Ohio church to plant 1,500 trees in 5 years in 'restoring creation' effort

(Photo: Unsplash/Johann Siemens)
(Photo: Unsplash/Johann Siemens)

An Ohio Presbyterian church is planning to plant hundreds of trees in the next five years in a push toward greater environmental stewardship.

“A goal of planting 1,500 trees in five years in Licking County did not seem to be an insurmountable project for First Presbyterian Church of Granville,” said John Weigand, who is coordinating the project, according to the Newark Advocate.

“In fact, I suspect we might exceed that number if the community is energized by this gentle act of environmental stewardship,” he said.

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The church, which is in the PCUSA denomination and located approximately 30 miles northwest of Columbus, has been recognized as an “Earth Care Congregation,” one of six churches in the state to earn the distinction.

“Being intentional in becoming an Earth Care Congregation designation inspired us to think more broadly about how we could make a difference in Licking County, not just Granville,” said Karen Chakoian, the church senior pastor.

That the tree-planting project would impact on the community for subsequent generations energized the church, she said.

To become certified and receive an Earth Care Congregation designation within the denomination, a church fills out a pledge and "tracks its commitments to earth care in the areas of worship, education, facilities, and outreach," according to the denomination's mission page.

Designating Earth Care congregations is part of a long-term effort within the denomination.

Official guidelines for greening Presbyterian congregations show that in 1990 the 202nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA adopted a resolution called "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice," calling on the denomination to emphasize restoring creation as a "central concern of the church to be incorporated into its life and mission at every level."

Such emphasis on environmental issues come with "major implications for infusion into theological work, evangelism, education, justice and peacemaking, worship and liturgy, public witness global mission, and congregational service and action at the local and community level," the document reads, grounding the task in Deuteronomy 30:16.

Last summer, some parishioners at the Granville church read and discussed The Gospel According to the Earth: Why The Good Book is a Green Book by Dr. Matthew Sleeth, which outlines the benefits of planting trees.

The church began its five-year tree-planting initiative at a November 24 service, where Sleeth preached, by planting 25 young maple trees that had been donated by a local nursery.

“We wanted to learn from a less ambitious planting,” Weigand said of the effort, “before we launch the aggressive community campaign in 2020!”

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