Greening Your Church’s Theology and Worship

Think about the essentials of life such as air, water, and food. One could say that often these divine gifts of creation are taken for granted as they are abused by our society in countless ways, especially in ways detrimental to low income, communities of color. Churches can do a lot to challenge this status quo that disconnects us from God, our neighbors, and our surrounding world. Moreover, churches can find renewal and new life through the power of a conscious appreciation of the connections that sustain us. If the environment is so fundamental to our lives, then should it be that our theology and worship reflect this each and every day, especially on Sunday? Could this simple idea revolutionize worship in our churches? It could, but don’t be overwhelmed by the thought. Consider these seven ways churches can jump start the greening of their theology and worship.

  1. Form a book group to read the Pope’s encyclical on climate change and inequality. Interfaith Power and Light along with the Catholic Climate Covenant put together a helpful encyclical action kit with lots of good resources.
  2. Design an annual worship service that relates directly to your immediate environment. A powerful example is the annual Mountain Sunday of Church of the Savior UCC in Knoxville, Tennessee. The service both celebrates mountains and addresses the destructive mining practice of mountaintop removal.
  3. Consider adding a “Season of Creation” to your church’s liturgical calendar. It may seem like a radical idea to amend a calendar that includes Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, but the more you explore it, the more you just might like it.
  4. Add creation-focused worship services to your liturgical calendar. Examples include Earth Day Sunday, Blessing of the Animals, Thanksgiving Harvest Sunday, and a greening of the cross service.
  5. Delve into a theological perspective on worship that argues for an overhaul of existing worship practices and brings a biblical challenge to our narrow modern notions of God. Convene a worship team or another appropriate group in your congregation to read and reflect upon an essay by David Rhoads about worship, theology, and creation care.
  6. If you are a preacher, bring the ideas of the Pope and scholars like Rhoads into the pulpit. Moreover, don’t be afraid to tackle subjects like environmental racism or climate change. Notably, research tells us that leadership from the pulpit is one of the strongest indicators as to whether people accept climate change and will act for climate solutions.
  7. Make regular use of the prayers, hymns, and worship ideas found on websites like Earth Ministry and Let All Creation Praise. If the gifts of creation are so fundamental to each moment of our lives, should not every worship service include some element of focus on creation care?