The Rev. Frank Rodgers admits he's a bit scared of heights. But as the culmination of his congregation's Mission 4/1 Earth efforts, the pastor of St. Paul Community Church UCC in Homewood, Ill., will soon spend a Sunday morning preaching from the limbs of a buckeye tree, more than 30 feet above the ground.
"I'm not really a fan of heights, so it will be a challenge for me," said Rodgers. "But sometimes you have to get a different perspective, and if you preach from a tree, that's a different perspective. It gives the feeling like you're closer to nature."
On May 26, Rodgers will climb the 150-foot tree he can see from his office window and preach to his 50-member congregation. He said he wanted to do something different that would not only generate excitement among St. Paul's membership, but also tie in with the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth and bring awareness to the commitment they had to the campaign. The small congregation more than tripled its initial goal of generating 600 earth care hours during the UCC's 50-day earth care initiative, and also surpassed its goals of planting 60 trees and writing 60 advocacy letters.
"I want to express thanks to the congregation for participating in Mission 4/1 Earth," Rodgers said. "I also want to send the message of seeing the larger picture. Sometimes when we do things on our own, we don't recognize how important they are until they are combined with other folks, but we can do a lot if we band together and set goals."
Members of St. Paul's UCC have earned earth care hours by conserving energy, recycling, using public transportation, planting trees, and learning how to properly dispose of old prescription medications. One member, a retired nature preserve naturalist, gave a presentation about the Keystone XL Pipeline and tar sands, which included an advocacy letter-writing project. Another member talked about invasive plant species, and the group spent an afternoon pulling pesky garlic mustard at a local nature preserve.
Rodgers said his church is currently in a state of transition, as membership has dwindled over the past few years. The congregation is working to reinvent itself, and he thinks Mission 4/1 Earth was a great project to bring the members together to work for a common cause. As the congregation strives to grow closer to the UCC, Rodgers thinks a continued interest in environmental issues could just be the new direction God is calling them to take.
"Nature is one of the places a lot of people go to communicate with God," Rodgers said. "So when we talk about doing something for the environment, people are on board. They get it."
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written, report in as often as you like here.