First Presbyterian Church regards these clean-up days as vital to caring for God’s creation. Cleaning up creeks in their local watershed is satisfying because “this work not only beautifies the creeks but also makes them safer for area wildlife and promotes free flow of storm water,” says Cathy Yost, a member of the church staff and Social and Environmental Concerns Committee. Volunteers who participated in the Stream Clean-Ups found it hard to believe how much trash had made its way into natural spaces. Church Elder Mike Holley, who partnered for this project with ninth grader Jeff Bertram, commented on the moment when they looked behind them and realized they had made “an ugly, littered ditch into a natural space again.”
Volunteer Liz McCane had a strong sense of “being the hands and arms of Christ” as she labored in the stream. Church members argue that keeping waterways clean is a way to answer the scriptural call to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). “Surely clean drinking water is a basic entitlement of the small wild creatures that share our community,” Cathy Yost observed. “After a rain they should be able to enjoy the creeks without the dangers of manmade debris.”
Partners with First Presbyterian for the Stream Clean Ups are the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, the City of Kirkwood, the Open Space Council, and Environmental Operations, Inc. This public/private coalition provides all needed maps and equipment at a Command Center in Kirkwood Park. Cell phone dispatched trucks meet the volunteers to retrieve heavy trash and bring it back to a central dumpster. Bruce Litzsinger of the Sewer District praised the annual efforts to clear obstructions from storm water creeks. “These half day projects are effective because of the energy and commitment of the participants. We’re pleased to provide supplies and support for them.”
In April 2003, the Stream Clean-Up was documented with a full-page picture story in the local newspaper, the Webster-Kirkwood Times. The congregation has long been involved in eco-justice ministry through worship, educational programs for children, youth, and adults, and an organic garden. The Stream Clean-Up events add to this long tradition of earthkeeping and raise awareness in the wider community about the church’s commitment to environmental concerns.