Shield of the Episcopal Church of the United States Environmental Stewardship Commissson (MEESC) Shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Resolution

The following is offered for your information and comment. On this and similar pages the Environmental Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota intends to offer thoughts and ideas on how any congregation or individual with a congregation can implement portions of the Resolution.

From "A Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds, and Church-Related Activities" passed at the 143rd Annual Convention (October 27-29, 2000)

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the staff and membership of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota engage in building actions and cultural activities with prayerful considerations about the impact these actions will have on our Earth home. Ways we will live into this approach are the use of landscape designs and maintenance that are in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem, center around native flora and fauna, decreasing use of pesticide and herbicide chemicals and proper disposal of yard waste such as grass trimmings and branches."

Thoughts on how to implement this concept

A totally different world would be evident if we could change our reliance on gasoline motors! Giving up our car seems drastic, and even though we are berated for not car-pooling or driving less, chances are our love affair with our vehicle may be here for a very long time. The lawn mower, however, is a different story. We have been captivated by visions of acres of green grass surrounding our homes and churches, and now we discover we must mow that grass – creating loud noise and smoke and using up precious leisure hours to maintain those visions. It is time to consider alternatives – ground covers and/or plantings to enhance public and private landscapes and cut down on the mowing and the time needed to mow. Nurseries and greenhouses offer many different ideas and plants to help with those re-designs – using native species is just one of the ways to change. Church lawns especially offer chances to arrange paths and/or benches to take advantage of the need for relaxation and reflection. As the growing season offers those chances, take time to study about what is available and discuss the ideas with the Vestry or Bishop's Committee. Think of the gasoline to be saved and the pollution to be prevented!

Winter and Landscaping

It is not easy to be thinking about the landscape when Winter is here, but it is never too early to start planning! Extension Offices and landscape designers will be offering workshops soon, and you should enroll in a workshop to learn the basics of landscape design. There are many "indoor" activities which can be done while you are waiting for warmer weather. Landscaping offers so many more choices now – outdoor living spaces have unlimited possibilities. Perhaps the biggest change is the incorporation of native plants and efforts to provide sustainability, which means using plantings that are suited for the soil and the climate. We are learning to balance human needs with low maintenance demands that give environmentally sound results.

Whether you are planning a landscape at your church or in your own backyard, you can begin by developing a base plan which identifies characteristics of the site: + buildings and property lines should be measured; + locations of trees and shrubs, walks and driveways should be noted; + making a scale drawing is very helpful at this point; + decide what plants/shrubs/trees you would like to include in the landscape; + include cost estimates and work plans in your design; + select those plants which will match the site conditions + continue to expand (or change) your original plan as needed; + leave some grassy areas; + consider wildlife needs.

Continue to do research – many nurseries have suggestions for native species and can help identify appropriate plants for any situation, but only you can choose what is right for your landscape. Planning a landscape and making that plan reality is not a quick and easy task.

Harmony and Landscape

Gardening is love. It’s connecting to creation palpably: moving dirt, creating space, planting, watering, watching, participating in resurrection, tilling and weeding, rejuvenation. It’s viewing the hard labor of back, legs, arms and hands and exclaiming with God, it is good.

Gardening is an acquired taste, like Fritos™ “you can’t eat just one”. Some gardeners may have to enroll in an addiction-breaking organization to help them not buy that extra green potted thing, which somehow summoned them to be its caretaker, even though they had no idea where to plant it. Or they may have to resist “one day at a time” that urge to create another garden bed despite having decided at last season’s end that everything was “just” right.

Gardening is wonderful. It’s the balm of Gilead: mind focuses, and spirit settles. With all the work, peace grows. Leaves enlarge, buds swell, and flowers emerge. The red of geraniums, the blues of delphinium, the purples of violets, and the yellow of daisies, all irradiate immeasurable contentment. What ear has not heard, nor eye seen, the spirit senses, for God’s presence is here. Toil, rain and sun, insects, perpetuation of life all are held in the beauty of God’s holiness.

Descending from the heights of wonder, I look out on this yard of mine with an eye for detail. What do I do with that flat spot, side hill, and this shady area with clumps of upended stump sculptures?

Questions abound when I do site evaluation. Grade of slopes, contour, light and moisture will determine the degree of vegetation to be used or not used in particular areas. Ideally vegetation helps solve problems like erosion, the securing of privacy, or the sheltering against noise.

When beginning a garden, I evaluate the present flora and fauna. Within the property may be valuable assets. One of our side hills had single violet plants emerging through the grass. When transplanted to their own garden with better soil and adequate moisture the violets propagated and flourished providing spectacular bouquets of blues and purples. Another find was an indigenous cherry tree. My attention was drawn to its pointed leaves with their springtime red protuberances and its white flecked bark. By trimming the growth around the tree and enlarging the yard around it, I had an excellent focal point without moving the tree.

Also look for plants that encroach. Some natural species may be beautiful if contained. But others like wild strawberries want to “eat” your garden. A discerning eye can determine whether to encourage invasive plants. Daisies are invasive, which may be acceptable within a space that is “contained”.

An important pre-gardening evaluation is to specify my expectations. What colors, symmetry, varied shapes would I like this landscape to offer those who behold it? What am I willing and capable of giving it? What are my possibilities and limitations in time, energy, and physical capacity?

The best pre-planning includes excursions to other gardens through books, magazines, catalogs, videos, and on-site visits to greenhouses and other gardens. Even a drive by a garden can provide valuable information. Coming home one morning I took a side street in Park Rapids I do not normally travel. In the center of a small yard I spotted a garden with a single plant, a Bee Balm. When I saw it’s height and breadth I knew my plant at home needed to be moved out of the sun garden to its own place.

Visits and conversations with other gardeners are wonderful sources of information and inspiration. Two of my neighbors are great gardeners. One, a retired university agriculture instructor, is a wealth of information. He and his wife devote hours of labor to a multitude of lush gardens and grass. The other neighbor is an “I like it, let’s do it” gardener who cleared wooded land to create a water garden surrounded by rocks and an entry bed of northern azaleas. Of course, the question was: where would the pond’s gold fish go in the winter? They are indoors, now, in their aerated tank surrounded by the bonsai trees that also needed snow shelter. From each gardener I’ve learned the love and adventure of gardening.

To stimulate your quest for gardening love and adventure the following sources are recommended:

  1. Agriculture Extension Service of your local Landgrant University (Many communities have a local branch office. Often you are a phone call away and much of the information they offer is free.)
  2. Garden Catalogs: Gurneys, Burpees, Jungs, etc. are good primers on plant varieties and zone tolerances. Most of these mail order catalogs have 800-numbers. Jung Seed Co. has a website.
  3. Local Greenhouses and Garden Clubs
  4. Books. There’s an extensive array. Explore your options: use the library, visit used bookstores and garage sales. (The photographs may look dated in an old book but the basic gardening information is timeless.) Barnes & Noble or Borders Books often have tables of inexpensive books. Single-subject topical garden books are often found here.
  5. For inspiration: Maureen Gilmer, Rooted In The Spirit: Exploring Inspirational Gardens; Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, Texas; 1997.
Copyright statement

Nan Stokes is an active member of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church, Duluth, MN. She originally wrote this implementation of the resolution in 2001. Nancy B. Gibbs is an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. She originally wrote this implementation of the resolution in 2001. Nan, Nancy, and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Nan Stokes or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the web site.

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