Thousands of church campers around the country will soon be charged with the care of Mother Earth, as part of the United Church of Christ's next all-church initiative, the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign. The UCC and the Outdoor Ministries Association of the UCC (OMA) are partnering to bring Mission 4/1 Earth, the environmental initiative that kicks off at Easter, to 40 campsites across the country.
"This is a partnership across the board," said Jeremy Force, OMA's president and director of Camp Movale in Union, Mo. "It really cements us as one church."
OMA plans to have each of its camp locations pick an environmental project or event related to Mission 4/1 Earth, and create a 1-minute highlight video to share the project online. "We'll want to get every one of the sites involved and get them to commit and spread their idea to become a catalyst in their local communities and with [the churches in their area]," Force said.
In Force's home state of Missouri, one of the two church camps has a 4,000 acre tree farm. "Part of what we'll do is hopefully give trees to all the [UCC] churches in the state to plant."
The partnership idea, offered by OMA leaders was welcomed by the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries, during an OMA visit to the Church House this week. Guess called the partnership "natural," and others from OMA expressed their support.
"I think we have a really great opportunity," said Mollie Landers, a board representative from the Pennsylvania area. "We have great places that need care, and our campers have an understanding of care and stewardship."
Force said environmental issues are prominent throughout the world, citing global warming and Hurricane Sandy. "This puts [environmental advocacy] in the forefront, and gives it more visibility," he said.
The OMA works to promote outdoor ministries in all areas of the church, and to celebrate the wonders of God's nature. With campsites on shores, in the mountains, in the forest or on the plains, UCC Camps and Retreat Centers serve local congregations, non-profit groups, families, individuals and other business groups year round.
Mission 4/1 Earth invites us to green up, power down, and shout out for the environment. Beginning on Easter Monday 2013 (April 1), the UCC is inviting all members to lift up 50 Great Days of Mission 4/1 Earth, in hopes of reaching 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.
The United Church of Christ, working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, recognizes this campaign as a great opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.