On March 23 at exactly 8:30 p.m., members of Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ in Carnation, Wash., will turn off all of the power inside their building and gather outside the pitch-dark facility. Illuminated only by candlelight, the group will sing a few songs and participate in activities using absolutely no electricity, energy or fossil fuels. As part of Earth Hour, a global initiative of the World Wildlife Fund, the congregation is planning an inspiring celebration of its collective commitment to the planet.
"Our building is located on a fairly busy corner," said Cindy Sattler, church treasurer and member of the Earth Hour event committee. "A dark building with candles, we hope we can make a statement."
Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia and has since grown into a global movement. Known as the world's largest collective display of commitment to protecting the planet, hundreds of millions of people from more than 152 countries turned off their lights for Earth Hour 2012. World landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Buckingham Palace, Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House also went dark. The World Wildlife Fund is asking people to turn off their lights at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 23, 2013 as a powerful symbol of their dedication to the earth.
Before turning out the lights, Tolt UCC will host a Lights Out Dinner. For a suggested donation, members who turn off all of the power in their homes can gather at the church for a meal, with the idea of saving the additional energy that would be used if everyone cooked an individual dinner at home. Proceeds from the event will go toward replacing some of the building's older windows with energy-efficient models, a project the congregation began a few years ago and has been adding to as it is able. Sattler says she expects at least 60 people to attend the event, which they hope will serve as the kickoff to Mission 4/1 Earth, the UCC's church-wide earth care initiative beginning Easter Monday, April 1.
"Our church has always been very environmentally conscious," she said. "But we're really hoping this event sparks a renewed interest in environmental ministry, and thought it would be a great launch to the [Mission 4/1 Earth] conversation."
Other UCC congregations including Sayville Congregational UCC in Sayville, N.Y., and First Congregational UCC in Asheville, N.C., will also host activities or encourage their members to participate at home. For more information or to take the Earth Hour 2013 Pledge, visit the World Wildlife Fund's website.
"There is always more to do," Sattler said of caring for the earth. "We're not done yet, and the world isn't done trying to come up with solutions."
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 begins 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.
Here's a preview of Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days.