Springtime and the joys of Eastertide often renew our desire to seek out God in the natural world. Newly appearing flowers, budding trees, and singing birds can lift our gratitude for God’s good creation to new heights.
I hope Christian communities everywhere are finding ways to embrace this season of resurrection bliss. And the Sunday closest to Earth Day, April 22, is a great time to express reverence for our Creator by showing great respect for creation. The tradition of honoring Earth Day Sunday has bipartisan and ecumenical roots going back to the 1970s. If celebrating Earth Day Sunday is not yet a tradition upheld in your faith community, there’s no time like the present to get started!
Some tried-and-true ideas for Earth Day Sunday celebrations include planning an Earth Day themed worship service, having bulletin inserts or handouts for congregation members, and inviting guest speakers with relevant expertise.
For example, each year at Trinity Lutheran Church in northern Wisconsin, youth lead the entire Earth Day service camp-style, with camp songs from Luther Park Bible camp. In Carey, Ohio, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Sacred Earth Ministry is holding an art and garden show to celebrate 'Seed, Soil, and Soul Sunday' after all masses. In Wheatland, Iowa, at the Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary is co-hosting an event featuring guest speakers who will share about Native American spirituality.
Churches also can use the day to encourage congregants to take steps toward more sustainable lifestyle choices. Some churches have used the day to encourage congregants to try out a more ecologically sustainable journey to church by walking, biking, taking public transit, or organizing carpools. Others use the day to install solar panels and more efficient lightbulbs, switch to low-flow faucet aerators, put up signs to become more mindful about energy and water use, or pick up trash on or near church grounds.
In 2013, St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Ind., organized a blessing of solar panels on the Sunday nearest to Earth Day. Paris Presbyterian Church in Illinois has plans to celebrate in their church yard with an outdoor picnic and opportunity for congregants to plant flowers. In Madison, Wisc., the Backyard Women’s Project is collaborating with St. John’s Lutheran Youth Forum to create mosaic rocks that will identify plants in their perennial spiral herb garden.
If your church has not yet organized something, faith organizations offer guides for education, worship, and action. Creation Justice Ministries provides Earth Day Sunday toolkits on a range of themes. This year’s toolkit focuses on “Sense of Place.” Interfaith Power & Light has shared a wealth of resources for its Climate Action Week, running April 14-22. And the UCC Council for Climate Justice has spearheaded an interfaith effort to preach a thousand sermons in solidarity with the 21 children and youth who are suing the federal government over climate change. Youth are especially encouraged to preach as part of this effort.
With these resources for stewardship and renewal, I wish you a blessed Easter season, and a Happy Earth Day!