By Cindy Haverkamp, PNWUMC Creation Care Connector
The Sunday closest to Earth Day this year is Easter. This means that the church calendar has two BIG opportunities to celebrate: Easter, the second-most attended church service of the year, and what we Methodists call “The Festival of God’s Creation”, on the very same day! Now, some folks may enjoy the excuse to attend two parties in one day, but there are others of us who dread joint holidays…too much food, too many relatives, too much stress!
So…sit back, relax, and consider these ideas for giving each important day its own party!
Option 1: Keep it all together. The message of Easter is one of re-birth and renewal, two themes very much in keeping with caring for the earth. It would make sense for Earth Day Easter sermons to focus on the connections between these two and there are plenty of good sermons like this one by Erin Coleman Branchaud that might give you some ideas. Bobby McFerrin’s choir interpretation of “Psalm 23” would be a nice accompaniment, and you could send people off with a packet of seeds, reminding them that just as Jesus came back as he said he would, spring and green, growing things will too.
Option 2: Earth Month. The Sierra Club calls ALL of April Earth Month, so why not have a special Earth Month service on Sunday, March 31 to kick off a month full of Creation Care moments during services? Start things off with an Earth Day sermon—note that the lectionary this week is filled with themes of God’s provisions for us, forgiveness and reconciliation—and then give members of your “Green Team” or “Earth Stewards” a small time during each of the next four services in April to share something Creation Care-oriented?
Option 3: Celebrate Earth Day with a Wednesday night dinner on April 24! If you missed my article on St. Johns UMC’s Sustainable Eating dinner, check it out. There are lots of ideas here for hosting an earth-friendly dinner that keeps the focus on eating in ways that protect, rather than harm the earth.
Option 4: Celebrate Arbor Day as a church. Arbor Day is Friday, April 26 this year. A worship service the following Sunday, April 28 could feature a tree planting in the churchyard in honor of God’s creation. Even more festive would be a churchyard or town clean-up after church where garden beds are weeded, and new plantings are put in the ground.
Option 5: Rogation Day! In the early church, there were major and minor Rogation Days when congregations blessed the soil and prayed for a bountiful harvest. For a fascinating history, click here. This year’s Rogation Days are April 25 (which is a Thursday) and the three days prior to Ascension Sunday, which are May 27-29. Fun ideas for a Rogation prayer service include having congregants come to church in their gardening clothes, bringing their hand tools, seeds and even tractors to an outdoor blessing service. The 1965 version of the Methodist Book of Worship for Church and home has a nice prayer to accompany such a service!
No matter how or when you choose to celebrate, giving Earth Day it’s due—whether combining it with the Easter message or giving it a different, but equally special moment—provides a valuable opportunity to remind congregants of their sacred responsibility to care for God’s creation.
On a Sunday or a Wednesday or even on a Rogation Day, give some time for an Earth Day message of reconciliation between God, humankind and creation and an opportunity for folks to commit to more sustainable ways of being that will lead to a higher quality of life for all of creation (UM 2016 Book of Resolutions, #1033).