The annual celebration of Earth Day will be held on April 22, with one billion people from 196 nations expected to participate in the world’s largest civic observance, according to earthday.org. This week’s clergy discuss how to both show gratitude to the creator while also helping others on a day dedicated to protecting the environment.
The Rev. Keith I. Harris
Presiding elder, Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
We can celebrate Earth Day by praising God for the earth that he has given us. The Scripture reminds us in the 24th Psalm that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and they that dwell therein.” Even though it belongs to God, he has allowed us to be stewards over it, hence we should try not to pollute it, but rather protect it so that it may provide life for future generations. I have several suggestions for ways in which Christians can celebrate the earth on Earth Day. We can encourage and participate in a cleanup day in our community. We can sponsor a community garden where the community can grow and eat the vegetables that they grow, which is also a way that we can teach our children about how to use the earth. This will help us to fulfill the Scripture in Matthew 25:35-40: “I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me drink . . . ” We can also place a large recycling bin in our church lot, which would encourage our constituents to recycle their plastic and paper. I think it is the responsibility of the church to always inspire and encourage the community to live out its Christian values, and these include respecting the earth, which is a gift God gave to us.
The Rev. Timothy J. Lewis
Rector, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Bridgehampton
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) In my years as a Royal Navy chaplain I was privileged to spend time, not only on the seven seas, but in more than 40 countries. Experiencing different peoples, cultures, landscapes and environments, in peacetime and war, is one of the most powerful of educations. It is an authoritative reminder of the richness and diversity of the planet — and also its fragility. Over many centuries humankind has grown to regard the earth as an inexhaustible source of energy, resources and space to reshape. As our population grows, the stress on our planet has reached a critical level that could not be foreseen in previous generations. Science and responsible management can guide us into the future, but a person of faith sees this as a deeper malaise. The opening poetry of Genesis tells us that this earth, our island home, is God’s creation, and that we are placed on it to be stewards of the planet and its bounty, not only for the present generation, but those who will follow us. Earth Day, viewed and celebrated through the eyes of faith, reminds us of our part in that divine purpose. It reminds us that we are called to turn away from shortsighted gain and embrace a global strategy that will safeguard the environment, and also feed and clothe the people of this earth in ways that are both longsighted and sustainable. The prayer of faith must lead to action if this is to be accomplished.
Rabbi Mendel Teldon
Chabad of Mid-Suffolk, Commack
Earth is home to the human being, which God created because he desires a relationship. Every normal couple needs a home, food, clothing and some other extras to make sure that the environment is just right, so that they can focus on each other. So too, God created a beautiful world in which his spouse can live in the most comfortable way. He created cows and gravity and chocolate and sunsets and oxygen and palm trees all to create an ideal setting for us to interact with our higher power. It is our job to make sure that God’s home is as clean as possible for us and for all future generations. It is only with a clean home that we are able to focus on our true purpose, our relationship with God. On the other hand, if all day you are cleaning the house and not available for your spouse, you have forgotten what the purpose of the home is. Imagine you go to Broadway to watch “Les Misérables” and the seats are dirty from the last theatergoer. Or your ticket was not a quality print job. Or the stage props can really use a fresh coat of paint. It will be hard to focus on the beauty of the play if all those side details are not in tiptop shape. So you want to make sure that the stage is all ready for the play? Go for it! But remember that the curtains, props and seats — although important — shouldn’t distract you from what you are really there for, the play itself.