Grace Church in the Mountains, Waynesville is one of the six national Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) 2023 Cool Congregations Challenge winners awarded a $1,000 prize. The annual contest accepts applications from religious congregations around the United States who are doing work to address climate change by reducing their carbon footprint as they create models of sustainability within their communities.
Grace Church in the Mountains won the Sacred Grounds award for transforming a traditional church lawn into the Grace Giving Garden, a wildlife haven and organic vegetable garden serving its food pantry.
The garden became an organic haven with composting, native plants, pollinator and wildlife certifications, an outdoor worship space, and a classroom for lessons on the natural world. The church has also achieved certification as a Monarch Waystation, Million Pollinator Garden, National Wildlife Federation Habitat, NWF Sacred Grounds Garden, and in the process increased its garden volunteers from 3 to 70.
Gardener Mary Alice Lodico said, "Our vision was inspired by our Appalachian mountains, a
beautiful biome which serves as a model for raising a generation of children to revere God's creation and become lifelong stewards of the Earth. Our work has been to restore native ecology and open others' eyes to the majesty around us. Our mission - to grow and share God's bounty and steward his creation in learning and fellowship with all - guides our vision and work."
Grace Church rector, the Rev. Joslyn Schaefer said, “God provided us with this incredible garden, the Earth, to farm it and take care of it. In our technological and industrial age, it is
easy to forget that our first vocation is to be good farmers: to stay close to the Earth, attend to its rhythms, honor its limits, and to feast from its abundance. The people of Grace Church have helped me, and others in our region, understand that care for God’s creation is a form of reverencing the Lord and a sure, reliable pathway to divine praise. My hope is that this award may inspire other faith communities to find as much delight in caring for God’s garden as we have.”
The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action. The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes, demonstrating that acting on climate is a moral issue.
"Grace Church in the Mountains and the other national winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” said Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light.