Exploring Wilmington’s Journey to Environmental Stewardship

Welcome to Sacred Grounds Wilmington, DE: where faith communities and environmental stewardship converge. Join us in celebrating the triumphs, learning from the challenges, and nurturing the seeds of change that will grow into a more interconnected Wilmington.

The interfaith community of Wilmington, DE, is celebrating unity, new pollinator gardens, and environmental stewardship as we look forward to building a network of native pollinator habitats at houses of worship throughout the Delaware River Watershed.

Since 2021 and with funding from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, Sacred Grounds Wilmington has transformed the landscapes of 21 faith communities, turning them into vibrant havens for native pollinators and neighbors alike. In just two years, the faith community’s commitment to environmental conservation has created a tapestry of beauty and biodiversity in the city and beyond. 

“Many faith communities feel called to environmental stewardship as a way to deepen their practice.” 

Sacred Grounds is a National Wildlife Federation program that recognizes faith communities who both create wildlife habitat and actively link faith practices and caring for the environment. In Delaware, Sacred Grounds is a collaborative effort between National Wildlife Federation, Delaware Interfaith Power and Light, Delaware Nature Society, and Delaware Center for Horticulture along with Wilmington’s diverse faith communities, and passionate individuals who shared a vision of creating a more equitable and resilient city. 

Planting Seeds of Change 

All 21 gardens were carefully designed, curated, and planted with an array of native plants. Not only do these plants showcase the rich biodiversity of the region, but they also provide crucial habitat for native bees, butterflies, and birds. From colorful flowers to young trees, each garden is a reflection of the unique needs of each congregation. No two gardens look alike. These gardens are being used as nature play spaces, community gathering spots, and curb appeal for their houses of worship. 

Engaging the Wilmington Community 

A group of people work in a garden bed next to a building.
Planting day at Congregation Beth Emeth. Credit: Aaron Sharp

The success of this project extends far beyond the physical transformation of the gardens. Through workshops, native plant giveaways, roundtables, and guided tours, community members were able to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of native plants and pollinators. These valuable learning opportunities also brought congregations of diverse faiths together to learn from and with each other, building a valuable and unique network of Wilmington’s faith community.

Beyond the ecological benefits, Sacred Grounds aspires to sow seeds of collaboration and mutual support among congregations. This project cultivated a peer-to-peer network where knowledge is shared and support is readily available. Whether it’s sharing gardening tips, discussing shared challenges and successes, or helping each other with garden maintenance, this network empowers congregations to lean on each other as they learn more about native plants and sustainable gardening. 

Additionally, NWF gave out 80 native plant gift cards to strengthen the pollinator corridor in Wilmington and encourage parishioners to plant native plants in their own gardens. A pollinator corridor serves as an ecological highway for pollinators between fragmented habitats, where natural landscapes are disrupted by human development. In urban areas, pollinators face challenges in finding suitable food sources and breeding sites. Since all 21 gardens are located within such close proximity to each other, Sacred Grounds Wilmington is further strengthening the pollinator corridor in Wilmington. 

A large group of people pose for a photo indoors in front of a projector screen that reads, "Congratulations to our cohort 2 sites!!!".
Eleven congregations come together to celebrate their new gardens. Credit: Ciara O’Brien

Looking Ahead 

These gardens became a living testament to the power of collective action and the ability to make a difference, one garden at a time. As we celebrate the native pollinator gardens that now grace the houses of worship in Wilmington, we also look ahead to the future. The journey doesn’t stop with these 21 gardens. In fact, it’s just the beginning. 

We envision extending the reach of Sacred Grounds into neighboring communities, throughout New Castle County and Southwest Philadelphia. Through community roundtables, congregation members shared their thoughts and insights into what they would like to see going forward. 

“These gardens symbolize hope, unity, and a sustainable future in Wilmington, furthering the mission of equity in our community and beyond.” 

As we navigate next steps, we strive to foster deeper community connections and encourage youth engagement in the faith community. Through meaningful dialogue, collaborative initiatives, and an emphasis in climate justice, we are committed to cultivating a robust network of congregations dedicated to deeply impactful environmental stewardship. 

By broadening our scope, we aim to expand the pollinator corridor across the region. We’re actively seeking interested congregations to join us on this journey.

If your religious group is eager to make a positive impact on the environment and foster connections with like-minded congregations, reach out to Courtney Arches (ArchesC@nwf.org) for more information.