Eco-Justice Ministries
   Eco-Justice: "the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth"
 

Quick Tips for Including Eco-Justice
In the Worship Life of Your Church

Worship is the central and defining act of the church. What we say and do during times of worship reveals what we consider most important to our faith and our lives.

It is the experience of Eco-Justice Ministries that environmental and eco-justice commitments are only taken seriously in the whole life of the church when those commitments are present in the ongoing worship of the congregation.

These quick tips provide some starting points for exploring how faithful worship can nurture and express an eco-justice faith perspective.

Draw on the strengths of your tradition and your setting
Christian worship takes a multitude of different forms. We worship differently in cathedrals than we do in chapels. Episcopal and Baptist services are different in structure and style. A charismatic congregation expects something different from a more academic church.

Know your people, your tradition and your setting, and use the best of what it has to offer as you open your people to an eco-justice perspective. A liturgical church might make creative use of a ritual for confession and healing, where a congregation from a free church tradition would do better with a sermon series.

 

Frequently affirm God's love for all creation
Stretch your language, and stretch people's theology. The words that are used in the everyday leading of worship shape how we understand ourselves, our relationship with God, and with the world. (See our Eco-Justice Lexicon for shadings of meaning between terms such as nature, the environment and the creation.)

Try to include an explicit reference to God's love for all of creation in every service of worship -- in a prayer, the sermon, a responsive reading.

 

Preach on many levels
Sometimes, it is important to preach prophetically on an issue where decisive moral matters are at stake. But there are other ways of bringing an eco-justice perspective into sermons.

Let an eco-justice perspective bubble up frequently in your preaching. An article on this site, Three Layers of Environmental Preaching, explores several ways of preaching to the issues, ranging from prophetic proclamation on political issues to depth pastoral preaching on emotional needs.

 

Pray
Too often, the prayers of the church are focused exclusively on matters of personal need. In worship, the church can extend its prayers to encompass a larger sphere.

  • Thanksgiving - God's creation is filled with goodness and joy. We are privileged to share in its bounty and to be engaged in relationships throughout the web of creation.

  • Confession - we participate in a system which is exploitative and violent and which separates humanity from the rest of creation. By acts of ommission and commission we cause harm to others. At times we are guilty of complicity, passivity and denial, at other times of abuses of power.

  • Petition - there are countless issues and settings where we might pray for wisdom of God's will, and for a breaking in of God's love and justice.

If members of your congregation are invited to voice prayer concerns, encourage them to name not only people, but also issues and the needs of the world.

 

Read scripture with fresh eyes
A long history of reading the Bible as a story concerned exclusively with humans has blinded us to much of the biblical message. Throughout the Bible, the love of God for all of the creation is proclaimed; the need to deal justly with humans and the rest of creation are intertwined responsibilities.

As you work with texts from scripture:

  • ask how the call to deal lovingly and justly with all of creation is spoken in the text.

  • try break out of a modern, urban, western mindset, and rember that the biblical texts come from a world far more in touch with the cycles and patterns of nature and agriculture.

  • be aware that eco-justice is not an organizing theme in the lectionary. The pairing of texts, and the order in which passages are read, may hide meanings that would be clear in a different pattern of reading.

 

Recognize the power of music
Music touches us in a different way than the spoken or written word. A tune stirs emotions and opens our creative, intuitive side. The words to an anthem, a hymn or a sung response enter our consiciousness with a special sort of power and effect.

Draw the musical elements of your service into play as you work with an eco-justice perspective. Both contemporary compositions and those that have been used for generations can help to strengthen and inform our spirit.

  • Look carefully at the words to hymns and anthems. Some which celebrate God's hand in nature also say that humans have "dominion" to use and exploit creation. Feel free to drop verses that have problems.

  • If the choir is doing a wonderful anthem, consider printing the words for the congregation (if copyright allows!). The folk in the pew will get more out of it when they can follow along with the words.

  • Use the topical index to the hymnal creatively. Don't look only for Justice and God in Creation -- look under headings like Prayer, Humility, Stewardship, Confession, Healing or Thanksgiving.

 

Use special occasions
Many occasions through the year provide appropriate opportunities to develop a worship theme that takes eco-justice seriously.

  • Environmental dates - the Sunday near Earth Day, UN Environmental Sabbath, Feast of St. Francis

  • Justice dates - Martin Luther King Jr Birthday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Labor Day

  • Global awareness dates - World Communion Sunday, World Day of Prayer, United Nations Day

  • Ties to natural cycles - Harvest season and Thanksgiving, Changing seasons, occasions of birth and death

  • Special occasions - A church retreat or ourdoor service, a "blessing of the animals" ceremony

  • Stewardship campaign - look at stewardship as more than money!

  • Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter - use these seasons of reflection and celebration to explore some part of the eco-justice perspective in depth, and to tie it to the two great holidays of the church year. Proclaim that God's saving work in Christ is for the redemption of all creation.

 

Draw on the visual arts
Along with words and music, the visual arts can expand and deepen the worship experience. Look for ways to bring new images into your congregation's worship.

  • Add to your banner collection. Include hangings that connect humanity with the rest of creation, that call for responsible stewardship, and that affirm God's call to do justice.

  • Point out images and themes that already exist in your church's architecture (such as stained glass, or wood carvings).

  • Use artwork appropriately in the worship bulletin.
    • If you subscribe to a bulletin service, watch for images (and text) that contradicts an eco-justice perspective. Either substitute a different cover, or use the provided materials as an illustration of the problems.
    • Purchase full-color bulletin covers with powerful images for special occasions.
    • Include black and white drawings or images that reinforce a worship theme.
  • If your congregation uses projection equipment (computer or video, slides or overheads), be creative in using those tools to display visual arts as well as text.

  • Posters -- of fine art, from denominational sources, and from issue campaigns -- can be used in the worship space with care. A poster on an easel in the front of the church, or on the doors leading into the sanctuary, can emphasize a theme and set a tone for the service.


Eco-Justice Ministries   *   400 S Williams St, Denver, CO   80209   *   303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org   *   E-mail: ministry@eco-justice.org