Webster Presbyterian Church recertified as Earth Care Congregation
By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – Webster Presbyterian Church, just a few miles southeast of Houston on NASA Parkway, has been called the “Astronauts’ Church.” Just a stone’s throw from the Johnson Space Center, the church has become the preferred house of worship for astronauts, engineers and other employees at the center.
But the church has also become known for its strong commitment to earth care. Recently, Webster was recertified as an Earth Care Congregation, much to the pride of the church’s committee co-chairs, Anya Ezhevskaya and Debbie Masden.
“We have some master gardeners and naturalists, folks who are really passionate about the environment, stewardship and monarch butterflies,” said Ezhevskaya. “The monarch is becoming an endangered species. Its migration from the north to Mexico used to include stops in Texas. There were miles and miles of grassland and flowers, but over the past 100 years, most of it has disappeared either by brush overgrowth or commercial development.”
It didn’t take long for the church’s Earth Care Team and interested members to organize a butterfly garden. Ezhevskaya says one church member has become quite the champion for the project and helped set up a monarch way station, complete with the right plants and proper certification.
“The butterflies have no place to rest as they are migrating, and that is a huge threat to them. So people are starting monarch way stations, small or large gardens that have the right combination of flowers to support the butterflies who miraculously find out about them and rest there,” she said. “They travel from spot to spot and make their way down to Mexico.”
The church has also installed rain barrels to provide the necessary water for the gardens, and the team continues to find innovative ways to make a difference with the earth around them.
“We are planting the plants that encourage butterflies to visit, especially milkweeds and other brightly colored plants,” said Masden. “We continue to offer training for those interested in pursuing these types of projects, but our interest goes beyond our garden.”
Interested members have taken water conservation courses with the Galveston Bay Foundation and have learned the ins and outs of setting up their own system. The Earth Care Team estimates one rain barrel can save more than 1,000 gallons of fresh water a year if properly installed.
The church also hosts a monthly Sharing Table which includes gardening items, flowers and produce. Everything is free. The team is also coordinating art activities for the church’s planned trip to Peru later this year.
Masden says they hope to “awaken more interest” among Texans without putting off those who feel strongly about oil and gas.
“The oil and gas industry is how many people make a living here. It’s their culture,” she said. “We try to educate people, but you have to break the news gently. When they see what we’re doing and how many are involved, it generates more interest.”
Masden says the recertification as an Earth Care Congregation was affirmation of the team and they’re getting new team members of all ages.
“Participants are involved in all aspects of our church including choir, bible study, youth group and hand bell members,” she said. “People are talking about the work and we hope they will read our articles about recycling, gardens and other projects.”
Jessica Maudlin, the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s (PHP) associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns, says the Earth Care Congregation (ECC) certification is one way the Hunger Program strives to be faithful to General Assembly Policy.
“The ‘Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice’ policy recognizes that restoring creation is not a short-term concern to be handled in a few years, but a continuing task to which the nation and world must give attention and commitment,” said Maudlin. “Webster Presbyterian is one example of congregations that are choosing to take seriously their witness in this way. The work of Webster Presbyterian Church and the other 206 recently certified ECC churches is indeed inspiring.”
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