On Sunday, April 24th, preachers around the country will proclaim from their pulpits a simple message: Keep It in the Ground. No, they are not digging up old, arcane arguments about bodily resurrection. They are talking about fossil fuels. Arguably, the most important act of caring for God’s creation that our society can undertake today is to keep most of the world's fossil fuel reserves in the ground. If humanity fails at this mandate prescribed by the laws of physics, then our planet will enter into the red-alert danger zone as it overheats due to the damage done to our climate.
The phrase "Keep It in the Ground" was coined by Bill McKibben, a bestselling author and environmental activist. In a recent article for YES! Magazine entitled "Why We Need to Keep 80 Percent of Fossil Fuels in the Ground," McKibben gives a primer on the impetus behind the slogan. In sharing why he is participating in the national Keep It in the Ground Preach-In, McKibben states, "This winter has been the warmest ever measured on our planet. That's our sign of the times, a reminder that we've set enormous forces in motion. The only way to slow them down is to keep coal and oil and gas where God put it—safely underground. And instead to make use of the energy God sends straight at us every day from the sun and wind."
Diana Butler Bass is a scholar of religion who has authored numerous books, including the bestselling Christianity for the Rest of Us. She was eager to participate in the April 24th preach-in because of her current work. Her most recent book is entitled Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution. In speaking of the damage being done to our climate and the growing movement to address this crisis, she writes, "The winds of worry are howling. Yet if one listens carefully, there is evident the whisper of God. Change is in the air."
With more than 4,000 members, the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas describes itself as "a Vibrant, Inclusive, Progressive (VIP) Christian Church." The church has multiple services in both English and Spanish. For one of its services, the church is conducting an April sermon series entitled "Treehuggers." Each sermon is based on a chapter from Butler Bass's book, Grounded, which church members read for a Lenten bookstudy. The theme, "Keep It in the Ground," naturally coincided with the recent focus of the church. The Senior Minster Rev. Dr. Neil Cazares-Thomas notes, "When God created the heavens and the earth and gave humanity "stewardship" over it, God invited us into the co-creating experience of good management. It is believed that this generation might be the last one that is able to stop climate change and its effects. It might be the ultimate test on our generation to live into the invitation of God at the beginning of time."
During the month of April, the Rev. Dr. Alberto Magaña, who leads the church's Spanish service, is teaming up with ministers Isabel Marquez and Yinessa Romero to provide an array of offerings focused on caring for God's creation. With an eye toward the issues faced by Latinos, special worship services have been planned along with meditations, movie nights, tips for green living, and an educational forum. The three partners in ministry see themselves as part of a collective effort to create a healthier planet. In a joint statement about lifting up the theme "Keep It in the Ground," they declare, "We want to participate, because we believe it is important that everyone is aware that natural resources are limited, and it is our responsibility to act consciously to protect the planet Earth."
Sermon Seeds for Preachers: Would Jesus Give up on Us?
Children's Sermon: Using Jenga to Explain "Keep It in the Ground"
Commissioned Hymn: "God, Creation Sings Your Praises"
Make Your Preach-In Part of Interfaith Power and Light's Faith Climate Action Week
Send Us an Email to Let Us Know You Are Participating in the Preach-In
Take Action - Urge President Obama to Keep Fossil Fuels Safely In The Ground
Our president has the authority to prevent millions of tons of carbon from entering into the atmosphere by halting new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters. By first addressing how we care for our nation’s own lands we can begin to transition from the fossil fuel era to 100% renewable energy. Join your voice the thousands of advocates who are calling on President Obama to halt new extraction efforts on public lands.
For the month of April, the national offices of the United Church of Christ are partnering with the regional offices of the Massachusetts Conference to offer a public witness on climate change that reflects the core values and mission of the denomination and our ecumenical partners.
Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Massachusetts Conference Minister for the UCC
It falls to us – to our generation – to launch the greatest social change movement the world has ever known. This can only happen if religion – which is the most powerful force on earth – channels the resolve of its adherents to make the changes science says we must so that our children will know something of the Eden into which we were born.
Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt, Environmental Justice Minister for the UCC
The question of the day is whether we will be the Moses generation. Like Moses standing on holy ground before the burning bush, now is the time of our high calling. Now is the time to leave behind the Egypt of fossil fuels so that we might reach a promised land flowing with clean energy. The key to our success begins with an unwavering commitment to leave the holy ground beneath our feet undisturbed.
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