The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is hosting a summit for environmental and faith-based organizations later this month to explore their shared common ground and determine how the two groups might better collaborate on clean water initiatives.
The “Living Waters: An Interfaith Summit” will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. The forum is the first of its kind in Virginia to engage these diverse audiences and provide a backdrop for much-needed discussions.
“So many faith groups believe deeply in Earth stewardship but haven’t gone beyond good intentions,” CBF spokesman Chuck Epes said in an email about what spurred the event. “And often environmentalists’ passion for conservation is rooted in faith and values, or at least some kind of spirituality.”
Some water quality issues the watershed, for example, have inadvertently pitted faith-based communities and environmental groups against one another. Earlier this year, some churches in Charlottesville initially pushed back when the city passed new stormwater regulations that entailed fees from which nonprofits were not exempt.
Groups supporting the stormwater changes realized that faith-based groups could become a valuable partner in “stewarding creation,” instead of a source of opposition, and recast their message to focus on shared values. Ann Jurczyk, CBF’s Virginia outreach coordinator, advocacy manager and organizer of the summit, says that collaborative ground is what this event is about.
Participants in the event will be asked to answer two questions when they register: what do they hope to learn from the experience and what does their faith tradition say about stewardship of the environment? Jurczyk said discussions at the summit should help participants to see the disconnect that can exist “between what we’re called to do and what practical steps we take.”
At the summit, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation will lead interactive group discussions about how these two communities can better collaborate.
Also partnering to host the summit are Bay-focused groups such as the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Conservation Network. Faith-based groups such as Caretakers of God’s Creation, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, the Office of Justice + Peace and Virginia Power & Light are also partnering.
Presenters at the all-day forum will include J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, and Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, chair of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. The former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, Tayloe Murphy, will speak as well as Virginia Delegate Lee Ware.
Faith leaders and “individuals passionate about eco-theology” are encouraged to attend and can register at cbf.org/livingwaters.