Worship


Introduction

 

Regular Worship Practices

 

Holidays and Special Worship Services

 

Green Your Sacred Spaces

 

Green Your Worship Practices

 

General Resources

 

 

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Introduction:

  • The Green Seminary Initiative encourages theological schools to educate students on how to incorporate care for the earth into worship services and spiritual life. Seminarians need to learn how to use worship to express gratitude and praise to the Creator, lament the suffering of the earth and its creatures, experience spirituality through the natural world, and offer confession for harm done to the earth. Liturgy, ritual, songs, sermons, prayers and the entire range of worship practices can all be employed as the community gathers to celebrate the creation and commits to reflect God’s purposes for the creation.

 

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Integrate Earth-Keeping into Regular Worship

 

Music:

  • Earth-themed music is an important part of greening your worship. For eco-justice themed hymns, visit the National Council of Churches' Eco-justice website or examine the hymns and litanies available at the Earth Ministry website.

Prayers:

  • Ecologically themed prayers can be incorporated into your worship in a variety of ways. Whether during a special holiday, as part of a weekly worship services, or at home during mealtimes, ecologically themed prayers should be an important part of your worship. Visit the GreenFaith website for interfaith, Jewish, and Christian prayer resources. Earth Ministry has many examples and suggestions available on their website. You can also visit their site for a list of Christian prayer aids.

Preaching Green:

 

Sacred Texts:

  • Locating and utilizing ecologically friendly sacred texts, Scriptures, biblical passages, and other texts is a rewarding and useful educational tool for seminarians. Go to the GreenFaith website or to the Earth Ministry website for a list of “green” passages found in the Christian Bible. Others have found the newly created “Green Bible” to be an invaluable resource in greening their worship.

 

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Celebrate Holidays and Earth-Centered Worship Services

Christian Holidays and Worship Services:

  • Covenant with the earth: Near the beginning of the academic year, offer a worship service in which community members have an opportunity to sign a covenant with the earth to establish their commitment to do their part in the greening of the institution. Web of Creation has an excellent “Covenant with Creation” which you can use as a model for your own covenant. The Web of Creation also provides a litany that you can use to accompany your covenant.

  • St. Francis Day: Celebration of this patron saint of animals and the environment is an ideal day for any earth-themed worship service. Visit the Web of Creation website for sermon ideas, prayers, song suggestions, and more.

  • Blessing of the Animals: At some time in the year, perhaps around St. Francis Day (October 2), have a Blessing of the Animals for the community. The Blessing of the Animals ceremony is a chance for members of the congregation to bring their animal companions (dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, birds, etc.) to a worship service in order to bless the animals, to demonstrate their importance in their personal and spiritual lives, and to affirm their importance as part of the earth community. This is an ideal time to conduct an outdoor service. It also provides an opportunity for the community to consider the humane treatment of other, non-domestic, animals, particularly in its eating practices.

  • A Season of Creation: For four weeks out of the Season of Pentecost, observe a four-week Season of Creation, with liturgies, sermons, Scripture focusing on maintaining a healthy relationship with nature. For all the relevant materials, visit the Season of Creation Website. If you do not celebrate the full four weeks, choose one or two of the liturgies to use in worship at points throughout the year.

  • Greening of the Cross: During the Season of Easter or the Season of Lent, have a Greening of the Cross service in which worshippers put greenery on a wooden cross to show how Jesus’ death renews the earth.

  • Holy days: See the calendar of Holy Days on the Web of Creation site for other times of commemoration in the church year, such as Rogation Day.

  • Liturgical Cycle: Visit the Earth Ministry website for ecological resources pertaining to the liturgical cycle. The Episcopal Ecological Network also has a number of suggestions for ecological liturgy.

 

Jewish Holidays and Worship Services:

  • Tu B’Shvat: This Jewish holiday, occurring in January/February, is an excellent time to celebrate and to increase environmental awareness. Visit the COEJL website for Tu B’Shvat resources.

  • Sukkot: The Fall Harvest Festival, occurring in September/October, is an ideal time to celebrate and to increase your community’s awareness of the many food issues facing them today. Visit the COEJL website for an article describing how to green your Sukkot or go to this website to learn how to incorporate water issues into this holiday.

  • Passover: This important holiday can incorporate environmental issues in a variety of ways. Visit the COEJL website to find out more about greening your Passover, green cleaning your Chametz and Pesach, and more.

  • Other Jewish Holidays and Festivals: For ideas on how to create an environmental Purim, for celebrating an environmental Shabbat, or for greening other holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, visit the COEJL website’s compilation of worship resources.

 

Interfaith Holidays and Worship Services:
  • Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving provides an obvious opportunity to express gratitude for the bounty of the harvest that comes from the earth. Use this day to celebrate the hard work of farmers and to discuss how the way we eat affects the earth and its creatures. The National Council of Churches provides a useful and comprehensive set of resources (links, books, and more) for your convenience. Seek out other resources, such as the book Food and Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread (ed. Michael Schut) or discover local resources and organizations that provide education on local food, sustainable agriculture, and faith-based farming such as Genesis Farm. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also offers a number of interfaith resources related to faith and food.

  • Earth Day/Week: Observe Earth Day (April 22) with special worship services throughout the week. There are worship materials from the National Council of Churches website. COEJL also offers a number of resources on their website. For example, read about the importance of Earth Day as a Jewish holiday, learn about the connection between Passover and Earth Day, or create and “Environmental Shabbat” at your synagogue to coincide with Earth Day.

  • Seasonal Celebrations: Celebrate the seasonal changes in spring, summer, winter and fall. Dress the sanctuary appropriately. Go outside. Reflect on the consistency of the seasons and the importance of each to the Creator’s desires for the planet.

  • Planting of Trees: Some communities commemorate births, important dates, or the death of a member of the community with a planting and dedication of a tree in his/her honor. Visit the Drew Theological School website to view pictures from their tree planting service.

 

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Decorate Your Sacred Space.

(Each of the following make excellent gifts from graduating classes and donors.)

 

  • Plants: Green the worship space with living plants/trees throughout the chapel as a sign that the whole earth is our worshipping community. Where possible, highlight the relation between inside and outside the chapel as a sign that all the earth is the sanctuary in which we worship.
  • Banners: Place banners at the entrance or inside the chapel as a reminder of your commitment to the earth, such as “Let the Earth Praise God” or “The Whole Earth is full of God’s Glory.”
  • Art: Place artwork in the chapel that celebrates God’s love for the earth. Stained glass pieces, for example, may be commissioned with this in mind.
  • Solar-Power in Your Chapel or Synagogue: Consider providing an eternal light or running water in the baptismal font that is powered by the natural energy of the sun. Some Jewish Synagogues power their Ner Tamid using solar power.

 

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Green Your Worship Practices

  • Use beeswax candles in your chapel or consider using soy candles for your Sabbat or for Jewish holidays.

  • Place plants instead of cut flowers on the altar.

  • Use local or organic wine.

  • Provide organic, whole grain communion bread.

  • Recycle/reuse or eliminate bulletins.

  • Provide reusable glasses (not plastic) for communion.

  • Wash utensils, elements, and other worship items with green dishwashing detergent, and use green cleaning products in your worship space.

  • Purchase fair trade palms for Palm Sunday.

 

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General Earth-Related Worship Resources

  1. Web of Creation

  2. Earth Ministry

  3. Green Faith

  4. Season of Creation 

  5. Eco-Justice Ministries

  6. National Council of Churches Eco-justice Program

  7. Lutherans Restoring Creation

  8. Green tips for preachers

  9. Books on ecologically themed worship

  10. Resources for green Jewish holidays from COEJL

  11. A reflection on Worship by David Rhoads

  12. An article on green worship by Beth BakerPublications on green worship

  13. A Jewish Statement on Worship, Holidays, and the Environment

  14. Faith In Place

  15. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations website (go to the “search” portion of their website and search for terms such as “environment,” “green preaching,” etc.)

  16. Season of Creation

  17. Paul Santmire’s bookRitualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis

 

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