and Defending God's Creation
God created the earth and all that is in it and declared it good. God's creation is marked by wondrous complexity, interdependence and beauty. Human beings are called by God to the task of stewardship - taking care of the earth respectfully for its own sake and so that present and future generations may live on it and enjoy its fruits. The gifts of creation and the responsibility of stewardship were given to all of humanity, so that all might have enough and no one would have more than is needed and God ís justice would prevail.
In our pride and brokenness, all of humankind is in sin and separated from God. The earth has not been well cared for. The water and air and land are polluted with poisons which hurt people and all creation. Many species of animals and plants are endangered by the behavior of human beings. Some have even become extinct.
We have not shared the fruits of creation justly. Some people live in luxury, taking more than they need, while others are desperately poor, especially people of color.
God, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, heals and reconciles humanity and all of creation to God. We are able to become new creations - the new comes and the old passes away.
God calls the church to participate in the redemption of individuals, all of humanity and creation. Therefore, ministries of environmental stewardship and environmental justice are significant in the mission of our congregations and judicatories. Therefore the governing body (session, church council, vestry, consistory etc.) of our congregation affirms the importance of healing and defending creation to our mission. We promise to become engaged in or to continue to be engaged in this ministry in the following ways:
Worship - In worship, we will celebrate God's grace and glory in creation and will declare that God calls us to participate in the redemption of the world by cherishing, protecting and restoring creation.
Learning and Teaching - We will seek opportunities for ourselves and our children to learn more about the wonders of creation, the threats posed by human beings to the survival of creation and the possibilities of our participating in God's redemption and justice.
Lifestyle - Our individual and congregation's lifestyles will respect and cherish creation. We will form habits of consuming, conserving and sharing that serve to protect and restore the environment. In particular, we will reuse and recycle as many materials as we can and seek ways of limiting our consumption of fossil fuels.
Community, National and Global Involvement - In our community, the nation and the world, our congregation will witness to and participate in God's redemption of creation by supporting public efforts and policies which support vulnerable people and protect and restore the degraded earth.
Each year we will review our previous year's work on environmental justice and consider other ways we can participate in God's redemption of creation.
(Please keep this in the official minutes of the governing body of your congregation)
Some Suggestions for Implementing Your Covenant
1. Use worship materials which point to the reality that God created and redeems creation and calls the church to the tasks of healing and defending it. Worship materials are found in God's Earth: Our Home.
2. Include the goodness of God's creation regularly in music, prayer, and congregational worship, as well as during Earth Day and other special services. Consider environmental ethics in a sermon or a series of sermons. Hold your worship service outside occasionally at a camp or park or on the church grounds instead of in the church building.
3. For each person baptized, plant a tree in the church yard or community. Suggest that church members contribute trees as a living memorial to loved ones who have died. Appoint a committee to oversee the selection and planting of the trees.
4. Become a congregation committed to celebrating God's Sabbath by taking time for rest, community building, enjoying God's creation together and giving rest to nature. Remember that the Sabbath is for all of creation, not just for human beings.
5. Confess to God as individuals and a congregation your own involvement in exploiting and neglecting the world that God created and called good.
6. Create a series of banners for your church sanctuary that portrays creation themes. Display them often as reminders of our call to protect and heal the creation.
7. Produce an environmental awareness drama as part of a worship service.
8. In the autumn, hold a special worship service of thanksgiving for the harvest. Have gardeners from the congregation bring an offering of vegetables or fruit from their gardens. Other people can contribute canned goods. Make arrangements ahead of time with a local food bank or soup kitchen to receive a donation of the food contributions. (Some food banks do not have the facilities to receive fresh food, so make sure you check ahead of time.)
The service should emphasize thanksgiving for all the bounty of God's provision. A cornucopia of vegetables could replace the traditional altar flowers for the service. Remind the congregation that Christians in many parts of the developing world bring an offering each Sabbath which includes gifts that come directly from the land. By having a similar offering once a year, we acknowledge our dependence on God's creation, recognize the faithfulness of these brothers and sisters in Christ, and affirm our common call to feed the hungry.
LEARNING AND TEACHING
1. Purchase books and videos for the church library that deal with protecting and healing God's creation. A list of books and other resources can be found in God's Earth, Our Home.
A Resource List of Environmental Justice Materials is available from Environmental Justice Resources. Use the lower box on the back page of this form to order a copy.
2. Plan a church-wide vacation Bible School for all ages using the theme of celebrating God's world. Use learning materials contained in God's Earth, Our Home and in your denominational Christian education resources. Invite members of the community to join with your congregation in the program.
3. Visit a neighborhood of your region where there is a high level of contamination. Find out who lives near the contamination and what affects it has on those who live close by. See how often these are neighborhoods of the poor and people of color. Join in efforts to end the contamination.
4. Hold church school classes outside whenever possible. Discover ways that you can learn from nature.
5. Offer a workshop for gardeners on composting, organic gardening, and indigenous plants. Teach about using alternatives to pesticides and artificial fertilizers in the garden.
6. Take a field trip. Tour your town's garbage dump, water supply, sewage treatment plant, recycling center, and power plant. Learn more about what happens to the waste your community produces. Prepare questions to ask the guides who show you around. Follow up on the tours by writing a report for your church newsletter or your community newspaper to share the information you have gained.
7. Choose a book or article from "Resources for Ecology and Justice," God's Earth, Our Home. Study it together as part of an adult education class. Ask people from your congregation representing diverse points of view to form a panel that responds to the book.
8. Sponsor a contest design for a poster, T-shirt, button, or bumper sticker with an environmental theme.
9. Take high school students or college students on a four-day backpacking trip. As you spend time in the wilderness together, study the Exodus story emphasizing the Israelites' dependence on God during their journey. Pray together the Psalms that speak of the wonder and awe of God's creation.
1. At Christmas time, give a birthday gift to Jesus by sharing 25% of your Christmas budget with the needy. Use recycled paper for Christmas cards and gift wrap. Respect the environment in the gifts you select. Give gifts of your time or skills instead of expensive things.
2. Look for ways of saving energy (and money!) in your home. Turn down the thermostat in the winter and turn it up in the summer. Weather strip windows and doors. Insulate the walls and ceiling. Install storm windows.
3. Use a push or electric-powered mower instead of a gas-powered mower to cut your lawn. Or, better yet, turn part of your yard into a meadow of indigenous wild flowers.
4. When purchasing appliances, look for low-energy, high-efficiency models.
5. Leave your car at home whenever possible. Instead, choose public transportation, carpooling, walking, bicycling, or staying at home. When purchasing a new car, look for the most fuel-efficient model you can find. You may be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 5,000 pounds per year!
1. Conduct a thorough audit of the energy use in your church buildings and programs. Look for ways that energy can be saved.
2. Turn off lights, fans, and air conditioners when not in use. Turn down the heat and water heaters at night and on days that the church is not in use.
3. Study your church grounds. How many pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers, and how much watering and mowing are necessary to keep the church grounds attractive and healthy? Are there indigenous strains of flowers, trees, and bushes that would be more hardy and insect resistant? Are there areas that could be converted to wild flower meadows to reduce the need for mowing? Is there an area that could be used for an organic vegetable garden to help supply healthy vegetables to a local food pantry? What compromises would your church community be willing to make on appearances in order to create an earth-friendly environment?
4. Make a commitment as a church to cut back on use of disposable cups, plates, and utensils. Take an inventory of the number of paper or styrofoam cups the church uses in a month and then look for ways of gradually reducing the number by asking people to carry their own coffee mugs to meetings and coffee hour. Ask people to supply their own dishes and utensils for church dinners and then take them home to wash them.
COMMUNITY, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL INVOLVEMENT
2. Keep track of how your governmental leaders vote on environmental issues. Your national denominational offices or the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches can provide you with this information. Make your congregation aware of the voting records through a regular column in your church newsletter. Ask people to consider this information when voting.
4. Encourage members of the congregation to write letters to the President asking him to raise the automobile fuel economy standards. The president is authorized to make these changes without the approval of congress. The standards have not been raised since 1986, and the technology for fuel efficiency has improved significantly since then.
5. Explore ways of getting media coverage for an issue that concerns you. Letters to the editor, paid advertisements, and public service announcements are avenues open to everyone. Public policy makers are far more likely to respond to an issue that has generated public concern.
6. Do you know which agencies in your community, city, county, or state have responsibilities for environmental issues and how to contact them? You might consider issues such as: soil contamination, air and water pollution and endangered species. After gathering this information, make it available to church members. Invite officials from these agencies to speak at your church.
For Reporting Your Congregation As An Environmental Justice Covenant Congregation
Please return to the Environmental Justice office of your denomination or to the Eco-Justice Working Group, National Council of Churches, Room 812, 475 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10115. The phone number is 212-870-2385 or 2386; the fax is 212-870-2265. A certificate will be sent to each Covenant Congregation.
The governing body (session, vestry, church council etc.) voted to become an Environmental Justice Covenant Congregation on ________________ (date).
Pastor Middle Governing Body (diocese. presbytery, etc.)
Address of Church:
A contact person from your congregation with whom the environmental justice office of your denomination and the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches can be in touch is:
Name of Contact Person:
Address of Contact Person:
For Ordering Materials
Please send this form to Environmental Justice Resources, National Council
of Churches, PO Box 968, Elkhart, Indiana 46515, 800-762-0968 or 219-264-3102.
I would like to order: Quantity Unit Cost Total Cost
Total Order (Please include a check with your order made out to the
National Council of Churches) $ ____________
City State Zip
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