Today many churches across the United States will observe Earth Day Sunday. Since 1970, communities have taken one day each year to be especially mindful of the Earth and its many gifts: April 22, Earth Day. 2018 is a liturgical year that Earth Day and Sunday fall on the same day, and that Earth Day neither conflicts with Holy Week nor Easter Sunday.
Each year, Creation Justice Ministries, a continuation of the National Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program, provides Earth Day Sunday celebration resources. The theme each year is chosen by faith leaders from Creation Justice Ministries’ membership based on what issue they believe is most pressing. In this year’s Earth Day Sunday resource, the urgency of embracing “sense of place” is expressed this way:
“On any given day in the United States, it is possible to drink coffee from Guatemala, while wearing clothes made in Bangladesh, while sheltered under a roof that was partly manufactured in China. The average U.S. adult devotes approximately ten hours a day to consuming media, spends 87 percent of their time indoors and passes another six percent of their time inside a vehicle. Today, connecting with our local communities requires intention.”
The “Sense of Place” Earth Day Sunday resource includes materials to reflect, teach, preach, pray, and act to preserve a “sense of place” in our communities. The education section of the resource begins with a poignant quote from Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man: “If you don’t know where you are, you probably don’t know who you are.”
When Christians in the United States engage in spiritual practices that help us be more present to one another and our local watersheds, we make our ministries more relational and authentic. The resource encourages bioregional faith practices such as familiarizing ourselves with our watersheds and using them as a frame of reference for gatherings. It also encourages speaking aloud Indigenous territory acknowledgements at the beginning of gatherings. The Bible Study in the resource includes an invitation to read Psalm 104 in context by imagining how it would sound when referencing plants, creatures, and geological features familiar to our own watersheds.
This year’s Earth Day Sunday curriculum also explores how our sense of place is so often shaped by racist systems. It reads: “While places encompass all, and should include all peoples as co-inhabitants, places have often been seen as possessions, and inhabitants as objects of conquest. Our relationship with our watershed and its inhabitants is affected by, and has shaped, our understanding of race and ethnicity.” The piece touches on themes such as the Doctrine of Discovery, redlining, gentrification, and sacrifice zones.
In the action section, faith communities are invited to get to know their local public lands and waters, participate in garden ministries, care for their watersheds, and protect nearby threatened and endangered species. Faith communities are also encouraged to call and write to Congress about protecting public policies that conserve a sense of place, including the Antiquities Act of 1906. Lastly, the resource includes tools to assist faith communities considering honoring Endangered Species Day on Friday, May 18.
Find all this and more at www.earthdaysunday.org.