Park Hill UCC planting 4/1 Earth postponed but not deterred by Mother Nature
Written by Connie Larkman
May 10, 2013

Park Hill UCC in Denver, Colo., members Tim and Candice Johnson.

The community of Park Hill Congregational UCC, in Denver, Colo., has spent a lot of time working 4/1 Earth this Eastertide. In fact, 3,950 earth care hours to be exact, mostly worship and project preparation, as noted in the pastor's first Mission 4/1 Earth report May 2. But all of the advance planning in the world couldn't prepare the Rev. David Bahr for a curve ball from Mother Nature. A foot of snow, which fell just before the church tree planting day April 20, and postponed the project until June.

"It's not uncommon to have snow in April and in May, in fact today [May 10] we're seeing our first rainfall of the year," said pastor Bahr.  "But we had a storm every week -- every Monday for four weeks in April -- and the snow was still melting on tree planting day."

However, that didn't stop the rest of the work Park Hill UCC had planned. The congregation, a long-time ONA church of 190 members with a strong history of engagement in racial justice and integration jumped into environmental advocacy this year in a big way, prompted by Mission 4/1 Earth. The project, overseen by a Coordinating Team of all church ministries, was a collaborative effort that pulls together earth care initiatives from several different perspectives (Spiritual Life, Compassion and Justice, Education, Worship, Music). The result? An environmental focus at worship every week, with speakers at every service. Litanies and hymns related to the weekly theme, bulletin inserts with tips and time cards, emails with earth quotes, earth oriented songs from the choir, and an environmental focus for all Sunday school classes.

"The environment was not on our front burner," said Bahr. "We've traditionally focused on human and service and justice. But we immediately saw that this [Mission 4/1 Earth] was a way to expand our focus. We really embraced looking at this issue from every direction. Every week we would highlight a different organization, invite them to speak, and collect money for them."

The collection plate funneled mission money to earth care through UCC Eco-Justice Ministries, Colorado Interfaith Power and Light and Clean Energy Action. Park Hill UCC also had energy and water audits, which has prompted plans to replace the current church sprinkler system as part of its next capital campaign.

"We are also going to replace our refrigerator with an energy saving one," Bahr said. "We were getting a new one, but this is just a prompt. I think it's brought a lot of issues to the fore. We've been publishing tips, and after reading them one member said, "I never knew I should check my water heater –– it was set at 160 degrees, but we lowered it to 120." That was one of those cool kind of moments."

The tree planting, planned for a local park, in collaboration with Denver Parks and Recreation, has been rescheduled for Sunday morning June 9 at the request of the church, as part of Park Hill UCC's "Jesus Has Left the Building" service.

"It ends up being good timing for a reschedule," Bahr said, "and we're grateful for Denver Parks and Rec. to do this on a Sunday morning. Once a year, we take our worship into the community for service. We serve meals to residents in (transient) motels, and hold a worship service in a nursing home. This year, as part of ‘Jesus Has Left the Building,' some of us will plant trees."

"Green will be in our minds because it's an issue right now –– and when we make choices to upgrade things around the church, we'll be thinking about the earth because of this initiative."

For more information on Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days, visit ucc.org/earth, read these stories, or join the movement on Facebook.
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.

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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-2196
larkmanc@ucc.org