The Fast for the Earth initiative is gaining momentum and Pleasant Hill (Tenn.) Community Church has signed on. On Sunday, Sept. 23, 25 of the congregation's members will declare their fasting plans and receive blessings in a special worship service to kick off the two-week event.
"This all fits in well with some of the passions within our congregation," said Pastor Tom Warren.
Fast for the Earth is an initiative started by Carl Kline, a semi-retired UCC minister and member of Brookings (South Dakota) UCC, and Phyllis Cole-Dai, another Brookings activist, in August as a sign of protest against the extension of the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline through South Dakota. Since then, hundreds of people and organizations from 19 nations around the world have joined the movement in support of many types of environmental issues, with at least one person signed up to fast every day until July 31, 2013.
While some of the Pleasant Hill participants are fasting from food, others are getting a bit more creative. A few are fasting from wasting excess water. Others are fasting from using their cars and are instead planning to bike or walk where they need to go. Warren is fasting from eating meat and also from using his car. But whatever type of fast members chose to do, it is in support of environmental issues, particularly climate change, that the congregation is working to lift up.
"Climate change is really the driving force, but we are fasting for the earth in its entirety," Warren said. "Our inspiration does include the tar sands, but it's a bit removed from us so we made it broader. The earth is being assaulted in every direction."
While far away from South Dakota, the Pleasant Hill congregation does have ties to the state's Native American population and their sacred lands. At least 12 members have worked on reservations and with the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM), an organization that acts as a change agent within and outside of the UCC by giving a voice to Indian people. Warren is hoping to connect the need to protect these lands from projects like the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline with the congregation's participation with Fast for the Earth by offering Native American blessings and holding an independent offering for CAIM during Sunday's special worship.
"From the get-go, the whole tar sands development idea violates Native American sacred lands," Warren said. "We want to find a way to be in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters."
Warren hopes the energy generated by Fast for the Earth will transition into the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign, a UCC-wide environmental initiative to launch April 1, 2013.
"[Mission 4/1 Earth] is great and something we are going to get involved with," Warren said.
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 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.
Here's a preview of Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days.