Each year, Presbyterians for Earth Care receives nominations for two awards: The William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award for individuals and the Restoring Creation Award for congregations, governing bodies, ecumenical agencies, or Presbyterian-related entities. In 2012, we received so many excellent nominations and could only choose two awardees. All the nominations bore such good news about what God's people are doing to care for God's Creation, we'd like to share them all with you.
Nominee: Earth Care House Church of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Shenandoah Presbytery, Synod of the Mid-Atlantic, PC(USA)
For: 2012 Restoring Creation Award
Nominated by: Emily Riehl of First Presbyterian Church, Richmond
Each house church is approved and operates under the aegis of the Session. A covenant renewed each year stipulates that four marks of the church will be observed: mission, worship, nurture, and fellowship. The covenant also requires this particular hose church to engage in Care of Creation. To meet these requirements, Earth Care House Church has acted in several arenas.
Augmenting Youth Activities in the Wilderness:
• A member of ECHC received a grant from Virginia Wilderness to take children on field trips to Hone Quarry for a period of several weeks. The third and fourth grade students from Keister Elementary were recently highlighted in local Daily New Record Article. ECHC paid for the water testing kit.
• ECHC included youth on a recent hike to High Knob Tower.
• ECHC (then known as Restoring Creation House Church) led the congregational youth on a hike and worship on the west sloop of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Grottoes, Virginia. Carried Hymnals to high sloop near Sky Line Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. This land, which is on the Wetlands Registry, is owned by members of our group.
• ECHC donated to Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center several trees. These were planted under supervision by adult members.
Environmental Recognitions and Actions:
• Trinity Presbyterian Church was re-certified as a Green Congregation by PC(USA); originally certified on December 12, 2010 as one of two PC(USA) Churches in Virginia, with this status.
• Members of ECHC are working to provide garden fresh vegetables by planting a raised bed on the church property. These vegetables will be distributed to the clients of Trinity’s Kara House Church.
• Members of ECHC then RCHC traveled in a 15 passenger van to Charlotte, North Carolina to receive an award for our environmental efforts.
• Members of ECHC attended the General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio with the express purpose to carry a resolution to remove grandfathered power plants from the nation’s power plants. Lobbied and were successful in getting approval of this landmark legislation. This congressional act would require that scrubbers be placed on these coal fired power plants.
• Members of ECHC attended the General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia where we received an award from the Washington DC Office of PC(USA) for our environmental work.
• Members of ECHC joined PDR in a mission trip to rebuild private homes in Gulf Port, MS following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Two such mission trips were completed; one of our members just returned from a mission trip to Aurora, NC.
• Members of ECHC assisted a college student in her attendance to the Lake George Conference by securing a scholarship; as a result she was able to enter graduate school to pursue environmental studies at Duke University. She is one of three of our young people that have chosen environmental studies.
• After the Lake George, NY Environmental Conference members of ECHC met “Biz” at the SNP to view land terrapins that had been electronically equipped for scientists to monitor their breeding and survival stats.
• Members of ECHC traveled to Richmond to inform Massy Coal Company that their actions at the Marsh Fork School in West Virginia were unacceptable and required correction. (A coal tipple was adjacent to the school). Recently, the coal industry has built a new school to replace the contaminated structure.
• In three consecutive planting seasons, members of ECHC traveled to the Volunteer Farm located on the Eastern slope of Shenandoah Mountain near St. Luke, Virginia to plant potatoes, onions and other seasonal vegetables to donate to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
• Led summer night studies or bible school based on the valuable information and inspiration gained by members of ECHC at the National Presbyterians for Earth Care held at Montreat Environmental Conference near Black Mountain, North Carolina.
• ECHC was an exhibitor at Green Innovations Tour 2012 held at Turner Pavilion, sponsored by Downtown Harrisonburg Renaissance.
• A member of ECHC applied and received grant from Shenandoah Bicycle Coalition to place a bike rack on Trinity’s lawn.
• A member of ECHC, who was a Stewardship Creation Enabler, received a $400 grant from PC(USA) for environmental work in Harrisonburg. He purchased 8 rain barrels and donated them to families with young children in our congregation.
• An anonymous donation of $1,000 was given to ECHC to bring author and sustainable farmer, Richard Cartwright Austin, for a Friday night and Saturday workshop held at Trinity.
• Members went to Lambert Cabin in the Shenandoah National Forest. The cabin is owned by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Additional members joined for worship and a shared meal later during the retreat.
• Members went to Highland Conference Center, a Mennonite center on the edge of North Mountain in the George Washington National Forest.
• Members went to Kayford Mountain, WV, to view first hand mountain top removal spending an afternoon with Larry Gibson, a mountaineer whose family lived in the area. Residents have literally been driven from their Cabin Creek homes by continuous blasting. The tour was followed by an overnight retreat at Hawks Nest State Park.
• ECHC member organized a group of volunteers to tutor students at Keister Elementary School. Four of the 19 volunteers were members of ECHC . Worked with youth of Trinity for six weeks during Sunday School weatherizing the older part of our building. ECHC routinely assists Health Helpers House Church by furnishing food for the doctors and nurses who volunteer at the Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic. Members of ECHC prepare and deliver food to the Free Clinic ECHC hosted with Cooks Creek Presbyterian Church one night of feeding the clients housed in the HARTS shelter. We prepared for approximately 50 clients. Harrisonburg and Rockingham Thermal Shelter operates in the larger churches in the downtown area. We served, ate with the clients, cleaned up the kitchen. Several members counseled those clients who wanted to verbalize how they came to be at the shelter and some of ECHC members stayed overnight.
ECHC continue their forward thinking and leadership in caring for God’s creation. Their very large group of 16, concentrate on environmental, peace, civic, social and eco-justice issues. They have co-sponsored Town Hall Meetings on air pollution. Outdated power plants in Virginia and other states appear to be harming the streams and forests in the Shenandoah Valley. Several members went to SNP to get signatures and present them to Congress in an effort to get scrubbers placed on these plants. ECHC is very interested in hydro-fracking that is beginning to be discussed in the northern area of Rockingham County. As part of their church audit, ECHC worked with the youth to weatherize the older section’s doors and windows. The General Presbyter of Shenandoah Presbytery appointed one of the ECHC members to serve on the Board of VICPP (Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy). Her work was focused on the environment, at risk children and youth and payday lending. Several members promote peace efforts through their affiliation with Veteran’s For Peace. In an attempt to keep the community and their congregation fully informed members of ECHC make presentations at churches, universities, Sunday school classes, summer night studies, wineries and other facilities. They refer to scripture and hymns that relate to God’s creation. They prepare and participate at the Church House on Earth Day Sunday and write articles of interest for Trinity’s monthly newsletter.