MassReLeaf Ministry

Urban and Community Tree-Care For Human Justice and Survival

Over the past several years, the involvement of religious organizations in the earth’s environmental stewardship movement has gathered momentum. In towns and cities across America, people of many faiths are rolling up their sleeves in practical and far-reaching ways in response to a faith-filled call to re-examine what it means to be human and how we must live on this planet for survival.

In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MACUCC) and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation have established a state-wide environmental social action facilitation ministry - the MassReLeaf Ministry - as a part of this national religious-environmental movement. The MassReLeaf Ministry recently completed ten years of facilitating tree-care projects led by local religious organizations of any faith on public and access qualified lands across Massachusetts.

The MassReLeaf Ministry responds to the “Creation Story” found in the Book of Genesis. As you may recall from this story, God gave us some very precious gifts to rely on:

  • A unique and completely nourishing natural environment to sustain all life as we know it.
  • The gift of intelligent human life.
  • Other creatures and vegetation on earth.
  • The responsibility and ability to nurture all of the above precious gifts to support the survival of humankind.

The MassReLeaf Ministry is focused on the last three of these gifts. Its purpose is to help minister to the physical and mental health, emotional stability and community spirit of people living in deforested urban and blighted areas across the state of Massachusetts. Specific goals of the MassReLeaf Ministry are to:

  • Emphasize the responsibilities of everyone to care for the welfare of others through environmental action.
  • Help bring environmental justice into the lives of everyone, especially people most in need in our state.
  • Participate in active citizenship with municipal governments and other local organizations as a way to successfully provide environmental benefits to the maximum number of people - people are mainly concentrated in population centers.
  • Develop a greater understanding of the needs and benefits to humans provided through environmental activism.

The MassReLeaf Ministry offers local religious organizations, working in coordination with their respective municipalities and other local organizations, unique opportunities to lead real, hands-on tree-care projects to improve the quality of our shared environment and enhance the lives of thousands of citizens living in population centers across Massachusetts. This ministry brings the idea of human environmental justice into the neighborhoods and lives of those most in need in our state.

The MassReLeaf Ministry provides a services and materials infrastructure that enables local religious organizations of any faith to lead successful local tree-care projects.

This ministry provides money to local religious organizations to pay for the trees needed to conduct these tree-care projects. Also, since most people in local religious organizations have never planted large trees in a municipal setting, the MassReLeaf Ministry provides the following to local religious organizations:

  1. Education about theological environmental responsibilities and the benefits provided by trees to humans in an  urban setting.
  2. Connections with appropriate local municipal counterparts to help plan and conduct  tree-care projects. 
  3. Significant project management guidance.
  4. Project planning support.
  5. Proper tree-care and maintenance technique training.
  6. Technical support resources to ensure success of their respective projects, if needed.

So, MassReLeaf Ministry projects cost local religious organizations little more than their desire and effort to plan and conduct environmental social action service projects, similar to the way they currently support other ministries like Habitat for Humanity, Greater Boston Food Bank, Rosie’s Place and many others.

The Benefits of Healthy Urban and Community Forests

The environmental benefits of healthy urban and community forests are many, but some of them are summarized below for your benefit:

Our urban and community forests provide:                                                                     

  • noise reduction (50%)
  • cooling shade (winter/summer cyclical effects
  • visual screening (basic human need for privacy)
  • enhanced property values (25 to 30%)
  • economic growth (attractive to patrons)
  • community pride (a sense of community spirit and involvement)
  • reduction of crime (28 to 30% less)
  • more rapid recovery from illnesses (2 ½ times faster)

Our urban and community forests reduce levels of pollutants such as solid particles, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and others that seriously impact human physical, mental and emotional health negatively.

Each urban tree absorbs an average of 15 times the pollution of pristine forest trees. (Population centers are where the pollution is concentrated.)

  • Each urban tree absorbs an average of .46 tons of the above toxic gases per year.
  • Each urban tree absorbs an average of about 5 pounds of minute solid particles that cause severe asthma, emphysema and lung cancer in humans. (Penetrate sacs of the lungs)

Our urban and community forests:

  • reduce heating and cooling needs for residential buildings thereby reducing costs.
  • reduce the “urban heat island effect" (localized heating due to the preponderance of black topped surfaces) to provide a more human-friendly living environment.   
  • reduce rainfall runoff and erosion, thereby improving water quality and quicker re-charge of local aquifers.
  • function as habitat for wildlife to enrich human enjoyment of these creatures.
  • contribute to the reduction of global warming for the long term security of the Earth.

So you can see that there are enormous human benefits to maintaining healthy urban and community forests in our population centers.

MassReLeaf Ministry Activities to Date


To date, the MassReLeaf Ministry has facilitated 42 tree-care projects led by local religious organizations in communities across Massachusetts. 45 local religious organizations have participated in these projects (along with local municipal counterparts and other community organizations) and planted 744 trees (200 to 350 pounds each). In addition, the MassReLeaf Ministry provided 290 seedlings to the UCC Massachusetts Conference 2011 Annual Meeting to emphasize the importance of planting trees in the religious-environmental movement and to have local UCC churches across Massachusetts plant them on their local church properties. All of these seedling trees were taken home by people attending the Annual Meeting from the UCC local churches.

 Local religious organizations that have led MassReLeaf Ministry facilitated projects to date are:

  • The First Congregational Church in Somerville
  • The First Congregational Church in Billerica
  • The First Congregational Church of Fall River (several projects)
  • The First Congregational Church in Gardner
  • The Fall Greater Fall River Council of Churches (several projects/several local churches each)
  •  Ecclesia Ministries of Boston
  • The Quincy Point Congregational Church
  • The Old First Church in Springfield (several projects)
  • The First Baptist Church in Worcester
  • The East Congregational Church in Milton
  • The Wilbraham United Church (Springfield project)
  • The South Church of Andover
  • The First United Methodist Church in Westfield
  • The Fourth Presbyterian Church in Roxbury
  • The Andover-Newton Theological School in Newton (with several local churches)
  • Saint Michaels Episcopal Church in Milton (with another local church)
  • The United Parish in Fall River (several projects)
  • The Wellesley Congregational Church
  • The Wellesley Hills Congregational Church
  • The First Church of Deerfield (Greenfield project)
  • First Congregational and Saint Mary's Catholic Churches of Shrewsbury (Worcester Project)
  • Edwards and Grace Congregational Churches of Framingham
  • MACUCC 2011 Annual Meeting Seedlings Project
  • The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester 

How You Can Start to Participate

If you would like to learn more about this exciting ministry, please contact one of the following:

MassReLeaf Ministry Director - Neal Seaborn (781-237-2152) or eseaborn@comcast.net

Assistant MassReLeaf Ministry Director - Eric Seaborn (781-907-3749) or eric.seaborn@nationalgrid.com

DCR – Julie Coop (617-626-1468) or Julie.coop@state.ma.us

There are three ways your local religious organization can participate in the MassReLeaf Ministry:

1.    Lead a MassReLeaf Ministry Project on “Public Lands”

The primary tree-care projects that the MassReLeaf Ministry facilitates through local religious organizations, working with local municipal counterparts and other local organizations, are on “Public Lands” and are generally large projects. Grant application guidelines and forms for these types of projects can be downloaded by clicking on the MassReLeaf Ministry Grant Application Guidelines and Forms shown below. To download copies of the forms, please click on the title of each document desired:

2016-2017 Grant Application Guidelines

2016-2017 Face Sheet

2016-2017 Standard Project Contract Form

    2.    Lead a MassReLeaf Ministry Project on “Access Qualified Private Lands”

The MassReLeaf Ministry also offers a program to support planting trees on “Access Qualified Private Lands” (such as local religious organization properties) as part of religious environmental events. The goal of this new program is to offer a simple way to get local religious organizations interested in planting trees for the environmental benefits they provide to people in municipal areas and as a small way to help reduce Global Warming. The first of these “Access Qualified Private Lands” projects was completed by the Wellesley Congregational Church in December, 2009 as a practical service complement to their “350 Bell Ringing” religious environmental education event.

Under this “Access Qualified Private Lands” program, the MassReLeaf Ministry tree-care facilitation services available to local religious organizations are as follows:

• Reimbursement of the cost of trees needed to conduct tree-care projects on “Access Qualified Private Lands” as part of religious environmental events.
• Education about theological environmental responsibilities and the benefits provided by trees to humans in an urban setting.
• Project planning support.
• Proper tree-planting and maintenance technique training.
• Technical support resources to ensure success of their respective projects.

To get started on a MassReLeaf Ministry supported “Access Qualified” tree-care project, please contact one of the MassReLeaf Ministry personnel shown above and we can explore together the planning needed to conduct such a tree-care project.

    3.   Make a financial donation to the MassReLeaf Ministry

A small financial gift from your local religious organization would make an enormous difference in our ability to help fund tree-care projects led by other local religious organizations across the state. To donate, please make your check out to the MassReLeaf Ministry and send it to:

MassReLeaf Ministry
Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ
One Badger Road
Framingham, MA 01702

Attn: Karen Methot 

Applications/requests for MassReLeaf Ministry support for 2017 spring projects must be received by the MassReLeaf Ministry not later than March 31, 2017, and for 2017 fall projects no later than September 15, 2017.

 

  Click here to read the article about an example Mass ReLeaf Ministry project described in the June, 2006 edition of the DCR Citizen Forester.