The people of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas have been exploring their relationship with creation, wondering how reconnecting with their sacred roots to the land through the restoration of prairies and woodlands could inform their spiritual lives.
The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas – Restoring Sacred Roots
The offices of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas are located on ground which was a part of the vast prairie of Kansas. As the land of Kansas was settled, the prairie was gradually diminished. Important habitats were lost, decreasing biodiversity; native grasses were eliminated, decreasing carbon sequestration; and deeply rooted, diverse plants were replaced with monoculture crops, decreasing soil health and clean water. The people of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas have been exploring their relationship with creation, wondering how reconnecting with their sacred roots to the land through the restoration of prairies and woodlands could inform their spiritual lives.
As we wondered, we realized that in order to achieve a meaningful connection between creation and spirituality, the people of the diocese needed access to green sites to learn about the benefits of native grasses and woodlands. To provide that access, we decided to work to identify or establish at least two prairie restoration sites in each of the four convocations.
The primary challenges were identifying what work was already being done and shifting the focus to creation care as a spiritual act; a challenge which was complicated by the COVID pandemic.
The Right Rev. Cathleen Bascom hired the Rev. Jenn Allen as Diocesan Missioner, to provide the “boots on the ground,” meeting with the stakeholders at green sites in the diocese. Bascom also established a Task Force for the Care of Creation, which brought the knowledge and talents of Episcopalians across the diocese to enthusiastically support the initiatives.
Through the work of the Task Force and the leadership of both Bascom and Allen, sites were identified and/or established in three of the convocations. In the fourth convocation, a potential site has been identified, as well as a commercial partner who is willing to host Episcopal events. The sites around the diocese are explored in this video.
Bethany House and Garden, on the diocesan center’s grounds, is being developed to serve as a resource center to the diocese for water management, carbon sequestration, and use of native grasses on church lands to help engage the various parishes in the work of re-establishing pocket (and larger) prairies, providing much needed habitat for pollinators and other species of interest.
The development of Bethany House and Garden has been a defining moment for the diocese, creating a focal point for interested parishes to access for the resources needed for their success.
A primary key to our success has been the use of asset-based community development. We assessed interest and engaged people who were enthusiastic about creation care. We learned that by listening to the interests of the community and engaging the assets around us, we are able to work toward sustainable change.
As we educate the diocese and surrounding communities about the prairie restoration projects, both new and old, the community is responding with an increased interest in spending time in creation being educated, healed, and transformed. There is also an increase in more ecumenical spiritual events, such as weekly garden meditation videos, garden prayer, and seeking respite in nature. We continue to plan, visioning for a new future: A future where spirit-led initiatives establish native grasses and woodlands to restore biodiversity, aid in natural water management, and increase carbon sequestration; creating spaces where we can connect with the Holy.