Minneapolis Area Synod embarks on watershed stewardship campaign

The Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is working on an educational campaign about watershed stewardship. Photo courtesy Minneapolis Area Synod

The Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is working on an educational campaign about watershed stewardship involving 31 congregations.

Area churches have hosted education events, planted rain gardens, eliminated pesticide usage and more as part of the campaign. The synod received a $12,000 grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to conduct it.

The educational campaign offers congregations concrete action steps, such as organizing leaf-ranking events, cultivating gardens and installing permeable pavers. Thirteen congregations have been involved so far.

“It’s been a good way to connect with neighbors and think about how water flows and impacts us,” said Emilie Bouvier, the synod’s congregational organizer for environmental justice.

The campaign stems from the synod’s EcoFaith Network, its initiative for environmental stewardship. This past year, it led an initiative called “Our Watershed Moment,” which aimed to engage communities of faith in dialogue and action around water, spirituality and eco justice.

The synod created a toolkit so congregations could implement environmental programs. It has held “Gather at the River” events for congregants to learn more about stewardship of the watershed.

“It’s a very spiritual and emotional experience for people of faith to hear scripture and gather by water and even feel pain for the state of the waters,” said Rev. Christine Chiles of Maple Grove Lutheran Church, who co-chairs the network.

Chiles utilized a curriculum called “Connect the Drops” with her confirmation class as part of the environmental efforts. The students wrapped up the class by installing a new water fountain in the church gym that encouraged them to use refillable bottles.

Almost 20 congregations have used the project, Bouvier said, with many choosing unique projects.

Bouvier said the campaign has helped congregants realize the impact their water choices can have. She told the story of how one congregant at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer in Minneapolis realized what happens to material that goes down the storm drain.

Synod Director of Communications and Stewardship Bob Hulteen said the campaign has helped congregants realize that science and faith aren’t necessarily in conflict on these environmental issues.

“That’s been excited to watch people feel liberated by and engaged with what they know to be true about their faith and what they know to be true about their world,” he said.

Chiles said the Synod had its water resolution approved at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly this summer.

The Minneapolis Area Synod includes 147 congregations, including about 50 in Minneapolis. Visit mpls-synod.org/outreach/ecofaith-network to learn more about its environmental work.

Eco exhibit featured in Northeast

An exhibit from the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience is in Northeast Minneapolis through May.

The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization is hosting the exhibit, called “Climate, Energy, and Community: What We Can Do,” at its Stormwater Park and Learning Center this year. The exhibit allows people to explore Minnesota’s changing climate and ways residents can mitigate some of the stresses to the state’s land, said Michaela Neu, MWMO’s youth and community outreach specialist.

“There are things we can do in our own lives and on our own properties to kind of slow down and clean storm water,” she said.

The exhibition is open to the general public and available to school classes and youth groups who serve kids in grades 4-8. There is no cost to visit.

MWMO is hosting the exhibit thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Visit mwmo.org/learn/k-12-learning-opportunities/climate-change-exhibit to learn more.

Salt study receives $10,000 grant

The Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association Environmental Committee has received a $10,000 grant to survey businesses on snow removal and deicing practices.

The committee will use the survey results to develop an educational outreach campaign to reduce the amount of salt used on Minneapolis sidewalks and parking lots.

The committee received the grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Its goal is to design education tools that businesses across the city could use, said committee member Joe Knaeble.

“It’s not just going to be a simple survey and then we’re done,” he said. “The hope is that by maybe this year or next year at this time, we’re at a point where we have a package of materials that we can hand out citywide.”

Road salt can harm fish and plant life, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The agency notes that just one teaspoon of road salt can permanently pollute five gallons of water.

Businesses interested in participating in the student can contact Knable at [email protected].