“As Presbyterians, we are supposed to be living our lives out of gratitude, being good stewards of all that we’ve been given,” said Tustin Presbyterian Church’s pastor, the Rev. Rebecca Prichard. “I think that caring about creation is absolutely something that we should be doing as human beings, as Christians, and more specifically as Presbyterian Christians.”
So when the opportunity came for Tustin to partner with the organization 350.org to create a liturgy for its “International Day of Climate Action” on Oct. 24, it was a rather, so to speak, organic partnership.
According to its Web site, 350.org is “an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis — the solutions that science and justice demand.”
The number 350 refers to the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere that scientists have determined is the upper limit of what can be considered safe levels of CO2.
In December, world leaders will be in Copenhagen, Denmark, crafting a new treaty on cutting emissions. The problem, according to 350.org, is that the treaty that is under consideration “doesn’t meet the severity of the climate crisis.”
350.org hopes “to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world — from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community.”
The purpose of these actions is to communicate to world leaders that “the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis,” according to the 350.org mission.
“There are many other groups mobilizing for October 24, but the faith community in particular has a reputation of mobilizing large numbers of people to influence public policy,” said the Rev. Dave Dolan, stewardship for creation enabler at the Presbytery of Los Ranchos and recently appointed as the official liaison between the PC(USA) and 350.org.
“This is a way in which we can demonstrate in a very tangible way our care for the earth and to carry on the tradition that Presbyterians have had through many decades of influencing public policy,” Dolan said.
“I’m particularly excited to be working with Tustin Presbyterian and their Green Committee to develop a liturgy for use by churches on that day,” he said. “I’d love to see all 11,000 churches in the PC(USA) participate in this on October 24.”
350.org has asked various communities to participate in the Day of Climate Action in creative ways. Those near coral reefs might spell out 350 underwater by the reef. Those near the coast might organize a ‘tide line’ to show the rise in sea level caused by melting sea ice. Churches and faith communities have been asked to participate through ringing church bells 350 times Oct. 24.
“We agreed that we would host an action on October 24 at Tustin Presbyterian,” said Prichard. “Then we got connected with Dave Dolan and decided together that we would create a liturgy that any Presbyterian Church might be able to use on that day.”
The liturgy will be based around the seven days of creation, as well as a Reformed order of worship.
“I am hoping that it will move us from a time of praise and thanksgiving for creation, admitting our failures to care for creation, then coming to a place where we can commit ourselves to doing something,” Prichard said. “This will also move us through the motions of a worship service — praise, thanksgiving, confession, listening to the word, and responding to the word.
“The obvious reason we are doing this is that creation is this incredible gift that we’ve been given. As Presbyterians, we are interested in being good stewards of all that we’ve been given,” Prichard said.
But for Tustin Presbyterian, it’s not just a question of stewardship, but one of evangelism.
“We also see this as an outreach. We see it as a way to be visible in the community. People will walk by and see what we are doing and we want them to see that we are a church that does care about creation,” Prichard said. “I’ve always been sort of a ‘green nut’ myself, so I’m excited to be the pastor of a church where a group of people are gung-ho about finding ways to get our congregation involved in caring for creation.
“The idea that we could take part in something very peaceful, liturgical, communal, and something so much bigger than just our little church — I love it!” she said.
Erin Dunigan is a freelance writer and photographer and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.