On the evening of June 18–the same day as Pope Francis’ encyclical “Praised Be” was released, the Consistory of the Reformed Church of Highland Park (RCHP) voted unanimously to pursue GreenFaith’s Water Shield.
GreenFaith describes the Water Shield as “an environmental merit badge.” Earning the Water Shield means that a faith-based institution has taken steps to conserve water, protect water quality, and mobilize its members and neighbors to take similar steps in their own households or groups.
The RCHP Consistory, made up of ordained pastors, deacons and elders, voted to “go deeper” into the church’s recent focus on water issues through this educational, spiritual, and practical program offered by GreenFaith, an internationally recognized faith-rooted environmental group whose office is located in Highland Park on South Third Avenue.
Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale said, “Today I am proud to be part of the truly catholic, universal church. Pope Francis’ encyclical on Creation Care is exactly where our global focus should be. Deciding, tonight, to work toward the Water Shield is our immediate affirmation of the Pope’s message–a message born from God.”
The RCHP Justice and Mercy committee has been hard at work for the past several months creating a new Environmental Justice subcommittee, calling itself “EnJ” for short. RCHP Deacon Colin Jager is facilitating the new EnJ subcommittee.
Church members participate in the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP), headed up by Heather Fenyk. The church held a successful fundraiser in February to raise over $1000 to purchase stream monitoring equipment for volunteer use. The fundraiser featured David Brahinsky singing songs by Pete Seeger along with several other local musicians, including Spook Handy. Church members have “Adopted a Stream,” after participating in a LRWP workshop in the methods of monitoring for visible pollutants and signs of healthy river life. The goal is to return the Lower Raritan River that flows through Highland Park and other local communities to a safe place to swim and catch fish.
The RCHP EnJ also plans to partner with individuals from Rutgers University to develop a citizen science program for all members of the church. Citizen science is a unique opportunity for individuals of a community to engage in scientific research and address local issues with science. In the EnJ citizen science program, we hope to have members of all ages participate.