It’s time to get ready for Earth Day. This important celebration April 22nd, is often neglected by our churches, but I think should be at the forefront on our yearly rhythms. God created us from the earth and for the earth. In Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, theologian Norman Wirzba says:
When we become strangers to the earth we have lost more than our roots; we have lost touch with the rhythm of life. Where life once was seasonal and secure it is now episodic & erratic. We live after the fall… unblessed on earth and unconnected to heaven.
And in Making Peace with the Land, he goes on to say:
God’s first love is the soil. This is how it has to be, because without healthy soil and the fertility and food it makes possible, there would be no terrestrial life of any kind. God’s love for us – described definitely in John 3:16 as God’s giving of his son to us – only makes sense in terms of God’ love for the earth that sustains us.
Provocative words for us to contemplate as we get ready to celebrate our role as stewards of God’s good creation.
It’s been proven scientifically
Yet scientific evidence is growing to support this. Living near nature dramatically impacts our health and interaction with nature decreases the health gap between rich and poor. Contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive, emotional, and behavioral connections to their nearby social and biophysical environments. Nature experiences are important for encouraging imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships (here).
Kids in particular who suffer from nature deficit disorder and attention deficit disorder can have their symptoms alleviated by spending more time outdoors. Exposure to dirt happiness and even sniffing compost boost our experience, and often leave us feeling happier and healthier.
Taking another look
Early Christians believed that God spoke through two books – the book of the Bible and the “book of creation” and I think it is time for us to rediscover and start to learn from this second book.
I often say that I read about the story of God in the Bible, but in nature I experience it. Life, death and resurrection are all around us. Reading the story as it is lived out in God’s garden reaffirms our faith and teaches us enriching lessons about the God we love.
As we get ready for Earth day here are a few suggestions on how to celebrate:
I. Educate yourself about our responsibility to creation
A good way to do this might be to research the Christian organizations that make nature a priority. In Canada, where the Sunday after Earth Day is known as Good Seed Sunday, A Rocha has created a number of resources to help celebrate. Another organization that provides some great resources for the season is Let All Creation Praise. And The Christian Food Movement provides another important free downloadable resource for us.
II. Preach about God’s love for creation and our responsibility as stewards.
The Bible is rich with verses that speak of God’s love for our planet and all created beings. One of my favorite passages is Ps 65 which tells us that God is the hope of all creation. I adapted this a couple of years ago as part of a liturgy for creation that you might find interesting. You can read that by clicking here.
III. Do an eco-audit of your church.
How green is your church? When our church, St Andrews Episcopal in Seattle asked this question a few years ago, it led to a lot of changes in the way things were done. We started using recyclable plates and cups at coffee hour, composted all waste food to use in the vegetable garden that sprang up in the church grounds and solar panels were built on one of our buildings.
We love to watch the energy consumption going backwards at certain times of the day. Other initiatives are planned for the future. If you are not sure where to start check out Eco-Justice Ministries which has some great suggestions on how to go about this renovation.
IV. Get your kids out into nature.
There is a growing movement to take kindergarten outside and I think that, at least for Earth Sunday we should do the same with children’s church. A couple of years ago I started a Pinterest board (here) to share ideas on creative ways to engage kids outside in the garden. Many of these from painting rocks, to planting seeds could be adapted for use on Sunday. Kids love watching things grow and having the opportunity to eat what they have grown is an exciting experience for them.
V. Extend your celebrations into the neighborhood.
My friend and colleague Andy Wade has taught me a lot about how to reach out into our neighborhoods through the celebration of creation. In this article, he suggests everything from creating neighborhood orchards, free libraries and seed libraries to redesigning your front yard to invite neighbors in.
VI. Have some fun!
I love to conduct workshops on spirituality and gardening at this time of the year! I always plan some fun projects to go along with this. One that is always popular with kids and adults alike in making seed bombs (more here). All it takes is some air dry clay, compost and wildflower seeds. Then send the kids out to sow their bombs in waste areas around your neighborhood.
This year, let’s all take Earth day seriously. Challenge your congregation to fulfill their God given responsibility of stewarding our earth. Let’s shout and sing with all creation and with God the creator of all in joyous celebration of this beautiful earth, an amazing gift from God.