Bee-ing Good Stewards of the Environment

By Susan Shinn Turner

It may sound silly, but St. John’s is all abuzz about sustainability.

Over the past several months, St. John’s has incorporated a number of items into its sustainability initiative — from the addition of solar panels to the Education Building roof, the eliminating Styrofoam campus-wide, to the use of LED lighting. Add to that list urban beekeeping.

“Our goal is to be proper managers and stewards of our resources,” Pastor Rhodes says. “It’s also to serve as an example to other churches and businesses to see that good environmental stewardship is something all of us can do.”

“We’re doing more and more recycling,” notes Mike Agee, a member of the property committee. “We have stopped using Styrofoam because most of it cannot be recycled. And we’re participating in a program with Duke Energy to upfit and replace our fluorescent lighting. In a matter of months, Mike says, the new bulbs pay for themselves. And the new fixtures are being purchased at extreme savings thanks to Duke rebates.

“Any time you reduce energy,” Mike explains, “you save money and decrease your environmental impact.”

Staff and volunteers are working on this project, he notes. The campus will have fewer fixtures, but with greater output. “It’ll be a little brighter. If you’re a lighting purist, you replace every three years. We replace when they burn out. You’ll definitely see a noticeable difference.”

But what’s this about Urban Beekeeping? Pastor Rhodes recently took a course in beekeeping and developed a special interest in urban beekeeping, thanks to his friend Ted Goins. A block away from St. John’s, Ted keeps bees on the roof of Pottery 101, at the home he shares with wife Cheryl. Knowing of the great need for urban beekeeping, the plan was hatched: to install a hive on the rooftop of St. John’s.

At his very first class, Pastor Rhodes ran into Nathan Hough, a 24 year old member of St. John’s who wanted to be a state certified beekeeper. Nathan was excited about the church’s project and immediately signed on to help.

Nathan has been interested in bees since he was “knee high,” thanks to grandmother. At one time, Mrs. Hough kept nearly 40 hives at her home near China Grove. She’s known by some as the Queen Bee. Nathan would agree. “She’s taught me everything I know.”

In recent years, Nathan says, his grandmother needed someone to take over for her. “She basically passed the torch to me. I have two hives at my house and four at her house, and Pastor Rhodes and I now have one at church. They are his bees, but I’m helping. He’s doing a great job.”

There’s a lot to beekeeping, to be sure, and Nathan says it takes regular monitoring to see how the bees are doing, what they’re doing, and be on guard against disease and other potential problems.

Nathan says that the honeybee population has declined as much as two-thirds during the last ten years because of pesticide use and disease. “If we lose the honeybee, we’ll be in a fallout zone. We’ll have to manually pollinate crops.”

And bees pollinate a lot of things — from crops to trees to flowers to grass, Nathan says. “I mean everything! People don’t realize how important it is to keep bees.”

That’s why beekeeping — especially urban beekeeping — is so crucial, says Nathan.

“It’s a really good thing. And it has a Christian aspect, because you can see the glory of God when you watch bees. Every bee in that hive has a job. Every bee is working for the queen — as we should all be doing our part to work for God.”

The honey harvested from the St. John’s hive will be sold at Seasons Gifts in early July, with proceeds to support Escuela Integrada, our mission partner in Guatemala. And for those with questions about safety, don’t worry. “Unless you’re 4-5 feet from the hive, there’s no risk at all. And the only thing that close to the hive are the new solar panels!”

By the way, we’re looking for a name for the honey. If you have a suggestion, let us know!