The United Church of Christ (UCC) is involving their church community locally and nationally, as well as reaching out across different religious communities, in order to successfully achieve Mission 4:1 Earth. Mission 4:1 Earth, which will occur for 50 days beginning  April 1, 2013, will involve three ways for people to be involved in environmental stewardship: 1) Planting 100,000 trees, 2) 1,000,000 hours of engaged Earth care, and 3) 100,000 advocacy letters for Earth care policies.  Participants will be able to track their progress on the UCC website, Reverend Ben Guess, Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries for the UCC, is striving to engage all 5100 congregations of the UCC to accomplish this mission. The UCC headquarters admit they have never conducted an event so large and for this long, but does expect that the religious community will step-up and achieve this mission.

Church members and others have already expressed interest in getting involved in Mission 4:1 Earth via email and phone calls. UCC recently partnered with the Arbor Day foundation to allow all members to send a gift of a tree anywhere in the world to fulfill their tree planting initiative. This environmentally-focused mission stemmed from the UCC conferences, which consists of various congregations coming together to discuss resolutions and policies that align with the UCC’s mission. Currently, UCC’s four main initiatives include food security, literacy improvements, building community relations, and environmental justice.

Mission 4:1 Earth is considered a continuing resolution from a prior UCC event, Mission 1, which was instigated by Reverend Guess. Mission 1 was the first time all the local schools and churches collaborated to raise money to reduce food insecurity in Africa. Mission 1, much like Mission 4:1 Earth, allowed members to write advocacy letters to representatives and created a platform for different churches to collaborate to accomplish one, 11-day mission. This type of community engagement set the stage for Mission 4:1 Earth, which will involve 50 days and many more ways to engage and participate. According to Reverend Guess, the real challenge for Mission 4:1 Earth will be to “ignite the flame” for other congregations that are less involved to create an atmosphere conducive to environmental justice issues.

According to Anthony Moujaes, United Church News Coordinator, Mission 4:1 Earth expects great success by their approach and ability to engage all people. Community actions, like biking to work, turning off all lights when you leave, and other obtainable goals, will all count as hours that contribute to environmental care. Each week during mass, the members will fill out a sheet with their documented hours of service towards the mission.

In all, UCC’s mission brings to life ways in which all people can get involved to promote environmental stewardship and justice. The timeliness of the event, 50 days directly following Easter Sunday, may also increase members’ awareness and motivation to participate. The intended outcome of the mission is to create noticeable change in church communities to become environmental justice leaders.

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Contributed by Jackie Nester, OSU student