Caring for Creation
by kevin roth
As disciples of Jesus we’re called to repair the broken places of the world, including caring for creation. Paying attention to how we develop any property and construct church buildings is a direct result of this calling. Here are some reflections on the journey in regard to the Grace Church – Fishers location.
I remember walking the Fishers campus property for the first time. I had only seen it from the road and it was mix of six different properties of various sizes and shapes pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle at the corner of 126th & Olio. I parked across the street at Hamilton Southeastern High School and walked across to explore. The front of the property facing Olio Road was an old farm field. As I crossed to the back, I found a beautiful mix of woods and a small grassy valley. I stopped and thanked God for the gift of this beautifully diverse piece of property that He appeared to be blessing us with. Since it was our third attempt to purchase land for the Fishers campus, the thankfulness was that much greater.
A few months after the property had been purchased, Fishers campus attendee and sustainable site engineer, Jim Rinehart, volunteered to help any way he could. As we looked forward to building a permanent building in Fishers, we repeated my previous journey and walked the property. He shared a few ideas on how we could maximize the usage of the property and keep as many of the natural features as possible. This turned out to be a critical conversation.
Once we began the building discussion, the site development was almost an afterthought. Standard site development practices common to the Midwest were to be employed which included building a detention pond on the back of the property to collect the storm water runoff from the site. In the first building review, I asked, “What happened to all the trees?” The answer: due to the size of the detention pond needed, all the trees needed to be removed. Nobody in the room was satisfied with this possibility, so we decided to take another look at the site plan. Additional work was done but the result was the same; the trees had to go.
At that point, we invited Jim Rinehart into the conversation. Since he was familiar with the property, he suggested an alternative way to develop the property and manage the runoff. Instead of a single large area to hold water, we could disperse the water collection into a number of smaller areas across the property which would collect, slow down, absorb, and filter the water. These areas would be planted with grasses and native plants that would also enhance the property. Distributing the storm water management around the property would not require a large detention pond, which meant that the majority of trees and grassy areas in the back of the property would remain untouched. Obviously, everyone was happier with this approach.
Driving by the property today, the building is set with a beautiful backdrop of trees. We have four acres of woods that we can use for walking paths or areas for quiet reflection. Additionally, the front of the church is adorned with native landscaping islands comingled throughout the parking lot, softening the sea of asphalt seen at many places with large parking lots. The City of Fishers staff and officials love our approach and have expressed an interest in using our Fishers campus as a model for future development in the city. We’re also better neighbors to the homeowners who border our property who still maintain their wooded view. The bottom line: we’ve been faithful to our calling as disciples in a small thing that will be enjoyed for generations to come.