Written by: Victoria Veenstra, for Diaconal Ministries Canada
CrossPoint CRC, an urban church located in Brampton, ON, just north of Highway 407, strives to be a community of Christ-followers who follow these 4 C’s:
- Celebrate God in all areas of life,
- Communicate the good news of Jesus’ love,
- Cultivate faithful service to God, and
- Care for one another and the world.
This vision beautifully echoes the Deacon’s Mandate, found in the CRC’s Form for Ordination, where it reminds deacons to teach their congregations “to love God, [their] neighbours, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts.”
Jeff Fernhout, a deacon at CrossPoint who originally went to school for environmental science and brought that passion to his role, noticed something about the last “C” – care for one another and the world. “We talk about the four ‘T’s’ of stewardship: Time, Talent, Treasure, and Trees (Creation Care),” Jeff shared, “and while our church had plans for the other ‘T’s, we didn’t for Trees.” So when Jeff received a regular communication from the Credit Valley Conservation Authority and saw that they offered a Greening Corporate Grounds audit, that seemed like a great way to get started.
The Conservation Authority came to look at the property and presented the deacons with a number of different options for how they could steward the property better. “It’s interesting partnering with a non faith-based organization,” noted Jeff. “They used the word stewardship, so that was a great point in common.”
From that audit, CrossPoint started by creating a Butterfly Garden on the church’s property. The garden grows native plants and provides pollinators for all kinds of insects including butterflies. “It’s wild and that’s a good thing,” remarks Jeff.
But that wasn’t the end of creative thinking and collaboration between CrossPoint and the conservation authority. The authority provided the Gems and Cadets with birdhouses. So the kids got involved next, building and hanging birdhouses for different species around the property. “We could use this opportunity to teach the boys and girls more about the birds in our area, and help their habitat in the built-up area of Brampton,” said Ron Sikkema, a cadet leader. The Cadets also completed a forestry badge and planted 18 trees around the property. Along the way, there was a lot of support from the congregation when ideas were brought forward.
The Conservation Authority then asked the church if they would like to be a part of a grant the authority was writing. The church agreed and had almost forgotten about it when the authority let them know that they had received it! This started one of the biggest projects to date: a Rain Garden.
Rain gardens direct heavy rainfall back into the ground rather than into the infrastructure of sewers and this is particularly valuable in areas where most of the land is covered in hard surfaces like roofs, roads, and driveways. Ron, a landscaper by trade, notes, “rain gardens help prevent water from picking up all the toxins and pollution that are on the roads from ending up in Lake Ontario.” Ron is certified in Fusion Landscaping, which includes rain gardens, and this knowledge helped as volunteers assembled to help with the heavy work of putting together the garden. This was another opportunity for all members to get involved including high school students who needed volunteer hours.
The Sunday after the Rain Garden was installed, it happened to be pouring rain so the congregation was able to see the garden in action right away. “It was exciting,” says Ron. “Not a lot of people know what a rain garden is and now more people know.” The congregation dedicated the rain garden and Pastor Richard Grift incorporated a short sermon series on creation care for that service and the following Sunday.
“These small stewardship measures are a way for churches to model God’s intent for creation care to our communities while at the same time offering an inviting place to welcome our neighbours,” shared Pastor Grift. “As I Iearned during my preparation for the stewardship messages, if managed well, our relatively large church properties can provide an oasis in what is often experienced as the deserts of our urban landscapes.”
Jeff echoed this and noted that the deacons and congregation have gained both awareness and knowledge because of these Creation Care projects. What’s more was seeing how the deacons were able to animate their church members and use their passions and gifts to both bless and serve the church and its surrounding community.
Jeff encourages deacons and churches to live more fully into the stewardship of creation and to look for the resources within their community to help them do that. A great first step, he says, is to get involved with your local conservation organizations as they can offer you their expertise AND there are often grants that can help to subsidize projects!
“It’s a start,” Ron said hopefully. “A little bit here and a little bit there all adds up in the end. Neighbours see that our church cares. Not just going to church but showing that we care about God’s creation, it looks good on Christians.”. CrossPoint also plans to put a bench and picnic table in the Rain Garden. “Come spring,” shared Pastor Grift, “our staff is planning to begin eating our lunches outside by the rain garden with the hope of connecting with our neighbours and those passing by.”
Is Your Church Looking for Help with Creation Care?
Here are some great places to start!
- Start a Stewardship Team in YOUR church!
- Visit our Stewardship page for some resources and look for our “Trees Toolkit” coming in the Spring of 2022.
- Find more local projects and ways YOU can get involved in your province and community by visiting the Watersheds Canada or Nature Conservancy Canada websites. (For those living in Ontario, visit your local conservation authority). Or just Google “conservation projects in [your province]”!
- Start Your OWN Creation Care Team and/or get connected with a Regional Climate Witness Project organizer.