Project Small Creatures

Written for The CRC Network

Trinity Christian Reformed Church is located near the mouth of Rush Creek where it empties into the Grand River. Most of Rush Creek has been channelized and is used primarily as a drain for snow melt and rain water in southeastern Ottawa and southwestern Kent counties. Unfortunately it is not seen as a natural resource. 

Ten years ago I preached a series of messages on types of stewardship: financial, time, talents and creation. I spent some time reflecting on Article 2 of the Belgic Confession. Here we learn that we come to know God through the universe that God has created, preserves, and governs. This universe is like a “beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.”

I began to wonder how many small creatures I could find in Rush Creek that would make me ponder the eternal power and divinity of God.  So I contacted an Ecologist from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and asked if we could adopt a section of Rush Creek to keep clean. The ecologist told me that we could also do annual macroinvertebrate studies and submit the results to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). I thought this would be a great way to get to know some of the “small letters” that would help us ponder our great God. We have been doing annual insect collection events on Rush Creek ever since. 

In 2015 we decided to apply for a MiCorps Start Up Grant to train more people in macroinvertebrate identification and also to learn how to organize insect collection events.  We were awarded a grant of about $3,000. 

We are the only church to have ever received this grant, and we have now trained five people on our Stream Team to supervise river insect collecting events. 

One of the requirements of the grant was that we attend a conference with dozens of environmental organizations and make a presentation about what we are doing with our grant monies. 

I was the only pastor there among people with graduate degrees in environmental science and ecology. When it was my turn to present, I unapologetically said that we are a church and we have a strong calling to care for God’s creation. 

I said the church has often been very negligent in this important task but we want to change that by leveraging our contacts with other churches to raise an army of volunteers who take caring for our watersheds seriously.

After my short presentation five different people came up and talked to me about how impressed they were that a church was getting involved in an important environmental issue. Some were shocked and asked why. I was able to tell them that as Reformed Christians we believe that God is the owner of every square inch of this creation and Christ died for its restoration. 

Trinity has since applied for a two-year $14,000 grant to expand our macroinvertebrate studies and begin enlisting many more churches in this important task.

Rachel VanderStelt