Ethics of Stewardship
As I write about ethics of stewardship, today I am focusing on things outside our walls. Next time I will focus on use of building space.
It was not until the late 19th century that grass lawns began to become popular in America. In Europe, manicured yards with large grassy areas were basically reserved for the wealthy. In the early 20th century, research was done to find grasses that were suitable for our climate. Today our homes, businesses and houses of worship tend to have those nicely manicured lawns.
Growing grass that we fertilize, mow and spread with chemicals to keep out weeds is probably not the best use of land. We can spend lots of money on keeping our lawns looking a particular way. That requires money not available for use in other areas. It is generally not good for the environment to have grass with 3-inch roots that we continue to cut with gas-powered mowers. Some areas around our places of worship may need to have grass for practical reasons, especially areas where children play. However, there may be some alternatives that can be very practical and cost effective.
At Forrest Hill United Methodist Church we have an organic community garden. This area does not require mowing, and a garden committee from the community oversees it. Other places of worship also have community gardens. There can be various designs for them. Our garden area is for community members who are not able to garden where they live. Our garden gives them some space to grow their own vegetables. Some churches have a community garden to grow produce to give to people who can benefit from the gift of fresh food. Whatever the design for such a garden, it puts land to use in a productive manner and reduces the need to mow and use lawn chemicals. For us, it is a way we can serve the community and reduce the area we need to mow. That becomes a win-win situation for all.
Next to our community garden we have a prairie area planted in native flowers. This is good for the environment as it processes more carbon dioxide than grass does, requires no chemicals and does not need watering. It is also beneficial for pollinators that are good for our fruits and vegetables. These types of plants also take up more water than grass does so they can help reduce the amount of rainwater going into storm sewers, something that will help the city.
Perennials that are drought and disease resistant will cut down on chemicals and mowing. Our prairie plants are native and grow well in our soil and climate. There are also turf grasses that need less maintenance. Native buffalo grass was planted around Peoria Riverfront Museum. Buffalo grass does not need to be mowed often although some patience and work goes into getting such a lawn established.
There are many options we can have around our places of worship to use the land in ways that can meet ministry needs, be environmentally friendly and reduce costs. We do not need to be stuck with Victorian-Era style lawns. Rather we can be creative, whether we promote community gardening or vegetation that will not be so dependent on mowing, chemicals and water.