Coastwide
Illustration by Jon Krause

USA - How Three Coastal Churches Became Hubs of Climate Resilience

Stories of churches reimagining their land, mission, and ministry for the age of climate change.

WE DO NOT need another litany of climate disaster. What we need are stories of climate resilience—communities responding to the physical and spiritual needs wrought by climate collapse. For millions of people, those needs are brought by floodwaters inundating communities with rain and rising tides. And as waters rise, some churches also rise to generate spiritual and physical resilience, reimagining their land, mission, and ministry for the age of climate change. According to these congregations, climate action is not a deviation from the mission of the church; it’s the only way to remain true to the message of the gospel when floodwaters are rushing into our houses and sanctuaries.

Flow, river, flow

WERE IT NOT for the “Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner Tonight!” banner and obligatory “Episcopal church in 1 mile” sign, you could drive past St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and miss the building entirely. Obscured behind a line of oaks and a hillock of native hydrangea, the sanctuary almost disappears into the landscape. For Rev. Diana Carroll, that’s the hope.

When Carroll moved to Annapolis, Md., in 2012 to serve St. Luke’s, the four acres behind the church, which abuts Back Creek, a tributary of the Chesapeake, were a tangled mess of brush. The church had planned to clear that land to build a large sanctuary and convert the current structure into an education building, but Carroll and members of the St. Luke’s Green Team suggested St. Luke’s keep its current sanctuary and use the five acres as “a sanctuary without walls.” As Carroll envisioned it, if the church restored the land, it would still be “a sacred space as had always been dreamed about for that location.”

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