The United Church of Christ might have experienced a little divine intervention at work for one Earth in Cleveland as employees at the church house came together as one staff on Thursday. It was close to a balmy 80 degrees on the shores of Lake Erie as the group, taking part in All Staff Day, embraced Mission 4/1 Earth, worshipping together, writing to their elected representatives and scattering out around Cleveland to clean up part of the city.
With 125 members of the UCC national staff in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Franklinton Center at Bricks involved in advocacy and hard work in the great outdoors, they racked up more than 700 earth care hours, showing that not only can they talk about Mission 4/1 Earth, but they walked the walk, too, to make their hometown a little greener.
So why do advocacy work? Mari Castellanos, the UCC’s advocate on domestic policy in Washington, D.C. raised the question, and had a very simple, but compelling response.
"Because we can," said Castellanos. "It’s part of our country’s legacy of freedom and accountability. There are many people who lobby our elected representatives. Some represent the public, some represent businesses, and some represent ideals that are not the same as ours."
"We do not own the earth. We might occupy it for a while. [But] we are only caretakers, and we are not doing a good job of that. So the question becomes, why do advocacy? Because we must."
The Rev. Rosalyn Priester, of Chicago, has been a member of Trinity UCC for more than 30 years, and took part in the Mission 4/1 Earth-themed worship which kicked off the day's activities. She is active in the Trinity Green Committee, and co-chairs the church’s Mission 4/1 Earth Campaign.
Priester’s closing words — simple in nature yet bold in impact — to those gathered in the chapel were, "Love God, live green, and liberate all."
About 30 UCC colleagues wrote and addressed 100 advocacy letters to members of Congress and President Barack Obama about topics such as climate change, mining and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. As they called on government leaders to protect the environment, their efforts added to one of Mission 4/1 Earth’s goals of writing 100,000 letters.
"The fact you’re taking time to send handwritten letters, that’s something a legislative staff will notice," said Jessie Palatucci, the communication specialist for Justice and Witness Ministries in D.C. "You’re taking a step in building a relationship with that office [with a letter]."
Three off-site projects gave staffers the chance to get outdoors and into some sunshine. Staffers filed out to clean up and green up a cultural garden and nature trail, and prep soil for planting at an urban farm.
Getting soil ready to plant a vegetable garden can be very gritty work. Some UCC staff members helped get a local farm ready during All-Staff Day on April 18.
The Rev. Meighan Pritchard, environmental justice advocate and pastor of Prospect Congregational UCC in Seattle said the group at the farm "spent two hours in very strong winds trying not to fall over. We got a lot of rows raked and dug, and we are covered with grit."
"The British Garden is the first of the Cleveland cultural gardens, established in 1916, soon to celebrate its centennial," said Marie Tyson, the UCC’s distribution services manager. "It was nice to be able to spend some time on a beautiful day, sprucing it up."
Good thing the group went out Thursday. On Friday it was only 40 degrees. Divine intervention? Perhaps.
The United Church of Christ has been working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, and recognizes the opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.
With the help of UCC congregations everywhere, Mission 4/1 Earth, which began Easter Monday 2013, hopes to accomplish more than 1 million hours of engaged earth care, 100,000 tree plantings across the globe, and 100,000 advocacy letters written and sent on environmental concerns.
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written as often as you like here.