A Thriving Spiritual Community

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

A Thriving Spiritual Community

For Nature / Creation Care

For Nature Initiative

Taking action to create ever more habitable natural spaces for plant and animal life to thrive.

Creation Care Team

At the AVC, we strive to be stewards of God’s Creation through actions, worship and education.

For Nature Initiave

Events

Tues. Feb. 15th 4:00 pm: Horticulturist Nick Anderson

Making Meadows & Listening to the Land:
Unleashing Ecological Productivity in Landscapes
is Faster, Easier and Cheaper Than We Think

More Information

  • Nick Anderson studied horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and worked for years as a gardener and restoration practitioner for New York City Parks, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Riverside Park and for private clients.
  • He specializes in plant community based horticulture using regionally native plant species. Nick now resides on Cape Ann where he works with private clients.

Wed. Dec. 15th 4:00 pm: Doug Tallamy “Nature’s Best Hope

(Co-sponsored by the Annisquam Village Library)

  • 60 minute presentation followed by
  • 30 minute Q & A with bestselling author, Doug Tallamy.

More Information

  • Nature’s Best Hope shows how homeowners everywhere can turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats.
  • Because this approach relies on the initiatives of private individuals, it is immune from the whims of government policy.
  • Even more important, it’s practical, effective, and easy—you will walk away with specific suggestions you can incorporate into your own yard.

The Nature Pledge

Join us and take the “Nature Pledge,”
by committing to take one or more environmental action steps such as:

  • Educate yourself;
  • Participate in AVC Creation Care educational programs;
  • Leave the leaves on the ground in the Autumn;
  • Leave plant stalks and seedheads;
  • Instead of blowing leaves, use a rake;
  • Water only by hand;
  • Reduce light pollution;
  • Instead of pesticides or lawn chemicals, use only organic products in your yard;
  • Create a landscape with native plants, trees, and bushes to provide year-round forage;
  • Plant a garden;
  • Plant a native tree;
  • Reduce the size of your lawn;
  • Put in a rain barrel to water your plants;
  • Compost;
  • Mow less;
  • Discuss any selling of land to a local green organization before selling to development.

Nature Pledge Form

  • To encourage a sense of community and accountability, submitted pledges will be displayed on this website. You may use “Anonymous” in the name field if you do not want your name displayed.
  • As an alternative, you may send an email to avchurch820@gmail.com with your Nature Pledge.

Nature Pledge

Running Log of Nature Pledges

What Matters Most

What’s really important in life? With all that is competing for our time and attention – in a very complex world – how do we stay focused on what matters most? How do we live in such a way that we value what and who God values?

Today’s confusing parable (Luke 16.1-14) gives us some hints. 

Let’s begin by understanding the context of the story.  Jewish law prohibits charging interest because it exploits the poor, who God deeply cares about.  Remember, while speaking to Moses at the Burning Bush, God says, “I observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,  and I have come down to deliver them.” Our God sees and hears the cries of the poor, feels their pain and takes action.

But, in the time of Jesus, rich landlords often found a way to get around Jewish law.  They charged exorbitant rates, often hiding what amounted to interest in other “fees.”  The manager likely added a cut for himself. So when he learns that he would be losing his job – (at a time before Social Security, severance pay, unemployment insurance or retirement accounts) he has to find a way to make sure he doesn’t end up homeless. Like many people in our culture, he is a paycheck away from trouble and is suddenly in a very vulnerable situation. It is a “come to Jesus” sort of moment. 

The people whom he used to exploit, he now needs as friends to give him a place to live. So, what does he do?  He reduces their debts. It’s possible that he might simply be eliminating his own cut; or the prohibited interest   or reducing the principal owed.  We don’t know. What we do know is that the steward is surely reducing his own take as well as that of the landlord – who had been taking too much. It is an act of trust – trust that if he gives the debtors a break, they will be kind to him.  For the poor debtors, the steward’s actions -albeit with a self-centered motive – would not only be a huge relief, they would be an act of justice.

In the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts” isn’t merely a spiritual concept. The poor of Jesus’ time lived under a crushing economic system that placed unjust burdens on them.  As do the poor of our time. Forgiving debts, like student loans – for example – is one way a society can try to balance the scales of economic fairness. 

What does this suggest about what’s important in life?

How we treat other people matters. For most of us, the day will come when we lose a job, or develop a sudden debilitating illness, or the money dries up; the day will come for many of us that we can no longer support and care for ourselves.  Then what? Then we see how we have treated other people matters.  If we haven’t been good to others, in our time of need, we might be in real trouble. 

Notice this. The relationship between the steward and debtor starts as “win/lose.” The owner and manager win, the debtor loses.  When the manager is faced with losing his job, the dynamic could have become lose/lose for both manager and debtors. Instead, the manager creates a win/win situation – the debtors are given relief and the manager may have made some new friends. Using the skills he developed in business, the manager takes a sticky situation and finds a creative way forward. This kind of creativity – finding a solution that benefits himself and others is what the steward is praised for.  The larger lesson is    that   is how we are to live – in ways that benefit ourselves and others. These things don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

From the viewpoint of the landowner and the world, what the steward did was wrong. But, from the viewpoint of God and the poor, it was right.

Though he was merely trying to save himself, the manager’s actions changed the relationship he had with the debtors – from one in which he had power over them to one in which he recognized his dependence on them. He knew that once he no longer had money or power, he was going to need other people. Money can give us the illusion that we really don’t need others. 

This reminds me of a story a church member told me a few weeks ago after worship.  Jack Welch, who was once hailed as a business savant for the financial success he had with GE, was known to treat his workers terribly and cut corners on his products to ensure the company’s profits.  Then, he got sick. Very sick.  While he was about to get an MRI, he noticed that it was a GE machine. He asked the technician – who had no idea who he was – what she thought of the equipment.  “Oh!” she said, “the machine down the hall (which happened to be made by a competitor) was much better.  But, it wasn’t available – so this GE machine was going to have to be good enough.” The story goes that he went back to GE and told his employees that they needed to make better machines. 

What does this suggest? If you put profits over people, short-term thinking over long-term thinking, it just might come back to haunt you. No wonder we have a climate in crisis.

We do not know what it felt like for the steward to forgive some of the financial debts. We do not know whether or not he was sorry for having overcharged the renters. But, what we do know is that he suddenly identified with them.  His social status was changing from middle to low and all of a sudden his life looked very different. 

How we view ourselves and other people and what we think is important can be deeply affected by how much money is in our wallets.  Some of us in this room and online have known or know what it is like to be poor. Some of us have known or know   what it is like to be economically vulnerable like the manager – good enough as long as we have a job – but in deep trouble should we lose it.  Others may be more like the wealthy landowner – having known or knowing what it is like to have more than needed. Maybe even much more.

Today’s parable makes a startling suggestion – God views the world through the eyes of the poor.  If we want to understand how God sees a situation, we must look from the perspective of the poor.  As people of faith we are called to embrace values and priorities, from the perspective of the poor.  If we take care of the people at the bottom of the ladder, everyone benefits. But, if we only serve the rich, guess who benefits? 

“And I tell you,” Jesus says,  “make friends for yourselves through your use of this world’s goods, so when (not if) they fail you, you may be welcomed into your eternal homes.”  In other words, our pursuit of the world’s goods – of wealth – ought never be an end in itself.  The purpose of wealth is to build loving relationships and to serve God.  Money is intended for the service of God; we are not intended to serve money.

From God’s point of view, wealth earned on the backs of the poor is wrong.  But, wealth used to lighten the burdens of the poor is rightly ordered. Getting this perspective right, especially in a world with grave economic inequalities, is at the heart of Christian ethics. Economic practices that harm the poor or create greater poverty, are not pleasing to God. Period. 

The true riches that our God offers are not about what we own, but what we give; not about what we take, but what we share;not about being able to have a comfortable distance from others in physically, emotionally, and spiritually gated communities, but true riches come from  being able to be close to others, all others. The true riches that our God offers do not come from what others think about us, but from how our God sees us

Embracing the true riches God offers requires trust.  Here is a fascinating detail: the etymology of the word Mammon – usually translated as money – actually means “that in which one trusts.” What is written on a dollar bill? In God we trust.  But, do we? 

Most of us have a complicated relationship with money.  In a world with rising inflation,  eye-popping housing prices, a lack of affordable housing, and a climate in crisis, it is almost impossible for even the wealthiest among us to feel secure.  We are riddled with anxiety about the future for our children and grandchildren. It can be hard to place our trust in God when we feel flooded by the challenges of the world. But, this exactly what God asks for – God asks that we place our hearts, our trust, in God. Not in the rising and falling stock market or our rising and falling fortunes. 

What might this world look like if we saw money as it truly is – a temporary gift; a gift that has the potential to be used not merely for our own individual interests, but for the creation of a healthier world? What if we were to see that God has entrusted us with financial resources so that we can try and make this world better than when we arrived? What if we were to see – not only when we are in trouble – that our relationships are of more value than what’s in our bank accounts?  What would our lives look like if we lived from the conviction that people are more important than profits? What might our lives look like if we invested our vital energy not merely in securing our own financial futures but in building communities of mutual care and support? This week Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, did just this.

Yesterday I officiated a Memorial Service in downtown Gloucester for someone who by the world’s standards was not a “success.”  Barbara grew up poor, never went to college, never owned her own home, and didn’t go on fancy vacations. But, she married her soulmate, had two daughters who adored her, and was loved by everyone who knew her. Her husband told me “She was the best person I ever met in my life.” There was always room at the table for a neighbor in need.  She paid special attention to those kids who were in trouble and let them know she believed in them. She brought food to the elderly. Her faith in God was the anchor of her life.  There were not enough chairs for all the people who attended a service that was filled with laughter and tears.  Because of the difference she made in other people’s lives, her spirit will live on. She had her priorities straight.  She knew what matters most.

“You can not worship God and Money. You justify yourselves in the eyes of mortals, but God reads your hearts.”  

When we get to the end of our days, may God read our hearts and find that we have invested in – we have trusted in – what matters most – not success in the eyes of the world; but success in the eyes of God.  Amen. 

Lindsay Crouse

I promise to plant native plants in my garden on Leonard Street in Annisquam, and on my mother’s property at 15, 15R and 11 Bennett Street.
(If the snow ever melts….._

Debra Campbell

Totally enjoying your education and will take steps as appropriate. I live in a HOA that takes care of the lawn but have a small area that I can help to landscape better with native plants however I have to be cautious that plants are toxic to my dog. Steps in place:
Water by hand – done
Do no use pesticides – done
plant native plants – in process
Rain barrel – will consider

904 Cherry Hill Ct
Melbourne, FL

Marion Phipps

I commit to continue to educate myself and participate in climate crisis activities. We have large gardens but plan to incorporate more native plantings

Peg K

We already leave the leaves in our yard, and leave seed-bearing plant stalks in place. We use organic products, compost and mow about once every 3 weeks. I plan to research and plant more local native trees and shrubs that invite birds and pollinators, and add those to the upper half of our yard.

Suzanne

This is near and dear to my heart. I have been an organic gardener since the mid-1960s. I learned so much from the video about the importance of native plants for our pollinators!

Peter Lawrence

Leave more leaves
Use no toxic material
Plant a native oak tree
Remove invasive plants
Continue to compost all plant material
Introduce native plants best for caterpillars & pollinators
Help others understand the importance of this approach
11 Planters Neck Rd

Sharon Byrne Kishida

Rockport

Educate myself
Participate in AVC Creation Care educational programs;
Leave the leaves on the ground in the Autumn;
Leave plant stalks and seedheads;
use a rake;
Water only by hand;
Reduce light pollution;
use only organic products in our yard;
Create a landscape with native plants, trees, and bushes to provide year-round forage;
Plant /maintain a vegetable and pollinator gardens
Use a rain barrel to water our plants;
Compost;

Suzanne

Take an inventory of non-native plants.

Richard Luecke & Perry McIntosh

Solar electric – Done
Plug-in hybrid care – Done
No leaf raking. – Done
No light pollution – Done
Reduce grass lawn – Will do
Compost leaves and kitchen waste – Done
Install rain barrel – Will do

Holly Clay

I have been leaving leaves on the ground and plant stalks where they rooted, I built a U-shaped, raised bed for growing vegetables and fruit a few years ago. I’ve been composting for a few years and I just worked the compost into the soil. I use rakes and water by hand. I promise to add more native plants to an ever-increasing number of garden beds, to continue to educate myself and to help out the Creation Care TEam when needed..

Suzanne Cervo

All of the listed steps.
19 Norseman Avenue
Gloucester MA 01930

Deborah Gardner

Begin by studying the native plants of this area and start increasing my gardens to include them.

Mary Johnson

Plant native species. Compost. Limit light pollution.

Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault

I will keep learning and participating in AVC Creation Care programs; I am leaving the leaves; using only organic materials on the lawn and gardens; and will continue to compost. I hope to put in a garden next year, too!

Mission and Resources

Mission Statement

“For Nature” is an initiative of the Annisquam Village Church Creation Care Team. Out of our love for nature and recognition that we must live in harmony with it, we are dedicated to preserving the precious oasis of our small community and taking action to create ever more habitable natural spaces for plant and animal life to thrive.

Our mission is both clear and grand: By transforming our yards into areas that wholly welcome the presence of animals, pollinators, and native plant species we will be doing our small part to help the earth to heal so that this planet remains a place that can sustain all life. Like a relay of illumination, we hope to inspire our neighbors to do the same. And although we believe that each person can certainly make a difference — a community can make a revolutionary change.

Please join us in nurturing our natural world.

Digging Deeper

Do you miss the abundance of fireflies, moths, butterflies, beetles and bees, the flocks of bird species that cover the skies, the intelligent raccoon slumbering in a tree, skunks, possums, turtles crunching through dried leaves, and other spectacular animals that live wild, free and joyous lives?

Like many places, Annisquam is becoming increasingly vulnerable to habitat reduction due to disruptive lawn maintenance practices, invasive plants, pesticide usage and climate change, all of which are endangering the ecological balance of our precious natural community. We can reverse that trend now.

Here is some bad news and some good news:

First, the bad news:

  • Lawns and bark-mulched landscapes are notorious for requiring profuse amounts of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn, on average, has 10x more chemical pesticides per acre than farmland.
  • The number of birds in the United States and Canada has fallen by 29 percent since 1970.
  • In the US, the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years (and the rusty-patched bumblebee dropped by 87 percent over the same period).
  • Studies have shown that gas-powered leaf blowers, that have winds of up to 200 MPH destroy biodiversity by dislodging the leaf litter that gives refuge to insect life that is in turn so essential for other wildlife.

The good news:

  • An oak tree supports 280 species of insects.
  • The red cedar supports 30 native butterflies and moths.
  • 411 species of butterflies and moths use the chokecherry as a caterpillar host
  • Service-berry plants provide food for 14 different species of birds.
  • Fallen leaves offer a double benefit. They form a natural mulch and fertilize the soil as they break down. They also create vital habitats. Creatures ranging from turtles and toads to birds, mammals and invertebrates rely on leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material. Many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring. -National Wildlife Foundation)

”If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”      ~ E.O. Wilson

Caring for Nature as a Spiritual Practice

“Understanding that our destiny is forever linked with the fate of the Earth, that the health of our souls is inextricably related to the health of our planet, is at the heart of stewardship as a spiritual practice.

“Walking the path of stewardship, we take it one day at a time, just as we do with our spiritual practice. We aspire toward a fresh beginner’s mind as we compost, plant trees, shop with green values, conserve, recycle, reuse and repair.

“This daily practice is made up of humble acts that simplify our lives, offering us the gifts of time, community and creativity…Gently, inexorably, both our spiritual practice and our stewardship are changing us and changing the world.”     ~ Gail Straub, Buddhist author

 

Health Benefits of Caring for Nature

  • Exposure to nature has been linked to improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. ~ American Psychological Association
  • Since 2018, doctors in Shetland, Scotland have been authorized to prescribe nature to their patients. It’s thought to be the first program of its kind in the U.K., and seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more.

Poem by Stephanie Kaza

We live by the sun, We feel by the moon, We move by the stars,
We live in all things, All things live in us.,
We eat from the earth, We drink from the rain, We breathe of the air,
We live in all things, All things live in us.
We call to each other, We listen to each other,
Our hearts deepen with love and compassion,
We live in all things, All things live in us.
We depend on the trees and animals, We depend on the earth,
Our minds open with wisdom and insight,
We live in all things, All things live in us.
We dedicated our practice to others,
We include all forms of life, We celebrate the joy of living-dying,
We live in all things, All things live in us,
We are full of life, We are full of death,
We are grateful for all beings and companions.

Prayer For Nature

Creator God, You are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with Your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of Your love, that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
We pray that love and wisdom might inspire my actions and our actions as communities. . . So that we may, with integrity, look into the eyes of brothers and sisters and all beings
and truthfully say, we are doing our part to care for them and the future of the children.
May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life. Amen.
~ Interfaith Climate Action

Additional Reading Suggestions

Bringing Nature Home: How you Can Sustain Wildlife With Plants, Douglass W. Tallamy

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat, Nancy Lawson

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, Douglass W. Tallamy

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson

Garden Revolution: How our Landscapes Can be a Source for Environmental Change, Larry Weaner & Thomas Christopher

Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, Edward O. Wilson

Planting in a Post Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, Thomas Rainer & Claudia West

Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative landscape, Owen Wormser

Restoring the Wild, Roy Dennis

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson

Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse, Dave Goulson

American Canopy: Trees, Forests and the Making of a Nation, Eric Rutkow

Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, Suzanne Simard

American Plants for American Gardens, Edith A. Roberts and Elsa Rehmann

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy

Walden: Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau

Creation Care

At the AVC, We Strive to be
Stewards of God’s Creation
Through the Following Actions:

Sustainability of Church Buildings & Grounds

  • We are actively exploring solar panels for both the church and parsonage to decrease our carbon footprint (under the leadership of Dick Luecke and Peter Lawrence).
  • Our church and parsonage use 100% renewable energy.
  • Current renovations are being made with care for the environment.
  • We intend to re-landscape church property with native plants.
  • We hope these actions will inspire others to follow suit.

Worship & Education

  • Our Worship Services regularly have Creation Care themes, like “Holy Ground” and “The Spirit of St. Francis.”
  • Our Creation Care Team promotes attendance at Cape Ann Climate Coalition (“CACC”), national and international webinars.
  • In early December 2020, we completed a “30‑Day Creation Care Pilgrimage.” Five days per week, Rev. Sue offered a daily email message with:
    • Scripture;
    • Scientific facts;
    • Ideas for individual and family action; and
    • Prayer related to a theme, such as water, trees, appliance use, etc.
  • We’ve created an archive of the Creation Care Pilgrimage, so you can return to the resources we’ve shared in the future.

Opening Prayer from
The “Holy Ground” Worship Service

(September 6, 2020)

For everything that emerges from the earth

O God, Source of  Life, Creator of All That Is,

Thanks be to You.

You are the One in whom we live, move, and have our being.

Thanks be to You.

Guide us to grow in loving awareness of our connection

Through the Earth to You and one another.

Thanks be to You.

That together we may live sustainably, justly & joyfully

Rooted and grounded in love. 

Thanks be to You. Amen.