Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Dorchester Presbyterian Church in Summerville, South Carolina, embraces status as Earth Care Congregation

‘There’s always a way to make things better’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Dorchester Presbyterian Church in Summerville, South Carolina, has taken part in the South Carolina Oyster Recycling and Enhancement Program (SCORE), which is a community-based habitat restoration and monitoring program of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. (Photo provided by the church)

LOUISVILLE — From celebrating World Wetlands Day and engaging in community advocacy to raising their own butterflies and growing their own herbs and spices, Dorchester Presbyterian Church in Summerville, South Carolina, shows love for God’s Creation.

The church, which owns more than 40 acres of wetlands adjacent to its main campus, has been an Earth Care Congregation for several years and engages people of all ages in Earth-friendly activities.

As a Christian and a human being, “we are called to care for each other. … We’re part of Creation. I think it’s a root of the commandments to love one another and in Genesis, to care for the Earth,” said the Rev. Jeff Kackley, Dorchester’s pastor and a former member of the PHP Advisory Committee.

To become certified as ECCs, churches take the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Earth Care Pledge and complete activities and projects in the fields of worship, education, facilities and outreach. (Submit your application for certification between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of the calendar year that your church wishes to become certified.)

“Once you get a few people involved, and you start a green team, it really is not a difficult thing and then they all bring ideas to the table to broaden your scope, and the wave and the ripples just keep going,” said Andi Stem, an affiliate member of the church.

Dorchester Presbyterian Church offers Earth-friendly activities for people of all ages, from children to older adults. (Contributed photo)

Stem has held several positions at the church, including Earth care intern, while she was pursuing her master’s degree in Christian education, and has led several initiatives at the church on topics such as composting and recycling.

“I’m constantly educating people on effective recycling initiatives,” she said. Also, “we had a bird-watching class on campus where we hiked the trails and looked at the birds. We always raise our own butterflies and release them for Easter, and then we also have a community bazaar that is to fundraise for community outreach.”

For the bazaar, church members create many of the items. “I’m very proud of them because they are making recycled items,” Stem said. “They make items that are things that we can use every day to prevent the use of plastic,” including encouraging the use of metal straws and making reusable grocery totes.

The church also takes part in a GotSneakers campaign, collecting shoes that can be reused or recycled.

“The opportunities for utilizing what we have in order to reduce our footprint abound,” Stem said. “It just takes a little bit of creativity.”

Dorchester members and friends have also has been an influential voice around environmental issues in their community. For example, they met with town officials and others regarding the potential impact of an expansion project involving Berlin G. Myers Parkway.

“Because of our location at the end of the Sawmill Branch Canal, which is being altered because of the parkway, we have been able as a congregation to work with the town, the State Department of Transportation, and the Army Corps of Engineers to assure that the parkway will not negatively affect the potential impact of flooding to us or to any of our neighbors,” Kackley said by email. “Some of our neighbors are communities of minorities and of low-income (residents) who tend to be underrepresented in these situations, and so we were able to make sure that they will not be negatively affected from flooding as well.”

The church has hiking trails and an outdoor sanctuary, which it has used for services to observe World Wetlands Day and Earth Day as well as on other occasions. It also puts out educational materials.

“We, during Lent, have Creation-based devotionals that go out — kind of ‘Earth Care Tips 101’ of what you can do to reduce your footprint on Creation throughout Lent,” Stem said. “So, it’s not so much something that you give away or you don’t do during Lent. It’s a proactive choice to improve upon yourself and improve Creation during Lent. We’ve also done similar initiatives during Advent.”

The congregation also makes upgrades to their facilities to be environmentally friendly. For example, it has put in solar lighting and plans to install solar panels, said Stem, who notes that it’s an evolving process.

“First thing we did was change out our lightbulbs and then we also put in better insulation and … made certain all of our windows closed appropriately,” Stem said. “But then there was one year that I went around to every single light switch, and I put ‘Turn off when you leave,’ and our power bill went down significantly. We use water barrels for our memorial gardens. There’s tons of things that we’re constantly talking about to improve because you’re never perfect, and there’s always a way to make things better.”

Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns for PHP, praised Dorchester and other Earth Care Congregations for their efforts.

Dorchester Presbyterian Church’s projects include these raised beds (Photo provided by the church)

“Dorchester is just one of the 292 churches in our denomination that chose to dedicate themselves to intentional care of God’s Earth this year,” Maudlin said. “As intentional choices to honor the Earth become part of the life of the congregation, we also see these intentional choices become part of the lives of the members of the congregation. And it all really does add up to help decrease our overall footprint on the Earth.”

The Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). PHP helps congregations to live out their commitment to the Matthew 25 vision, particularly to eradicate systemic poverty and to combat climate change through PHP’s many programs and resources. PHP’s work is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

To learn more about Earth Care Congregations and last month’s Season of Creation, go to PHP’s Eco-Justice Journey blog.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.