Atlanta congregation collects GIPPY award for Mission 4/1 Earth
Written by Connie N. Larkman February 7, 2014
The Rev. Susannah Davis, pastor of Kirkwood UCC, and Gary Garrett, part of the congregation's Mission 4/1 Earth team.
An Atlanta congregation that went after creation care in a big way last spring is still reaping the rewards of its efforts for Mission 4/1 Earth. Kirkwood United Church of Christ has been awarded the Light Award by Georgia Interfaith Power and Light for excellence in environmental education.
The KUCC congregation collected the award at the eighth annual GIPPYs in Atlanta Thursday night, Feb. 6. Georgia Interfaith Power and Light holds the awards ceremony to celebrate congregations and individuals for their work in creation care, in conjunction with the annual Caring for Creation Conference in the southeast.
"Receiving a GIPPY is quite an honor for our young church community at KUCC," said Gary Garrett, one of a team of six Kirkwood members that worked to engage their neighbors in environmental education and action during the UCC's Mission 4/1Earth all-church initiative. "I've been attending the GIPPY award celebrations for a number of years and have always been inspired and impressed with how congregations show their concerns for creation. Now that KUCC has been added to the list of award winners, it is my hope that our story can be inspirational to others, especially younger communities of faith who might wonder how they can make a difference."
Kirkwood, one of four award winners at the GIPL ceremony, was lauded for the focus of the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign that matched earth care with the Easter season and the rebirth found within. The congregation was congratulated for involving all members in the awareness of the opportunity to care for God's creation and the action that was taken by the group collectively to put that awareness into practice, and actually make a difference.
"We were committed to environmental awareness through education events; to writing letters to elected officials related to some concern we had for the environment; and to planting trees both locally and internationally," said Garrett. "Of our original goal of 500 hours of environmental advocacy, education and awareness, we doubled that goal to 1,000 hours and surpassed that with 1,068 hours; we have planted or committed to plant 42 trees; and we have collectively sent 426 letters to folks like Congressman John Lewis and to Public Service Commissioners in Georgia expressing support for reduced fossil generation and increased wind and solar power in our state. In each of those letters, we included a picture of our beautiful earth painted by children of KUCC."
"I was so proud of our congregation last night and especially under the leadership of Gary Garrett," said Kirkwood UCC pastor the Rev. Susannah Davis. "This is not a one-time initiative for him or for others in our congregation. The 4/1 Earth team continues to lead KUCC in a deeper understanding that Earth care is the ministry of our lifetime and the joy that surrounds us."
In fact, Garrett said the team is talking about continuing an earth care initiative indefinitely. "'Mission For One Earth' is something we've mentioned a few times. I would think we want to continue with the themes of the M 4/1 E campaign--education and awareness of the need for us to tread lightly on God's garden; to increase tree canopy, which does all sorts of good things for creation; and continue to engage our elected officials who really do make a difference by policies that are enacted either on behalf of or that are detrimental to the environment."
These creation care ideas seemed to resonate with the people involved with Georgia Interfaith Power and Light. "The director of GIPL shared with the crowd gathered last night some of the events that KUCC held during our 4/1 campaign and the crowd seemed to be especially taken with our Blessing of the Bikes," said Davis. "They cheered and hollered — it was great!"
"It would certainly make sense that GIPL would reduce-reuse-recycle, and that was true of the trophy we received last night," Davis added. "A basketball player getting ready to take her perfect shot! At the bottom was engraved, 'the Light Award to KUCC!'"
"The award itself recognized that we all have a role to play in caring for God's creation," said Garrett. "The Mission 4/1 Earth campaign was a fun, interactive way to involve everyone at KUCC in caring for the earth."