United Church of Christ congregations across Ohio are exploring new ways to care for Earth as part of a national campaign that encourages Christians to live out their faith for the sake of the planet. Goals of the "Mission 4/1 Earth" project are to plant 100,000 trees, write 100,000 advocacy letters and offer 1 million volunteer hours. The effort spans the 50-day Easter season that runs through Pentecost Sunday, May 19, and encompasses Earth Day on Monday.
United Church of Christ congregations across Ohio are exploring new ways to care for Earth as part of a national campaign that encourages Christians to live out their faith for the sake of the planet.
Goals of the “Mission 4/1 Earth” project are to plant 100,000 trees, write 100,000 advocacy letters and offer 1 million volunteer hours. The effort spans the 50-day Easter season that runs through Pentecost Sunday, May 19, and encompasses Earth Day on Monday.
The campaign highlights the denomination’s focus on ministering to nature and working for environmental justice, said Greg Wittmann, a naturalist with the Columbus and Franklin County Metropolitan Park District. He is among those spearheading the effort at David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester.
“I believe we have a responsibility, and that’s not a responsibility in the sense of a drudgery, but as a gift. It’s a gift to respect nature,” he said. “We are part of this Earth, and when we see ourselves as nature, we see ourselves as connected to the Earth and want to do good things for it."
Among its activities, the congregation is giving away 200 saplings, and Wittmann plans to lead a nature hike on Sunday at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park in Carroll. The church also supports a mission planting olive trees in Palestine.
At First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, members donated more than $1,000 last Sunday that will be used to purchase 29 trees for the denomination’s Templed Hills Camp and Conference Center in Bellville in Richland County.
The trees will be “symbols of life,” planted as memorials to victims of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., teens killed in the February 2012 school shooting in Chardon in northeastern Ohio, and a boy who died in Monday’s bombing in Boston, said the Rev. Timothy Ahrens, pastor at the Downtown church. The first tree, a 6-foot conifer, will be planted this weekend.
Other April collections will be used for similar purchases, including olive trees in Palestine, he said. The church will have speakers on issues such as energy conservation, urban farming and animal welfare, member Deborah Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who serves on the congregation’s Sacred Earth Committee, said there’s something “ magical” about the Earth and that she saw firsthand how conservation efforts can transform communities and lives when she was involved in urban farming in Chicago.
She said change can be made through both large and small actions — from planting 100 trees or buying a fuel-efficient car to placing a brick in a toilet tank to conserve water or picking up trash along a city street.
A conservation theme has been incorporated into the weekly liturgy, sermons and newsletters at North Congregational United Church of Christ on the Northwest Side, said the Rev. Eric Williams, pastor.
The congregation has a Green Team that has for years helped make environmentally responsible decisions for the congregation while encouraging individuals to do the same.
David Long-Higgins, co-pastor at David’s, said stewardship to the Earth is expressly stated in the congregation’s mission statement. He said the campaign presents an opportunity to spur people’s creativity and encourage them to think about ways they can live out that mission.
Wittmann said caring for the Earth is a responsibility for Christians, but also for all humans. Connecting with the planet, he said, inspires spirituality in many people.
“Anyone can look at the stars at night or a sunset or a baby robin and have this connection with their soul,” he said.