Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Earth Day becomes Earth Month

From Deanna Matzen, Earth Ministry Operations Manager

It began in the early 1960s. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was published in September of 1962, awakening America to the environmental crisis before us. Shortly thereafter, Wisconsin Senator Gaylor Nelson felt increasingly troubled by the lack of political concern for the natural world and began to speak on environmental issues around the country. After six years on the stump, Senator Nelson was inspired by Vietnam-era “teach-ins” to create a day of grassroots protest over what was happening to the environment. This became “the germ that ultimately flowered into Earth Day”.

In April 1970, Earth Day became the largest nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment in the history of the United States. Over 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated. Senator Nelson did not have the time or resources to organize them all, but that was the amazing thing about Earth Day – it organized itself.

Thirty-eight years later, we are still celebrating Earth Day. Once a day to protest, now a day to celebrate, Earth Day has become too small. Somewhere along the way, within the last decade, the idea of expanding Earth Day into Earth Week and then to Earth Month was born. This was an idea whose time had come, and the concept of Earth Month spread though the US, as local municipalities, schools and colleges, public utility districts and clubs began inviting local communities to participate.

But Earth Month is not just for civic institutions. Earth Month is for churches too. At Earth Ministry, we hear more and more about congregations like St. John United Lutheran, who use every Sunday in April to celebrate a different aspect of creation such as water, earth, air, transportation and food. This excitement for people of faith to participate in Earth Month is truly evident in Seattle where multiple events will be happening simultaneously this year.

Seattle’s April events calendar epitomizes the growth of Earth Day into Earth Month. For information on events happening during April, please see Earth Ministry's website.

Wherever you live, Earth Ministry is recommending a four-part, well-rounded curriculum for celebrating Earth Month:

  • Be active - Engage in a physical activity that gets you up close and personal with nature. Go for a hike, join a field trip, volunteer at a community garden, or participate in a habitat restoration project in your area.
  • Get inspired – Read a book on faith and the environment. A few suggestions are Sallie McFague’s Super, Natural Christians; Matthew Sleeth’s Serve God, Save the Planet; Roger S. Gottlieb’s A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future or Robert Hamma’s devotional, Earth’s Echo: Sacred Encounters with Nature. Of course, Earth Ministry’s books and publications are also a fine choice!
  • Worship – Incorporate creation-honoring liturgy into your church service. Earth Ministry is encouraging churches to celebrate Earth Month in worship on Sunday, April 20th. There is a wealth of liturgical information on Earth Ministry’s website to help you plan.
  • Be in community – Consider rounding out Earth Month with a locally-grown or vegetarian meal with family and friends on Sunday, April 27th.

We are a community of believers, brought together by our love of God’s creation. Earth Month is a time to celebrate the bounty God has given us! It is our hope that you would find a new way to celebrate, remember, and honor God’s creation this year.


Dorothy Smith said...

Thanks Deanna for bringing such a nice article to the fore.
Happy Earth Month!! :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I couldn't have said it better myself!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Dustin and I work with a Christian environmental organization called Christians in Conservation: A Rocha USA. I noticed that you mentioned the book "Serve God, Save the Planet" in your post, and I thought that you might like to know that sponsors its author, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, as a "creation care evangelist." We would love for you to check us out at our website, en.arocha.org/usa. You might also be interested in the website for Dr. Sleeth's book, www.servegodsavetheplanet.org.