Green Stewards From Shore Communities Hit the Beaches
-- An Ecumenical Effort to Care for God's Creation --
Inspired by a faith-centered response to climate change, the green ministries of St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Ocean, NJ and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Anselm, Tinton Falls, came together to “sweep” the beaches of Sandy Hook, part of a statewide cleanup sponsored by Clean Ocean Action, an environmental protection group.
On a recent blustery Saturday morning, some 40 “green stewards” from both shoreline parishes cleaned the beach of plastic straws, tiny shards of plastic, plastic tubing, toys, food containers, plastic bags, clothing, shell casings, hygiene products, car parts, bottle caps — all left behind on the beach or washed ashore. The green stewards along with the other volunteers, had to document the total and type of debris that was collected. The sheer volume of trash, even to a casual observer, can be quite sobering, said Anna Panayiotou, a parishioner from St. George.
“Nearly 77% of the earth is water, “ said Panayiotou. “Man made garbage is continually washed to the depths of the waters and humans never see it. The result can be catastrophic to marine life. The clean up we’re doing will help make a difference. Our planet needs love to restore itself.”
Parishioners of the two churches said their collaboration was inspired by the leaders of their faith. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew together with His Holiness Pope Francis have jointly spoken out on matters of environmental justice, and have advocated for muscular and concerted action to address climate change and environmental degradation.
“We are being urged to pray for the world leaders and take responsibility for how we use our resources as the future of our common home depends on it,” said Mary McCauley, who serves on the Creation Care Team of St. Anselm. “Our spiritual leaders are calling upon all Christians to counter reactions of denial and disinterest and instead, act as good stewards of God’s creation. Our two teams have blended seamlessly as we are on a common mission to educate and inspire parishioners to take thoughtful action.”
Working in partnership, over the past year the groups have hosted lectures and hands-on demonstrations about recycling, composting, green gardening and sustainable food sources, have planted trees and a butterfly sanctuary, have presented documentary film programs about Christian environmental stewardship, have organized community wide plastic collections, and have hosted celebrations of Earth Day and Arbor Day for Sunday School children. Additional public ecumenical projects and volunteer efforts are planned for the upcoming months.
Across the state of New Jersey, some 5,000 volunteers participated in the beach sweep according to Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of national and regional groups working to protect waterways using science, law, research, education and citizen action. Data from the Beach Sweeps are used by Clean Ocean Action and allied environmental protection groups to help identify sources of pollution, and to improve programs and laws that protect public health, and reduce toxins and pollutants in marine waters.
“Our faith teaches us that our whole earth is a living icon of the face of God, so we must do everything we can to preserve, protect and heal our earth,” says Stella Fotopoulos of Caring for God’s Creation — Environmental Stewardship and Protection, the green ministry of St. George,