MNA Odyssey: A Church’s Mission and A Looking Glass Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Photos at A Looking Glass

Members of the tour group pause to take photos of some of the beautiful prairie plants at the sanctuary. Photo by Johanna Swanson

The skies cleared after a rainy night as we gathered on August 27. This was a very special Monday for both the Odyssey Tour and members of the Church of The Fellowship For Today as we came together at A Looking Glass Sanctuary. With much to be proud of, the members of this small church fellowship had decided that preserving the 13.63 acres along the pristine A Looking Glass River was of more importance to their mission than building a structure to be used “two hours a week”. What a joy to meet the people who made the decision to make a commitment to the greater community, as well as the future, by protecting something so very special. Under the leadership of minister emeritus Beth Monteith, funds were raised to purchase what was to become A Looking Glass Sanctuary and in 2006, it was entrusted to MNA for protection and stewardship. Still very involved in the care of the sanctuary, the members of the Church of the Fellowship For Today have much to celebrate. Special recognition must be given to our oldest participant up to this point on the Odyssey, Leon Harris. Mr. Harris, who will soon turn 95, walked part of the trail with us, and it was an honor to meet this gentleman who was instrumental in finding the property that we all can enjoy in perpetuity. We hope there are many more hikes in his future! 

A Looking Glass Sanctuary, the smallest of the showcase sanctuaries, is located just north of the capitol city of Lansing.  The preserve consists of southern floodplain forest, a prairie habitat, and oak uplands; it is named after the Looking Glass River that runs along the east boundary of the preserve. A newly constructed trail led us through the prairie habitat and along the edges of the oak uplands and the floodplain.  The earth here is starting to heal from farming, evident by the appearance of some native prairie plants, like the beautiful Baptisia and ironweed that we found. The invasive autumn olive has attempted to crowd out these native plants, and the work that has been done by the volunteers who steward the sanctuary shows how important caretakers are to controlling undesirable invasive species. Sandhill cranes with their 5-6 foot wingspan have been spotted soaring over the sanctuary, and a variety of birds dwell within the woods.  The sanctuary floods along the river in the spring, and in the fall there are beautifully colored trees on the high grassy plain.  But the real story here is the church’s goal of “restoring the land to its native state and creating a sea of green”.  This way, it can be shared with all creatures, and not be just brick and mortar that isolates man from nature.

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