sacraments—one way to grow the worldwide Forest—was born. More trees for other sacraments will follow, God willing.
There are lots of reasons to plant trees and ways to participate in the Communion Forest. See the links above, the “On Planting Trees to Celebrate Special Occasions” resolution of the 2023 Diocesan Convention, and this great list of resources on the diocesan website.
The Rev. Mary Sebold
Deacon, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Bethesda
At Diocesan Convention in January 2022, Bishop Mariann commissioned a Task Force to promote Creation Care as part of our Diocesan strategic plan and justice work. Throughout the past year, members of the Task Force introduced ourselves to parish leaders, prepared a Creation Care Parish Engagement report, and assisted a number of parishes with adopting solar. As we continued our work to promote and assist with environmental sustainability and responsibility in our faith communities and neighborhoods, the Task Force discerned a call for the Diocese to take part in the Communion Forest initiative.
The Task Force sought members to represent our diversity across the diocese, and will continue to recruit people passionate about Creation Care. Task Force member Teresa Hobgood of Epiphany, D.C. said, “Deacon Mary Sebold invited me to join the Task Force in March 2022. Whether it’s identifying Creation Care initiatives in our Diocese, building excitement around installing solar panels, or sharing information on such topics as community gardens, zero waste and veganism, the breadth of knowledge, enthusiasm and output among Task Force members is vast. While our faith communities may not look the same, we all share a common interest in caring for God’s creation in all its beauty.”
The Task Force discerned that the Diocese should join the Communion Forest after Bishop Mariann returned from the 2022 Lambeth Conference excited about this new initiative.
The Communion Forest is a global call to action in response to biodiversity loss, human suffering, economic instability, and social inequity. This project will inspire our parishes to develop ministries that protect and restore local habitat, and encourage parishes to love and pray for all God’s creation.
Task Force members Abbott McCartney and Joanne Hutton of St. John’s, Lafayette Square, are sponsoring a resolution at the upcoming 2023 Diocesan Convention to invite parishes to plant and care for trees to commemorate birthdays, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and in honor of loved ones. They point out, “Because the Diocese of Washington is geographically diverse, our churches need flexibility to adapt Creation Care ministries to their unique local conditions. While we share a common home in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area with two beautiful river systems, our diocese is comprised of a range of urban, suburban, and rural parishes with quite different local conditions.”
The Task Force is ready to assist parishes with expertise on particular topics, including native tree planting, solar energy projects, creation care speakers, and liturgical resources. Another Task Force member, Diane Coon, of St. Paul’s Piney, Waldorf, called the Communion Forest “an exciting venture that gives individual congregations opportunities to follow their hearts, feeding birds and animals under great pressure from city and suburban encroachment, planting fruit trees and bushes to supplement existing food banks with fresh produce, and mitigating the world’s most devastating losses of trees, forests and wildlife.”
Earlier in 2022, Task Force members talked with representatives in 78 parishes about their Creation Care practices, spirituality, and goals. Churches have taken practical steps including zero waste efforts, improved energy efficiency, environmentally-responsible new care for their grounds, Creation Care education, and outdoor activities. Sixteen parishes in Montgomery County partnered with Interfaith Power & Light and the Montgomery County Green Bank to investigate whether they were right for solar panels in terms of roof type, tree cover, and other factors. Task Force member Reid Detchon of St. Columba’s reports that “four parishes will get across the finish line this year and more in 2023, led by St. Peter’s, Poolesville and St. Mark’s, Fairland. They’ll save money on their electricity bills for the next twenty years at no upfront cost to them!” Diane Coon is helping parishes in Southern Maryland deal with barriers to solar panels related to their historic status.
The Task Force welcomes new members and is eager to help parishes deepen their engagement with Creation Care. Contact the Creation Care Task Force.
We look forward to helping the diocese plant a greener tomorrow, today.
The Creation Care Task Force
At Diocesan Convention in January, Bishop Mariann commissioned the Creation Care Task Force and called upon its members “to engage with congregations and regional leaders to identify current practices and offer concrete ways we can collectively strengthen our commitment to the care of God’s creation.” After months of steady work, the Task Force is pleased to share its initial findings: Taking Stock of Parish Engagement on Creation Care.
“We invite the engagement of all interested parishioners in this work,” say Task Force co-chairs Doug Holy and Melissa Sites. If you have additions to the data provided in the report–or wish to help our creation care efforts in other ways, please email the Task Force.