Written by Emily Mullins
Before Mission 4/1 Earth even began, the Social Justice Ministry Team at Heritage United Church of Christ in Baltimore had 50 days of activities ready for the congregation. On April 3, members were encouraged to turn off the water while they brushed their teeth. On April 10, they were asked to shop with reusable bags. On April 24, the team suggested members choose paperless billing for at least one of their accounts. On May 19, the last day of the UCC's church-wide earth care campaign, the congregation is being urged simply to pray for the earth.
"We wanted earth care to be on their minds every day for 50 days," said Everene Johnson-Turner, member of the Social Justice Ministry Team. "We have about 100 people doing the daily conservation activities. We have to get those hours from them, and you can imagine how they will add up."
Heritage UCC's Social Justice Ministry Team began planning for the one-church environmental initiative late last year. They wanted to ensure they had a Mission 4/1 Earth plan in place that was quick and easy to implement once the event kicked off April 1. Church members have a 50-day calendar listing an earth-friendly activity they could do at home daily, as well as a weekly group activity they could participate in as a congregation. Some people have followed the calendar closely, but Johnson-Turner says the daily ideas were also meant to inspire participants and get their wheels turning about different ways to be green.
"Some people have been reducing their carbon footprint and saving energy on their own, but we also gave them some ideas," she said. "We are hoping our suggestions are just getting them started."
Some of the group activities at Heritage UCC have included writing environmental advocacy letters, cleaning the playground at Hanlon Park, and planting a tree at a member's home. Participants have also been prepping an area on church grounds for an organic vegetable garden, which they will sow May 11. Johnson-Turner said they are planting a "salad garden," with cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, peppers, kale and collard greens, and the produce – along with recipes on how to cook with it – will be donated to the local food pantry.
"Now families in need can get fresh vegetables as well," said Johnson-Turner. "We plan to include some recipes because there are a lot of young folks who may not know how to cook with some of it."
Heritage UCC has already added more than 1,000 earth care hours, 125 advocacy letters and three trees to the UCC's Mission 4/1 Earth goals, and Johnson-Turner thinks the final total will be much higher once everyone submits their individual earth care hours. But the congregation's efforts will expand well past May 19, as they tend to the garden that will produce until fall. Johnson-Turner hopes Mission 4/1 Earth also expands the environmental knowledge and awareness her congregation had before the campaign and results in long-term consciousness.
"There is a real awareness and appreciation that we care for the earth," she said. "We want to make sure that it is still a beautiful place for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
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.
Share the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth with your family and friends and invite them to join the movement.