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How can your congregation celebrate Earth Day?

Presbyterian Hunger Program and ecumenical partners have resources for Earth Day, Earth Month

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Many churches celebrate Earth Day, April 22, and Earth Month in April. The Presbyterian Hunger Program has resources to help. (Photo by Noah Buscher via Unsplash)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — While it is not a faith-based occasion, it is fair to argue that Earth Day should be a natural observance for Christians. In the first pages of Scripture, God calls us to care for Creation.

Whether Earth Day, April 22, and Earth Month are annual celebrations in your faith community or new to you, the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) has a variety of resources of its own and from ecumenical partners to enrich your observance — from activities to studies and even a new film screening. With the day and month upon us, we asked Jessica Maudlin Phelps, PHP’s Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns, to help orient and guide us to what is available.

Q: How broadly do you sense Earth Day is celebrated in PC(USA) churches, and what are some of your favorite things you have seen churches do?

A: We do think there is fairly wide celebration, particularly by the 276 Earth Care Congregations. Some of them plan months in advance, choosing not just to celebrate Earth Day Sunday but using the opportunity to do recycling, environmental fairs, gardening tutorials and butterfly education throughout the month as a way of connecting with the broader community. We have seen that COVID has limited some celebrations and anticipate that will be true again in 2021. However, congregations have continued to show their resiliency and commitment to honoring God’s creation.

Q: Is there anything new in this year’s resources you want to highlight?

A: As Creation Justice Ministries said in the introduction to its Earth Day resource, “We are reeling from a year that has laid bare the unjust and inequitable systems enabled by a history of structural and environmental racism. In the midst of a global pandemic, vulnerable communities at the intersections of these unjust systems — doubly affected by histories of environmental racism and subsequent health vulnerability — remain disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” We are called as people of faith to steward and care for of all of God’s Creation to speed the coming of the kin-dom of God.

Q: In addition to sharing PC(USA) resources, you are sharing resources from Creation Justice Ministries. Can you tell us a little bit about them and how PC(USA) got involved with them?

A: As we all work to be stewards of resources and time, PHP no longer produces our own Earth Day Sunday resources as this is a place that we find our ecumenical work with groups like Interfaith Power & Light and Creation Justice Ministries to be really valuable.

Creation Justice Ministries produces the Earth Day Sunday resource with photo and content input from a variety of denominations. CJM educates, equips and mobilizes Christian communions/denominations, congregations and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God’s creation. Based on the priorities of its members, with a particular concern for the vulnerable and marginalized, Creation Justice Ministries provides collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guides people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations and raises a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ’s call for just relationships among all of Creation.

We also partner with Interfaith Power & Light to promote Faith Climate Action Week. This is 10 days (April 16-25) in April during Earth Month when congregations focus on how we can all take action to protect our climate. The 2021 theme is “Sacred Ground: Cultivating Connections Between our Faith, our Food, and the Climate.” This year they are offering, among many activities, the opportunity for churches to screen “Kiss the Ground.” a new documentary film about how regenerating the world’s soils has the potential to rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies. This film explains why transitioning to regenerative agriculture could be key in rehabilitating the planet while simultaneously invigorating a new sense of hope and inspiration in viewers.

Q: Are there particular areas of Earth care and Earth Day observance you would encourage people to focus on this year, particularly considering the pandemic?

A: Earthday.org has named 2021’s theme “Restore Our Earth.” That feels like a great place for us to focus. In 2020 we saw the forced limiting of our activities give the Earth some space to heal even as so many people were lost.

In Genesis 2:15, God gave humankind a command in regard to the garden. Too often this translation has been used to justify the ways in which we have dominated Creation. If we dig deeper, though, we learn that the Hebrew word for “tend” (or some translations say “keep”) is “shamar” and it means “to guard” or “to watch and protect.” The word “work” or as some translations more accurately say, “to cultivate,” is from the Hebrew word “abad” meaning “to serve.” Looking at it this way, Genesis 2:15 would better be read as: “The Lord God took the human and put the human in the garden of Eden to serve it and to guard and protect it.” Serve. Guard. Protect. This is language that calls us to be restorers rather than desecrators.

So we would challenge folks to 1) Connect with Creation in a new and deeper way, whether that’s spending time in nature or advocating for some aspect of Creation. 2) Out of that new connection, consider what it might mean to live on the face of the Earth as fueled by a desire to be a restorer.

It is not always easy, this sacred calling of serving and protecting. But as people of faith, we do not take lightly this task of honoring the intrinsic worth of Creation as a way of living out the justice of the gospel.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Give to One Great Hour of Sharing to support the Presbyterian Hunger Program in its work to alleviate hunger and eliminate its root causes.


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