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Maryland church garners national leadership and sustainability award

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland is one of five national winners

by Interfaith Power & Light | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland, has been selected for one of five national Cool Congregations Challenge awards by Interfaith Power & Light. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland, is one of five national Interfaith Power & Light 2021 Cool Congregations Challenge winners. The prize carries a $1,000 award.

According to an Interfaith Power & Light news release, the annual contest accepts applications from religious congregations from around the country who are doing work to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint as they create models of sustainability within their communities. Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church won a Cool Congregations Sacred Grounds Award for its collaborate efforts to restore the four-acre habitat the church campus is built on.

The congregation worked with the Bay-Wise organization to evaluate the management of the church grounds to become better stewards of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A volunteer county Master Watershed Steward drew up a plan to transform the property to a habitat that would support pollinators and wildlife, sequester carbon and mitigate storm water runoff.

The church began by diminishing the size of its lawn, greatly reducing the use of fertilizer and water, and planting more than 500 native plants and 200 native trees. Church members and friends have seen butterflies and native bees on the flowering shrubs in the spring; toads, skinks and pollinators all summer long; and migrating birds and butterflies at nectar sources and berry producing shrubs in the fall.

The Rev. Susan DeWyngaert is senior pastor at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church.

“Our congregation is honored to be acknowledged for our environmental work,” said the Rev. Susan DeWyngaert, Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church’s senior pastor. “As a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Earth Care Congregation, we have made a commitment to work toward sustainability by providing worship, education, prayer and service opportunities in our church and community.

“Receiving the Cool Congregations Challenge Award is thrilling for us,” DeWyngaert said. “We hope it will model and inspire more emphasis on sustainability as a faith practice.”

The congregation believes the biggest success has been the involvement of many groups of church and community members working together for habitat restoration. Members and friends received help from Unity Gardens and the Chesapeake Bay Trust and worked with the county Watershed Stewards Academy and Tree Topper programs. Among the volunteer groups participating were church groups including the Maryland Master Gardeners, Bay-Wise and Rehabbers, a retired handypersons group. The local high school Environmental Club and Honor Society also participated.

Woods Memorial is joining with other congregations across Anne Arundel County to care for the watersheds they share through the One Water Partnership, a program of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake; with Watershed Stewards Academy; and Interfaith Power & Light chapters in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.

The church is also engaged in a capital campaign called Renew to significantly reduce its energy usage through upgrades to all LED lighting, ultra-high efficiency HVAC systems and building insulation improvements.

“Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church and the other four national winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live,” said the Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light, “and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change.”

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