God’s people have good reason to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th birthday with worship, prayer, education, action and advocacy. We need to help reboot and rebrand Earth Day to help galvanize public attention on today’s problems, just as Earth Day did on environmental issues a half-century ago.
The need to care for creation has never been greater. Our one and only God-given home is in grave danger from a climate change, an environmental threat that was not even a dot on radar screen when Earth Day began.
Pollution was the big issue in 1970. Smog, DDT (and other toxins), acid rain, oil spills and industrial waste in the air and water incited the public to demand action. And action we got: Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970); major strengthening of the Clean Air Act (1970) and Clean Water Act (1972); and passage of the Endangered Species Protection Act (1973). These public policy measures helped clean up our natural home.
Today we need the same kind of public outrage over climate change, which is already here and will only get worse. Rising sea levels, warming temperatures, extreme weather, melting ice caps and glaciers, accelerating species extinction and dying coral reefs are all signs of a planet being destroyed by human activity – principally burning fossil fuels.
Scientists say civilization has already missed the chance to easily change course, but it’s not too late to save the planet for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. But we have to get going.
As God’s people, we have a double mandate to act. First, God charged us with being stewards for God’s creation. It’s God’s planet; our responsibility. Second, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that includes not only our neighbors who are babies but also the generations yet unborn.
Don’t let the 50th birthday of Earth Day pass by uncelebrated. Yes, the Coronavirus is soaking up everyone’s emotional and bandwidth right now, but you can still incorporate teaching, preaching and earth-awareness into your congregational life. Here are some ideas, followed by some links where you can find resources and inspiration:
- Plan a virtual “Earth Day 50” Sunday where your church remembers the first Earth Day and commits to fighting climate change. Digital worship may enable you to use video clips to help explore the theme.
- Hold bible studies and other classes on the environment. You can use Earth Day’s 50th birthday to launch a multi-part series exploring creation care (some great resources are listed below).
- Equip families with activities for parents and children involving creation care.
- Find and publicize movies available on streaming services dealing with environmental issues.
- Form a “Green Team” to help your congregation practice, model and teach about environmentally friendly practices (see my blog post from last year).
- Advocate for the environment. Many Christian groups have formed to educate about creation care and push for public policies to help save the planet (some are below). Find one you and your congregation can assist.
- Wait. Celebrate a belated birthday for Earth Day. When it’s safe to reopen churches for worship, designate a Sunday as Earth Sunday and plan worship, education and fellowship activities around the theme. At fellowship hour, serve a 50th birthday cake for the Earth.
- Designate the rest of the church year “Earth Year.” The environmental crisis is big enough to spend lots of time in prayer and education. Spend from now until Nov. 22 exploring creation through teaching, preaching and advocacy.
Here are some resources to help:
Earth Day Sunday 2020: The Fierce Urgency of Now – Every year Creation Justice Ministries puts together a wonderful package of material. For this 50th year, their offerings are especially in-depth. Lots of good links for education, preaching, worship and advocacy. Some materials are available “co-branded” with major denominations.
Celebrate Earth Day as Church Together but Apart – Lutherans Restoring Creation suggests five ways to celebrate Earth Day while under Coronavirus restrictions. Check out the organization’s weekly preaching reflections to help make
Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping – Here is a real gem! This 50-page resource includes a leader guide and participant materials for use in small groups: adult or older youth Sunday school, Christian Education classes, women’s circles, men’s groups, congregational “Green Team,” or in a retreat setting. (Also can be ordered for $5 from the ELCA Resource Catalog.)
Every Creature Singing – From the Mennonite Creation Care Network. Educate your church on how our decisions impact the one and only planet that God gave us to live on — and how we can care for creation! “Every Creature Singing” gives you a detailed 13-session lesson plan, as well as a teacher’s guide. Each lesson has Scripture, readings, discussion questions that focus on your neighborhood, and other resources.
Form a ‘Green Team’ – Get your congregation involved in the environmental movement to inspire members to take personal and collective steps that will help ensure we will leave a safe, fertile planet for our children’s children. A congregational “Green Team” can help through education, advocacy and action. Lutherans Restoring Creation explains how!
Let’s talk climate and faith – Understanding that environmental action is controversial in some Christian circles, several church groups got together to create this helpful 21-page guide for initiating helpful conversations around creation care. Very helpful in your personal or congregational ministry. It was put together by a collaboration of Mainline Christians.
17 ways to become and ‘eco-preacher’ and help the planet — As the environmental crisis deepens, many Christian leaders would like to say more about the environment in their preaching, but they don’t know how. In this post, Pastor Leah Schade of Lexington Theological Seminary has some creative ideas for kickstarting your preaching!
Earth Day Sunday Resources – Good resources and links from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Let All Creation Praise – Here’s an ecumenical group that has links to all sorts of worship and educational materials.
Earth Day Liturgy – from the National Council of Churches.
Earth Day Sunday – The United Church of Canada.
Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth – Here you’ll find an archive of materials, such as sermons and liturgies, from this year and the past.
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