Church of the Pilgrims Creates Environmental Oasis

Reverend Ashley Goff of Church of the Pilgrims was interviewed for a story on her church’s work in the environment. Located in Washington, D.C., Goff explained how it was harder to engage in the land, and normally a legislative approach was used. However, she shared how her congregation stepped up and created a sort of oasis in their church.

It all started in the fall of 2010 when our church decided to create a raised bed garden. We were hoping the space would be used for vegetables to supplement the meals we serve the homeless, a program called Open Table. We got a grant from the National Capital Presbytery, and began our work. When that project was done, we sat back and discussed creating another raised bed, but to make it more organized. We chose to use people’s gifts and interests to our benefit. We had people in our congregation plotting out what vegetable should go where, others tilled and prepared the ground. We even had rotations for watering. And recently we have a better watering system and we have 10 households composting, which is a huge step in the right direction. We quickly grew this amazing garden area! We even received 10 free trees to plant to expand Washington, DC’s tree canopy. Then, in February, a member of our congregation told us about DC Honey Bees, a program to grow the population of bees in the city. So, we decided we wanted to help. Now we have 5 honey bee hives and 120,000 bees! We blessed our hives on Palm Sunday, and now the area is flourishing.

In this process, it’s extremely important to do what feels organic to you. You have to do what feels most natural to your congregation, or your program won’t be the best it can be. You also have to keep in mind, what’s most realistic to you? When you find that out, go for it, and you will build community leadership and participation. These programs really grew our congregation, but not in size, in community. I believe that it’s not about the numbers, it’s about transformation. You need to grow people’s intelligence about the environment; make them pay attention and get involved. Even if it gets a little gross sometimes, pushing the comfort zone grows your community and makes people think. And even in an urban setting like ours we found a place to grow. You can grow stuff on anything! Everyone has a place to grow a little something.

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