Church Opposes Pipeline as Act of Stewardship
By Deborah Weisheit
God has given his children this earth to care for. We need to continue that care for our future generations by being faithful stewards of the earth’s precious resources. Our faith directs us to be champions for the voiceless, including the natural environment.
Many Christians have adopted “green” habits as a result of their faith: recycling, plant-based diets, and light and water conservancy in homes—all excellent steps toward stewardship. Others have sought energy sources that avoid harming and degrading the earth.
In that spirit, we at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem have been taking a stand against fossil fuel expansion in our literal backyard. We see this not only as an important step for the preservation of the earth but also as our faith in action.
First Reformed Church of Bethlehem sits on 105 acres of land in Selkirk, New York, deeded to the church in 1795 by Stephen Van Rensselaer III, a Dutch landowner. The land was passed on to the church in the form of a glebe, an area of land that belongs or yields revenue to a parish church. By nature, the land can be only used for church purposes.
Our church has held this land in sacred trust for more than 220 years.
This land contains the Van Rensselaer Forest and Wildlife Preserve, a designated conservation area in the town of Bethlehem. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Open for community use, the preserve is an area of wildlife refuge, nature trails, and benches for quiet contemplation. Our local Boy Scouts have done troop projects in the forest.
If approved, the proposed Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline would cut a wide swath through the forest preserve. The pipeline endangers our historic land and poses environmental and health threats, including an increased risk of explosion, an incineration zone of one thousand feet on each side of the pipeline, and the possibility of pollution if the pipeline fails and leaks into the air or groundwater.
Because our church has been entrusted with this land, we at First Reformed oppose its seizure and destruction. As stewards of the earth, we want to explore renewable energy sources. We want to preserve the land so others can continue to use it. One way we hope to do that is through a mission project that would provide our community with educational programs related to ecology and preservation.
We also ask for your prayers and support as we continue to advocate for ecological justice. Because the proposed pipeline will run from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, it may also impact you as it passes through your local communities. We invite you to join us in our stewardship of the earth by contacting your local, state, and federal elected officials. We will hold periodic community meetings at the church and welcome your attendance. If you are interested in joining our efforts, contact our church office for information about our next meeting at 518-767-2243.
Deborah Weisheit is vice president of consistory at First Reformed Church of Bethlehem in Selkirk, New York.
[Photo by Annie Reilly]
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