Thursday, December 6, 2012

Worship, Advent Wonder, and our Beautiful World

During this second week of Advent, join us in celebrating Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) and honoring the role worship can play in caring for Creation. We hope that the work and witness of these congregations brings you hope, even as we wait with expectation, joy, and love for the Hope of the world.

Second Week of Advent
By: Katie Preston 

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See I am sending my  messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”  Mark 1:2-3  

Korean Presbyterian Church of Boston (Korean PC of Boston) became a certified Earth Care Congregation in September this year.  They exceeded the total number of points needed and one of the reasons for that was their focus on worship.  Many times congregations find it easy to embrace environmental stewardship in their facilities and elsewhere around their campus (like choosing recycled paper or offering recycling of bulletins).  But it is often seems more difficult for a pastor to include elements of Creation Care into the worship life of his or her community.

That is why ECCs include worship as one of the four components of the certification program.  Sure, you can get certified doing a minimal amount of worship-related components.  But Korean PC of Boston was not one of those congregations.  They held a special Environmental Mission Sunday in conjunction with Earth Day this year, as well as included a Creation themed sermon each quarter.  They created an Earth Day Bookmark that was distributed to members and each Sunday reuse and recycle their bulletins.  They've already started planning out their recertification for next year, including adding an outdoor service to their quarterly Creation-themed sermon.

Korean PC of Boston is just one example of how you can begin to think about incorporating Creation care into the worshiping life of your congregation.  I encourage you to reach out to Elder Jason and learn more about what they've done and what they plan to do to keep building that connection between worship and Creation care.

In his book, The Seven Pillars of Creation, theologian Bill Brown uses a marvelous illustration of how the creation story sets up a temple in and of nature.  This amazing illustration highlights each day of the creation narrative as a pillar of the building of a temple.  But unlike the temple we learn about in 1Kings, this temple is a cosmic temple, not a temple made of stone.  For me, what this imagery highlights is that when we are in nature, we are able to worship God as the Creator who has given us such delights as apple trees and songbirds.  We can just as easily worship God in the wonder of Creation as we can in our beautiful sanctuaries.

I find that being in nature helps me connect to the Creator and have a meaningful worship experience.  Perhaps as they plan for their outdoor service (and as you plan in your congregations), Korean PC of Boston could consider Dr. Brown’s imagery and find ways to incorporate it into their service (and yours)!
Advent is a time of preparation; a time for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ-child.  Similarly in our work in the environmental community, we are in a time of preparation for the coming of the “Green Revolution” – the creation of a sustainable community. As people of faith, we are preparing the way for that green revolution – the work we do and the words we proclaim prepare us for what is to come.

Korean Presbyterian Church of Boston does a wonderful job of preparing the way, through regular worship interaction with the Creation.  Making sure that Creation care isn’t a token conversation held on one Sunday, reminds us that there is always work to be done in preparing for the sustainable future.  We can always be doing a little more.  Just as John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Christ, Korean PC of Boston regularly proclaims the call to care for Creation.
Just like we hope in the birth of the Messiah, we hope for a time when we will live in a sustainable world, a world that respects the One who comes to Redeem as the same One who Creates and Sustains us all.

God of hope, help us prepare our places for your coming and help us proclaim your love in the world. Amen. 

Katie Preston is the Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and a candidate for ordination as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

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