Article | April 20, 2023
Congregation Update: Celebrating Earth Day
Blog|The Rev Greg Kimura, Ph.D. (Cantab.)
“The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than what we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index.”
— John Steinbeck
This Saturday, April 24, is the celebration known as Earth Day. It is a day set aside to appreciate the natural world around us and to recommit ourselves to taking care of the physical environment of which we, as humans, are an inextricable part.
In Christian theology, this connection is part of the creator-creation distinction. Humans tend to arrogate to ourselves creator-like authority and control over the world around us as if we are separate from it. But this is hubris. The Genesis narratives of symbolic origins and developmental science tell us that we and the world around us are one. We have agency, but we are not God.
Instead, theology uses the language of stewardship for our relation to the natural world, a role we have as intelligent beings with the personal and collective power to care for it. We must care for the world, the “creation,” and the environment. Sometimes the climate crisis seems so overwhelming that we wonder if anything we do will help. But non-action is not an option, whether from a secular perspective or with the religious person’s call to stewardship.
In my previous parish in another diocese, the youth group took up the “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home” initiative pioneered by Bishop Marc and Dr. Sheila Andrus. Through an online app, the youth walked families through ways to reduce the household carbon footprint. This includes big things like installing solar panels and small things like air drying clothing occasionally. Even simple actions can be quantified in reduced emissions with the app, so you actually see the impact being made.
I was gratified for another reason: “Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home.” It was the energy and passion of the youth that made this happen. They stayed at coffee hour with laptops and helped the elders go through the app. If folks completed the app, they gave them a gift pack of led lightbulbs, detergent sheets, rope, and clothespins. A couple of youths visited elders’ homes and installed lightbulbs for them. It was a wonderful activity that united what is sometimes seen as a generational divide in the church.
This Earth Day, I’m going to revisit sustainislandhome.org as a way to recommit to the stewardship of creation. I will think about small, manageable ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I’m going to continue to support those organizations and politicians that promote sound environmental policies, like our own Episcopal Church in the Office of Governmental Relations Creation Care division.
And I will take time on April 24 to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding us and thank God for the blessing and responsibility that is caring for this fragile earth.
The Rev. Greg Kimura, Phd (Cantab.)