Plains Mennonite Church promotes environmental stewardship with passion and urgency in Hatfield, Pa. They believe that people of faith have a responsibility to God’s creation and that outreach and witness can come from environmental action. Here are some of the ways they witnessed to their community this past year through creation care activism.
Wissahickon Creek Clean Up
On Saturday, April 28, Plains Mennonite joined Wissahickon Watershed Valley Association for the 48th annual Creek Clean Up of the Wissahickon Creek. Community members and members of the congregation gathered together to pick up trash from the creek and its many tributaries. Participants of all ages joined together from Plains Mennonite to help with the clean up. The group filled five large bags with trash and even managed to pull out a shopping cart!
Interfaith Power & Light: Biking from PA to D.C.
In May, John Stoltzfus, the pastor of Plains Mennonite, joined Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) on a bike journey from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators about “long-term environmental care and clean energy legislation.” There were two groups of bikers, one from the state college and one from the Philadelphia area. After 5 days and 200 miles for the State College riders and 3 days and 180 miles for the Philadelphia riders, the groups met in D.C. to prepare for a day on Capitol Hill. The group split into four teams, one led by Pastor John Stoltzfus, to address legislators.
After the meetings, many of the veteran cyclists felt encouraged that their message was received more openly than in past years. While advocates recognize that actions towards clean energy transitions require long term commitments, PA IPL’s presence on Capitol Hill over the years was remembered and respected. Congressional staffers thanked them for IPL’s “faith-rooted moral and ethical perspectives” in the conversations.
Congregational Task Force (Eco-Stewardship Group)
Plains Mennonite has a vision to decrease their ecological footprint, so since January their eco-stewardship Congregational Task Force has been taking steps towards this goal. They performed a self audit worksheet to determine areas of greatest need, met to brainstorm a “single stream waste” system, organized recycling events within the congregation, and focused especially on the prospects of installing solar. They brought these ideas to the congregation’s adults and youth during June in a series of four sessions to determine congregants’ opinions and input for these projects. The church decided to move forward with no waste fellowship meals and planning for solar. They are currently working on solar logistics.
John Stoltzfus shared that the church sees solar as an opportunity to witness to their local community about Christ and the importance of responsible resource stewardship. Going through the process of planning and installing solar for their church building will help Plains Mennonite educate and encourage community members to consider solar on their own properties. The church building is less energy intensive than most, he says, so they are excited to use it for more than just energy saving purposes– for them, solar is also an avenue to bring others to Christ. Viewing solar installation as a witness and a step towards decreased energy dependency has great potential for outreach.
Seeds to Feed: Educational Workshops
The congregation also organizes sustainability workshops throughout the year. One such workshop is a Rain Barrel Presentation with Hickon Watershed Association. Members of the association presented at the church and helped people understand the benefits of rain barrels and how to assemble them at home. The church’s connection with the local association has resulted in two years of this community event designed to educate the public on the importance of water conservation and resource management. The association provides water barrels to attendees at a discounted price of $65.
Other summer events include Plains Mennonite Church’s presence at First Fridays in Landsdale, Pa., where the church provides free garden plants such as tomatoes and green peppers to those who pass by. They also facilitate food preservation workshops as a way to encourage local consumption and educate community members.
These events are ways that Plains Mennonite shares its passion for creation care and stewardship in its community. The congregation illustrates the moral niche that people of faith can fill in conversations around climate change and ecological justice.