Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Is Earth Day Worth It?
distributed 2/21/03 - ©2003

I put Earth Day on the agenda for the January meeting of the Board of Directors of Eco-Justice Ministries. I needed their advice.

This year, Earth Day (April 22) falls 2 days after Easter (or just before Orthodox Easter on April 27). I'm guessing that only pastors who are eager to move to a different job will use Easter Sunday as the date for a big environmental celebration.

The weeks before April 22 are exceptionally busy on church calendars. It is a bad time to do planning and publicity. With Earth Day coming so soon after Lent and Easter, clergy and choirs are worn out. Is it a good time to take on this sort of project?

Beyond the scheduling problems, there's a larger issue. In recent years, Earth Day has been a non-event in the media -- and for many secular environmental groups, as well. Is this annual event disappearing from our collective consciousness? In its 34th year, is it still an occasion that the members of our community are aware of, and expect to observe?

So I asked the wise members of the board, "Is it worth the effort to do Earth Day this year?" The response was quick and resounding: yes!

Yes -- it is an occasion to remember that we are part of a long-standing, diverse, world-wide movement.

Yes -- it is an occasion to bring together faith-based and community-based groups in a celebration of our shared commitment.

Yes -- it is the date on the calendar where churches can be encouraged to claim our calling to care for all of God's creation.

Yes -- we've done community Earth Day services in Denver for the last two years, and we're building good momentum for that ongoing program. (Which is a far better reason than "we've always done it"!)

Since I always follow the instructions of my Board, we're doing Earth Day again this year. And I encourage congregations and communities around the world to mark the occasion, too.

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Despite my gloomy comments to the Board, there is coordinated planning for Earth Day coming from several groups. They are lifting up water as a common theme.

The Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches has prepared some fine worship resources on the theme of Waters of Life: Enough for All. There's a bulletin insert with a call to worship, a responsive prayer, and a collection of facts on "the water-poverty connection." The resource set also has "sermon starters," background information and reflections, links to additional information, and will soon have strategies for action. The National Council of Churches resources are available at

The International Earth Day Network is also focusing on water. This April 22, they will be kicking off a major campaign, Water for Life. Within that campaign, issues of water availability and quality will be highlighted in a program called The Ten Thirstiest Children on Earth. The network's site is at

This year, water is particularly visible and important in an international context.

  • The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater.

  • In November, 2002, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights declared formally for the first time that safe and secure drinking water is a human right.

  • On March 22, 2003, the 3rd World Water Forum will be held in Kyoto, Japan.
Awareness and momentum are building to address water issues on a global scale.

In those areas of the world that are moving into another year of extreme drought, the theme of water is especially timely. In such places (including the Rocky Mountain region, our "home base"), it will be appropriate to lift up local issues, bring ethical perspectives to water use and resource allocation, and to have participants join in acts of commitment for conservation and education.

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But conflicting dates this year still make this an awkward event to observe. If not on Easter, when should we mark the occasion?

In Denver, our plans are for a community-wide service of worship on Tuesday evening, April 22. That time slot may be an effective one for those looking to bring together an ecumenical or interfaith group, or for general community activities

Local churches who intend to use the Sunday morning worship time may want to claim the Sunday after Earth Day, April 27.

It is not essential to tie your event too tightly to April 22. Congregations can be remarkably flexible in observing Earth Day on some other date.

Begin planning now, though, to have your church and community join in this international celebration!


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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