Preparing the Ground for Fifty Great Days for the Earth: Churches Plan for UCC’s Mission 4/1 Earth

December 5, 2012
By Eric Anderson
The Connecticut Conference United Church Center

WEST HARTFORD -- Over twenty-five ordained and lay church leaders took first steps on Monday night toward a bold project in which they'll engage next spring. Mission 4/1 Earth, said the United Church of Christ's Minister for Environmental Justice, the Rev. Jim Deming, is a way to energize the church to begin or to deepen its commitment to the well-being of our home planet.

During the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost in 2013, the UCC hopes to achieve three significant goals:

  • Plant 100,000 trees in local communities here in the United States and around the globe,
  • Send 100,000 letters to elected officials or media outlets advocating for environmental justice, and
  • Engage in 1 million hours of volunteer service to the earth.

"We're trying to do this as a national church," Deming told the assembly at First Church of Christ Congregational UCC in West Hartford, "that we all do this together, that we all have this momentum and we do something with it."

Both Deming and Patricia Bjorling, the Connecticut Conference Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries and staff liaison to the Environmental Ministry Team, emphasized that achieving Mission 4/1 Earth's goals is just a beginning. Deming compared the effort to prayer:

"Prayer is not just a one time deal; prayer is a way of life," he told the group. "It makes you more spiritually aware of everything that has an impact on your life. It's the same way with this... We begin to think that everything we do has an impact, that we are environmentally conscious, and we do this in a spiritual way that says everything I do has an impact on God's creation."

The participants raised ideas and suggestions for taking on projects and forming partnerships to achieve Mission 4/1 Earth's goals. Bjorling announced that the UCC has worked out an arrangement with the National Arbor Day Foundation which will facilitate low-cost tree donations once it's ready. Local plantings, observed several around the circle, should be checked ahead of time with knowledgeable people and public officials, so that trees aren't placed in poor locations for their health or the health of plants around them.

While some expressed concern around the advocacy campaign, due to the reluctance of some church members to engage in what they perceive as political activity, Deming suggested that congregations identify an issue on which there is wide agreement among members. For some, that might be risks of climate change, while for others, it could be mountaintop removal for coal mining, clean air standards, or something of local interest.

The range of activities that qualify for the service projects is very broad, said Bjorling. Several participants expressed interest in creating a coordinated effort to pick up along the state's major rivers, particularly the one from which Connecticut takes its name. Again, people named potential partner organizations that do similar work, and urged coordination between their efforts and UCC church efforts for Mission 4/1 Earth.

In addition to the West Hartford gathering, Deming and Bjorling spoke to a similar group in Darien on Tuesday night, and will meet with more church leaders in Wallingford Wednesday night, December 5th.

The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.