by Leah D. Schade, author, Creation-Crisis Preaching and For the Beauty of the Earth Lenten Devotional
The coronavirus pandemic has curtailed plans for in-person Earth Day celebrations. But there are many ways to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day (April 22) right in your living space and neighborhood.
Here are 10 ways to celebrate Earth Day while staying healthy at home:
1. Observe and wonder. Begin a weekly ritual of settling into a circle of nature for a few minutes of observation, contemplation, and appreciation. Maybe your yard, or a green space during your lunch break at work, or just a crack in the sidewalk where weeds and grass have pushed through. Cultivate the habit of noticing. What lives here? What passes through? Learn the names of the trees and plants – they are your neighbors in God’s Creation! Let this time center you in prayer, wonder, and gratitude.
2. Plant and grow. Make a plan for your garden. Even if it’s just some pots on your porch or windowsill, think about what vegetables and flowers you would like to grow this season and determine when you’ll plant them. If you pick up seeds and plants at your local nursery or garden center (many remain open because they are agricultural businesses), be sure to wear a mask and maintain proper social distancing.
3. Share your green space on social media. Find interesting angles to take pictures of the plants and trees in your living space. When you post your pics, share that caring for God’s Creation is part of your faith and encourage others to post their photos in the thread.
4. Play Earth Day bingo! This is a great activity to do with children. Make up a card with things in nature they might find in a walk around your neighborhood or in the backyard. Include dogs, birds, trees, grass, flowers, and insects. As they find each one, stop and say a prayer of thanks that God has created this beautiful discovery.
5. Advocate online. Find out what environmental legislation is currently under consideration in Congress. Call your representative and senators and encourage them to support the strongest protections for our planet. Tell them you are a Christian who votes on climate issues and ask them to support climate legislation. Call your local mayor’s office and ask if there is a task force for addressing climate preparedness. If there is, thank them and ask how you can help. If not, ask why. Share with them what you’ve learned about how climate change will likely affect your community.
6. Read and educate. Download a copy of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ from your local library or listen to it as an audio book. If you’re a pastor, download a copy of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (by yours truly) and plan a sermon where you’ll address caring for God’s Creation.
7. Plan a worship service celebrating God’s Creation. If you are a clergy person or worship leader, Earth Month and the season of Easter is a great time to lift up the beauty and fragility of God’s Creation. Plan time in the service for folks to share about their favorite place in nature. Ask how this place has a spiritual connection for them.
8. Pray for Earth and vulnerable communities. Write a prayer of lament, confession, thanks, or intercession regarding Creation. Share it on social media along with a favorite nature picture. Consider sharing it with your pastor and ask if it could be read at the service on Sunday.
9. Honor Native legacy. Visit Native Land Digital, type in your address, and see what indigenous peoples lived in the land before European conquest https://native-land.ca/. Do some research about the history of Indigenous peoples in the place where you live. What disturbs you? What humbles you? What surprises you? How might you reconsider your relationship with the natural world in light of Native American practices of honoring our relationships with all our relatives – human and other-than-human?
10. Thank those who nurtured your love of nature. Think about the person who has taught you the most about environmental concerns and cultivated your love of nature. Write them a letter thanking them for what they have taught you. If the person is no longer living, read the letter to someone close to you in order to honor that person’s memory.
Leah D. Schade is the assistant professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She has served as an anti-fracking and climate activist, community organizer, and advocate for numerous environmental and social justice issues, and is the author of several books including Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit and For the Beauty of the Earth: A Lenten Devotional.