UCC urges churches to share Mission 4/1 Earth reports by June deadline
Written by Connie Larkman June 17, 2013
The last day of the United Church of Christ's Mission 4/1 Earth environmental initiative on Pentecost Sunday fueled a jump in the number of daily reports from churches detailing their earth care efforts. Those reports are still trickling in a month later, and with General Synod right around the corner, the denomination is urging congregations to share their work on behalf of Mother Earth before month's end.
"The UCC is encouraging members to continue being intentional in earth care, even though the reporting phase of Mission 4/1 Earth ends on June 30," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries. "And while two of the three huge Mission 4/1 Earth goals have not yet been achieved, the campaign is seen by all accounts as an unprecedented success. We have registered almost 600,000 earth care hours – that's an incredible amount of work; our 51,000 advocacy letters surpassed the numbers sent during Mission 1; and we've collected more than 2,200 reports from our churches. Those are wonderful achievements."
During Mission 4/1 Earth, members around the country embraced the partners the UCC established in the campaign, and supported some of their own.
Bethany UCC in Randolph, Vt., reached out to assist people in Indonesia as part of the earth care initiative. "Our church has a connection with 'Health in Harmony' in Borneo [Indonesia]," said Carolyn Moore, chair of the Bethany Missions Committee. "We asked people to bring to church 'unwanted' trees growing in the wrong place in their yards. These trees were 'adopted' by people in the congregation who have transplanted and will care for the trees in their new home. People were asked to donate a dollar for reforestation efforts through 'Health in Harmony.' We raised $250 so far which will plant 500 trees in Borneo! They need far more trees than Vermont." Bethany UCC replanted 65 trees in addition to the 500 that will be planted in Indonesia, and racked up 640 hours in earth care.
High Country UCC in Vilas, N.C., planted 126 trees in their own yards, and donated money to UCC partners to plant 70 trees in Kenya and 70 trees in Peru. But some members of the congregation went a bit further to track each of the 10,549 hours they reported in earth care.
"Our congregation's Peace and Justice Team created a special tracking card for families to use during the Mission 4/1 Earth Campaign," said Catherine Hopkins, team co-chair. "These cards included 35 categories (which ranged from using earth-friendly cleaning products to unplugging unused appliances to laundering in cold water to skipping showers) that individuals and families could check off each time they completed them. Some people also added extra categories, giving credit for driving a Prius or observing 'meat-free days.' We had 32 family units turn in completed cards on May 19."
"We applaud our churches for the imaginative and effective ways in which they worked to care for the environment during Mission 4/1 Earth and we continue to be extremely encouraged by the pledges we've received from congregations that plan to continue the work past the campaign," Guess said.
Pastor Scott Oberle of First Congregational UCC of Downers Grove shares a lesson on reusing rather than throwing away items during the Children’s Message.
"The response to Mission 4/1 Earth across the life of the UCC was overwhelming, but not surprising," said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries. "Our congregations have a long standing commitment to engagement in so many important issues, among them is our concern for the whole of God's creation. It is one more testimony to the excitement of coming together on one common mission."
"It [Mission 4/1 Earth] has been a great way to encourage an important conversation, said the Rev. Julia Beall, pastor of Trinity UCC in Palmyra, Pa. "Our church is going greener by replacing our 1963 furnace with two small units that will reduce our fuel consumption by at least 25 percent. This is our effort to save the planet and use our treasury for a building that is used seven days a week for church and community purposes. We are closing in on our $53,000 goal, and the furnace replacement will be completed in the next few weeks! We are excited to employ 21st-century technology for a world we hope will continue to sustain us for centuries to come."
Members of Boy Scout Troop 55 collect gym shoes for reuse and recycling during Mission 4/1 Earth.
"While Mission 4/1 Earth is complete, our journey — as individuals and as a church — to be better stewards of the Earth is ongoing," said Tom Eisenhart, Green Team Leader of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, Ill. "With that in mind, the Green Team will be working with members, committees and other groups in the church to continue to find ways our church can operate more sustainably, provide educational opportunities on environmental issues, and call attention to issues that we can speak out on." First Congregational in Downers Grove contributed 2,496 hours in service to God's creation, planted 136 trees and wrote 137 letters to legislators and newspapers expressing concerns about the environment.
"Now that Mission 4/1 Earth is complete, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for facilitating such a great denominational project," wrote the Rev. Kim Morrow, pastor of First-Plymouth UCC in Lincoln, Neb., in a letter to denomination leaders. "Our Sustainable Living Ministry took on the project at full steam, and our congregation had a really successful, invigorating and inspiring experience."
The church counted 9,215 earth care hours, planted 593 trees and wrote 1,057 letters on behalf of ecological issues. "I appreciate the structure and design of the project, and the opportunity to join with UCC churches throughout the country who are also working on ecological issues," Morrow continued. "We are continuing with quite a few efforts here to combine hope, community and environmental sustainability in the face of the climate change crisis. I'm sure will be in touch in the future."