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Mayfield Congregational Church has been awarded a grant of $750 from the Abbey of the Arts, Earth Monastery Project, to develop a waystation for migratory Monarch butterflies on the church’s property in rural Sycamore. The waystation will be planted with shrubs and native prairie plants, especially milkweed, on land adjacent to the parsonage.
According to a recent story in the Daily Chronicle (“Fewer Monarchs Being Seen in Mexico,” January 30), the number of Monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico is the lowest since 1993. Experts point to “the displacement of milkweed” in the U.S. as a major factor.
The 3,000-mile migration of Monarchs is unique among butterflies, but like all others, they start as lowly caterpillars, and for that the species must have milkweed. Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants. The subsequent larvae, or caterpillars, eat only milkweed. Without milkweed there can be no Monarchs.
Peggy Doty, Energy and Environmental Stewardship Educator with the University of Illinois Extension and a member of Mayfield, explains the environmental value of the project for DeKalb County in particular. “Waystations for butterflies and other pollinators are critical oasis in a highly agricultural landscape. A waystation makes perfect use of remnant land and buffer spaces.”
Mayfield’s pastor, Rev. Martha Brunell, who wrote the grant, is confident that the project will also support the congregation’s spiritual growth. “Our setting is somewhat unusual,” she said. “This project will allow adults and children to explore the intended and unintended consequences of human actions. This will be a visible spot where we will see the web of life in action—pull on one strand and the whole web quivers.”
Diana Swanson, Mayfield Stewardship coordinator, connects the environmental value of the waystation to the church’s mission as well. “To me, this project is a meaningful and exciting way to link my spiritual beliefs and my love of gardening. In our little spot on this Earth we can do something real to support one of the planet’s most amazing creatures — a butterfly that travels thousands of miles and depends on Midwest milkweed to survive.” (See the Daily Chronicle’s “Face Time” interview with Diana regarding the Monarch Waystation and Jane Adeny Memorial School here.)
The project’s funder, Abbey of the Arts, is an online monastic community that offers a variety of resources “to nurture contemplative practice and creative expression.” The Earth Monastery Project supports projects and programming in three main categories: contemplative, creative, and soul care ministry. According to the online application materials, “[Abbey of the Arts] believe[s] that small, thoughtful, and carefully stewarded programs can make a big impact on the world.”
The grant money will allow installation to begin this spring, using both purchased and donated seeds, prairie plugs, and shrubs. Church members and friends will provide volunteer labor, expertise, and ongoing maintenance. The site plan also includes Leopold benches for meditation and reflection. Brunell hopes that the oasis will be a respite for both human beings and wildlife. “I imagine it becoming a place for prayer, observation, and soul healing when comfort is needed.”
WORK BEGINS, MAY 26, 2014