As part of an ongoing series of articles on best practices for Creation Justice Churches, Elizabeth Griego shares about an Earth Care Festival organized by First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC.
Envisioning an Earth Care Festival
Ten years ago, our church adopted an Earth Care Covenant with the goals of reducing our impact on the environment and helping to repair the damage that has been done to God’s Earth. Since then, our Earth Care Committee has assumed a leadership role throughout the California Sonoma Valley in the work of advocacy, education, and preservation of the environment. One highlight of the past two years has been an Earth Care Festival organized to engage local partners and to highlight contributions being made to climate, ecology, and earth justice. We intentionally planned the Festival for the Saturday closest to the national observance of Earth Day, April 22.
Organizing Our Work
As a committee of twelve, we started brainstorming the organizations that we believed to have an environmental purpose aligned with our interests. We added to our list those organizations that have products to sell related to ecology. We divided this list among the committee members, so we might share in making personal contacts to invite participation in the Festival. We also wanted to feature entertainment, so a sub-group previewed short films that could be shown. A committee member who is also a caterer suggested an organic farm-to-fork lunch that we could offer at a modest price. We planned most of the tabling to be set up in our large multi-purpose room, but also organized activities for children and some exhibits outside on adjoining patios.
Within a very small budget, we printed flyers and posters to place in restaurants and shops around Sonoma. We wrote an article for the Sonoma newspaper and advertised on a local radio station. We encouraged support from the Ministerial Association.
Information and Organizations Featured
A member of the local Pomo Indian tribe blessed the opening of the Festival in a ceremony with singing, prayer, and burning sage. Immediately following, a Sonoma County Taiko Drumming Group provided a rousing welcome to all participants. Thirty-five tables had sponsoring organizations providing information and give-aways related to earth care, ecology, conservation, solar energy, birding, raising bees, and building trails. Members from political and philanthropic organizations answered questions and invited participation from the 300 people who attended. Participants could purchase water filters, green skin care products, baked goods, and indoor plants proven to purify the air. Children made bird feeders and art projects. The teen center sponsored a bicycle tune up and repair station. High school students planted a tree in honor of Earth Day/Arbor Day. Our Earth Care Committee provided information on green cleaning supplies and invited participation in our Earth Care Advocates political group that extends beyond our church. The delicious lunch encouraged people to linger and converse, and its purchase brought in a small income that covered our costs.
The Earth Care Committee will continue the Festival in the coming years in support of our outward-facing mission to serve our community, build our ecological partnerships, make a difference in caring for the Earth, and by extension, for one another.