Creation Care floor serves beyond van Reken
“We as a community strive to honor God, his creation, our neighbors and all who find themselves within our walls.” This covenant of 1st van Reken, Calvin College’s outdoor recreation and creation care floor, is a boiled down summary of the floor’s mission as a living-learning community in Calvin College’s northernmost dorm.
But, as residents of the floor discover, living and learning as a distinctly Christian community expands beyond the immediate living space. Floor members engage in numerous volunteer projects (from the Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup to the Maple Syrup Project) expressing love for God and his creation in a community setting — even (and often especially) outside the physical walls of first van Reken.
The Grand River Cleanup, an annual September event, is one of the service projects members of the Calvin community can participate in during the first semester. Julie Bylsma, a first-year resident of 1st van Reken, was a volunteer for the cleanup.
“It got us out into the community,” she said, “opening our eyes to how it takes a community to make a change. It gave me time in nature to think about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and how being a Christian can relate to picking up trash along a creek bed.”
Though the cleanup itself is not affiliated with any religious organization, it allows students to engage Christian ethics in the context of a diverse group working toward a common environmental goal.
To sustainability-oriented students, living out the Christian mandate of stewardship (also known as responsible dominion) can involve something as simple as picking up trash or boiling down tree sap.
Residents of 1st van Reken anticipate the upcoming Maple Syrup Project, which is scheduled to begin this weekend, weather permitting. The funds raised by the syrup production are used to finance other sustainability projects, and the event itself is an education in human relationships to resources and their use.
“Seeing how many people signed up for that who weren’t even on the floor makes us more aware of what resources we have,” Bylsma observed. She described the upcoming project as another opportunity to experience community and see the trees on campus in a new light. “To most people,” she noted, “it just looks like a tree.” 1st van Reken aims to change that perception and others surrounding natural resources, with the help of students and others who want to be involved.
In addition to specific service-learning projects, 1st van Reken is also involved in a more routine practice of sustainability: a composting program run in conjunction with Calvin College’s Physical Plant. A community effort compiles the floor’s compostable wastes and transports them across the parking lot to the Physical Plant, irrespective of the weather. Though not a specific service-learning event, the practice is an ongoing exercise in living-learning, creation care and cooperative sustainability.