Woods Church Earns Award For Leadership And Sustainability


Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church is one of the five national Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) 2021 Cool Congregations Challenge winners. The annual contest accepts applications from religious congregations around the United States that are doing work to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint as they create models of sustainability within their communities.

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church won a Cool Congregations Sacred Grounds Award for its collaborative effort to restore the four-acre habitat its church campus is built on.

The congregation worked with the Baywise organization to evaluate the management of the church grounds to become better stewards of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A volunteer county Master Watershed Steward drew up a plan to transform the property to a habitat that would support pollinators and wildlife, sequester carbon and mitigate stormwater.

They began by diminishing the size of the lawn, greatly reducing the use of fertilizer and water, and planting over 500 native plants and over 200 native trees. They drastically reduced runoff, and have seen butterflies and native bees on the flowering shrubs in the spring, toads, skinks and pollinators all summer long, and migrating birds and butterflies at nectar sources and berry producing shrubs in the fall.

The congregation believes the biggest success has been the involvement of so many groups of church and community members working together for habitat restoration. They received grants from Unity Gardens, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and worked with the county Watershed Stewards Academy and Tree Trooper programs. Some of the many volunteer groups were the Maryland Master Gardeners, Baywise, the Retired Handyperson group (rehabbers) at the church and the local high school environmental club and honor society. Woods Memorial is joining with other congregations across Anne Arundel County to care for the watersheds they share through the One Water Partnership, a program of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, with Watershed Stewards Academy and Interfaith Power & Light.

Woods Church has also engaged in a capital campaign called Renew to significantly reduce its energy usage through upgrades to all LED lighting, ultra-high efficiency HVAC systems and building insulation improvements.

"Our congregation is honored to be acknowledged for our environmental work,” said the Rev. Susan DeWyngaert, the senior pastor at Woods. “As a Presbyterian Church (USA) Earth Care Congregation, we have made a commitment to work toward sustainability by providing worship, education, prayer and service opportunities in our church and community. Receiving the Cool Congregations Challenge Award is thrilling for us. We hope it will model and inspire more emphasis on sustainability as a faith practice.”

Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light, said Woods and the four other national winners are “casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change.”


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