Safeguarding the earth through faith

Representatives from about 40 faith groups will gather Sunday for a one-day environmental stewardship conference called "Caring for Creation."

The 2-6 p.m. conference at the p.m. Ndoki Lodge at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is sponsored by the Richland County Conservation Commission and the Richland Conservation District.

"It was designed mainly to give congregations an idea of how they could be good stewards of the earth, to take care of God's land," said Mary Jane Henderson, the conservation district's environmental education coordinator.

Henderson said the interfaith effort is drawing representatives from Christian, Jewish and Muslim houses of worship.

"We have room for more people," Henderson said.

The conference is free and will include a keynote address by Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, and talks by representatives of natural resource state agencies, an oil company, the city of Columbia and congregations that are already implementing environmental changes.

"For each resource person, we will have a case study of a congregation" already involved in environmental activism, she said.

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church on Trenholm Road has been active in environmental issues for the past several years, one of the first Midlands congregations to actively embrace caring for the landscape.

"We have done recycling, planted a wildlife habitat garden plus a children's community garden, and we use organic methods of raising vegetables," Lee Pippen, a member of the church's environmental stewardship committee, said Thursday.

The church also has a composting bin and uses a rain barrel to collect water for nurturing plants, and has committed to cleaning up a section of Gill's Creek .

The conference will also feature exhibits, literature, networking opportunities and door prizes as well as a concluding dinner for those in attendance.

"I think it is really important and timely," said Henderson, who as president of the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina suggested focusing on faith groups. "I think when people hear about it, they will want to be a part of it."

The idea of persuading congregations to be involved in what has become known popularly as "creation care" is particularly successful in the West and New England.

The public must register to attend. To register, call (803) 576-2080 or (803) 576-2083.

Also, Pippen noted, the interdenominational Christian group, Church Women United, will discuss environmental stewardship at its meeting Nov. 6 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church. That meeting is also open to the public.