Thursday, December 20, 2012

Embracing Outreach with Joy and Hope

During the fourth and final week of Advent, we invite you to join us in discovering the ways the Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) program’s value of outreach can be used to protect God’s creation and create hope in the Advent season. May the work of all those who are committed to Earth Care bring you inspiration and courage, even as we wait with expectation and love for the Hope of the world.  We wish you a blessed Advent season and a very joyful Christmas!  

Fourth Week of Advent
By Abby Mohaupt

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:1-4

In October 2006, members and friends of First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto watched Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” This screening lead to the creation of the Cool Planet Working Group, a group of members and friends of the congregation committed to responding to the threat of climate change. From its inception, Cool Planet has sought to reach out to the congregation in its ministries and in partnership with other organizations, and to creation.

Since 2006, First Presbyterian has partnered with California Interfaith Power and Light, Union of Concerned Scientists, the City of Palo Alto, and Acterra, as well as co founding the MidPeninsula Environmental Ministries in partnership with several local churches. These partnerships have led to political action and advocacy, as well as networking and education. For example, in 2010 the congregation participated in a Valentine writing campaign to California Senators and Representatives to urge them to love the earth by passing strong climate change legislation.

From the urging and organizing of Cool Planet, the congregation has embraced caring for creation and ending climate change through Adult Education series, facilities changes, and worship services. In 2008, the congregation replaced their lawn with drought-tolerant plants and added bike racks to the church campus. Annual Earth Day worship services have been supplemented by additional worship services that highlight the human connection to creation, particularly during the annual church picnic worship service which takes place outside. Members and friends of the congregation from all different places in life have participated in these opportunities—from the young to the old, the sick to the healthy, the staff to the congregation.

All of this work has been done within a deep and joyful connection to creation. Members and friends of the congregation and the working group regularly spend time in creation biking, running, or walking. Another working group in the congregation is focused on hiking, and many of the members of Cool Planet are in this group as well. This connection has provided a reminder of why the congregation has committed to caring for creation and working to end climate change.

Facing the reality of climate change can provoke fear and hopelessness. It would be easier to be paralyzed by a sense of helplessness than to participate in the hard work of changing how humanity affects the rest of creation. It’s much harder to join this work, and harder still to do it with hopeful rejoicing. Some of our hope can come from our understanding that creation joins us—that we are connected to each other and to creation. Our hope also comes from our understanding that all of creation waits with anticipation and joy for the coming of Christ, who comes to heal our broken connections. So as we wait, we do so knowing that our bodies and spirits are welcomed into these connections wherever we are in life. Our hands and feet and spirits rejoice with each other and all creation!

 Holy God, give us hope as we work to protect your creation, even as we wait for you. Help us work in your world with grace and peace, reaching out to each other in love. We give you thanks for the joy we find in your creation and for the hope we find in you. Amen.

Abby Mohaupt is the Pastoral Resident at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA. A candidate for ordination as a teaching elder in the PC(USA), she serves PEC as the editor of The Update.

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