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Presbyterians prepare to commemorate Earth Day

Annual event celebrated this weekend

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Presbyterians will join other interfaith, ecumenical and environmental leaders across the world this weekend to commemorate Earth Day, an annual event to show support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it is now recognized in nearly 200 countries and coordinated by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day is actually April 22, but Presbyterian churches will also be celebrating Earth Day Sunday April 23, utilizing resources such as hymns, scripture and other materials provided by Environmental Ministries.

“With the prevalence of an ethic of caring for God’s creation throughout scripture, Reformed Theology, Presbyterian hymns, liturgies and tradition, we don’t need a particular designated day for earth care in our churches,” said the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “However, it is helpful to have this day and other days as reminders and invitations to weave our Christian ethic of care for God’s good world throughout our lives, whether it’s the April 22 Earth Day, the September 1 World Day of Prayer for Care of All Creation, or anytime throughout the year. Having a faith lens through which to operate as communities pull together Earth Day celebrations is helpful and meaningful for many church members.”

Churches across the U.S. will hold special services and/or provide literature to help congregations get involved. This year, the theme of environmental justice with indigenous peoples is encouraged for faith communities. Worship resources on eco-justice, animals, food and climate are available even as Earth Day activities often center around recycling efforts, tree planting, hiking or participating in rallies or concerts focusing on climate.

Countries across the world plan various activities to draw attention to environmental/climate issues. In Peru, which has been impacted by heavy rains and flooding this year, climate change has been a major point of discussion for faith groups. On Earth Day, many will gather in the Andean town of Huancayo with PC(USA) global partner Red Uniendo Manos Peru (the Peru Joining Hands Network) and local communities whose health and livelihood have been directly impacted by mining contamination and climate change.

“We will join our voices not only to celebrate the bounty of God’s goodness but also to advocate for responsible legislation that protects human and environmental health alike,” said mission co-worker Jed Hawkes Koball, who has lived in Peru for eight years. “We will continue our ongoing work of organizing for the realignment of our priorities as a human race and for the reconciliation between humans and the rest of nature.”

Koball says that while farmers and herders in Peru face the impacts of a rapidly changing climate, the Lima-based Congress is currently moving to pass a law that will weaken emissions standards by a factor of 10 in order to facilitate the reopening of a metal smelter.

An oil spill nearly 50 years ago motivated peace activists to raise awareness of environmental issues leading to the creation of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was commemorated by nearly 2,000 colleges and 10,000 schools across the U.S. It’s estimated that more than 1 billion people will commemorate Earth Day this year.

Presbyterian Hunger Program is able to respond on Earth Day and every day thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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