2011 Earth Day Sunday Celebrations

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22.  Presbyterian churches are urged to reflect on caring for God’s creation on a Sunday near Earth Day.  PC(USA) Environmental Ministries promotes the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program Earth Day resources.  This year’s resources focus on the eco-justice as community and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill.

As Earth Day fell on the same day as Good Friday this year, some Presbyterian Churches will be celebrating in May this year, so more Earth Day Sunday stories may be coming.  Below are several stories of how Presbyterian churches are celebrating Earth Day Sunday in 2011.  It is never too late to celebrate Earth Day – find resources to center an upcoming worship service on caring for God’s creation.

If your church celebrated Earth Day in 2011 and would like to share your story, please email environment@pcusa.org.

Light Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland decided to incorporate Earth Day themes in their Holy Week services this year, as Earth Day fell on Good Friday.  About the connection of these days, Rev. Roger Scott Powers wrote, “After all, they both have to do with matters of life and death: in Jesus’ case, his death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection; in the Earth’s case, the impending death of the planet (ecosystem by ecosystem, species by species) and the need for resurrection hope and renewal.”  The earth care themes in Holy Week included using Eco-Palms for Palm Sunday, connecting the issue of clean water with foot washing on Maundy Thursday, and exploring “the potential significance of seeing the risen Jesus as gardener” on Easter Sunday.

First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis is part of the Chesapeake Interfaith Environmental Group.  The group sponsored the Earth, Water and Faith Festival on May 1 in the Annapolis Towne Centre.  The event featured Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Readings and Reflections, displays on environmental education, and music from several performers.

Presbyterian Church of the Apostles in Burnsville, MN is celebrated Earth Day in worship on May 1.  The multifaceted Earth Day Sunday celebration started with worship using the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program resources. Marcia Lewis, chair of Earth Angels Apostle Group wrote in a preview of the event that the church would host a speaker from the Minnesota Council of Churches to speak on “The Christian Principles of Healthy Body and Spirit with particular emphasis on chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives.  Following the service, during fellowship time, people will be able to view a solar panel display, pick up materials on non-toxic cleaners, get free tree seedlings, and register for door prizes (soaker hose, reusable bags, low-flow shower heads, etc.).  We will ask each person to make a commitment to live greener in one area of his or her life, write it on a Minnesota-shaped Post-it note, and stick it on a large MN state map which will display as a reminder of our congregation’s pledge to become better stewards.  We plan to expand our church butterfly garden, and join a neighboring church in planting a community vegetable garden to provide fresh produce to the local food shelf.  We anxiously await the arrival of spring so we can get started!”

The Presbyterian Church in Paris, Illinois has been celebrating Earth Day in mid-May for the past 6 years.  The church’s co-pastor Rev. Laurie A. Williams wrote that the worship service includes earth care themes and is followed by “an outdoor picnic in the church yard and then many of those in attendance pitch-in and clean up the church grounds, trim bushes, and plant flowers in our two gardens and several large stone pots.”  

Southminster Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona celebrated Earth Day Sunday on May 1 with a worship service and announcements of community outreach efforts related to the church’s Urban Environmental Ministries.  Elder George B. Brooks, Jr. sent the following information about a new ministry that the church is working on: “Following in the footsteps of our already working 5 acre urban farm (established with great thanks to our partnership with MentorKids USA, Valley Presbyterian and Tiger Mountain Foundation) and our Green Revival low-income household energy conservation program, one of the new efforts will be the fish farm. Jesus said ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ (Mark 1:17). Aquaponics is a way to grow fish and plants at the same time.”

The Ecophilian Environmental Group at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California shared the following write-up by Mary Roberts, Chair of the group, about their Earth Day Sunday celebration: "The Santa Ana winds did not diminish the fun when St. Mark celebrated Earth Day!  Since the national Earth Day date landed on Good Friday, we decided to postpone our recognition of our dependence on the Earth and responsibility to care for it until May 1st. Gary Collins gave an inspiring sermon about God’s creation and love for all and the choir sang beautiful anthems. The two Environmental Scholarship winners were announced. On the patio we saw birds and animals that live in our canyon, beautiful paintings by Chip Fesko and learned about Tanaka Farms’ organic fruit and vegetable box delivery program. In the Fellowship Hall we heard about  Legal Considerations for Solar Energy – An update by Aaron Gettis  and “The Injustice of Climate Change: Faith, Eco-justice, and Global Environmental Challenges"  presented by Prof. David Feldman. Our children enjoyed environmental games and the parking lot featured eco cars from Chevrolet of Irvine and the Fredrickson’s Smart Car. The morning was so informative and fun, St. Mark’s Ecophilian Environmental Group blew us away!"  View a slideshow of the Earth Day Sunday celebration.

Thanks to all these churches  that sent in stories of their Earth Day Sunday celebrations, and to all that have taken time to incorporate themes of earth care into their church lives.

I have also heard from several churches that used part of their Earth Day Sunday worship service to recognize their new certifications as Earth Care Congregations.  If your church is active in earth care and is interested in becoming an Earth Care Congregation through affirming the Earth Care Pledge and completing projects in earth care in the fields of worship, education, facilities, and outreach, you can learn more on the Environmental Ministries website.

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