• Keep It In The Ground

  • Keep It In The Ground

  • Keep It In The Ground

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About Keep It In The Ground

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.

Profiles from a Growing Movement

An Activist

Bill McKibbenThe 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."

A Scholar

Diana Butler BassDiana 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."

A Church

Cathedral of HopeWith 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."

Their Plans

PastorsDuring 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."

Why They Are Participating

  • Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

    "When Moses perceived God's presence in the burning bush, he realized that he was standing on holy ground. Today, the eyes of faith perceive God's presence shining out from the whole creation: we know that we, too, stand on holy ground. The world that God entrusted to us is precious and deeply threatened by climate change."

    Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas
    Missioner for Creation Care for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ

  • Rev. Karen Richardson Dunn

    "As a nation, and too often as a church, we subscribe to the notion that if a resource exists, then we must take advantage of it and use it for "development." We need to take a step back from this dangerous notion, and discern the distinction between wisely engaging opportunity for a viable future, and participating in reckless exploitation that can only lead to the annihilation of that future."

    Rev. Karen Richardson Dunn
    First Congregational UCC, Asheville, North Carolina

  • Rev. Terry Gallagher

    "We have mistakenly founded the economy of our modern society on the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) and recklessly dumping their waste products into the atmosphere, the very air that we breathe. This collective action is dreadfully harming the "least of these" across the globe right now and threatening the actual survival of God's Good Creation in the ages to come."

    Rev. Terry Gallagher
    Environmental Task Force Chair, Illinois Conference of the UCC

  • Rev. Eileen Gebbie

    "The scale of our Earth's environmental problems is as large as the Earth herself, making the topic both daunting and terrifying. Yet care of the Earth was God's first charge. It is humanity's most basic need."

    Rev. Eileen Gebbie
    Senior Minister, Ames United Church of Christ, Ames, Iowa

  • Alyssa Browning-Gray

    "God calls each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to serve as stewards for all creation. We know we cannot follow suit if we continue to exploit fossil fuels. Let's align our actions with our faith, and keep it in the ground."

    Alyssa Browning-Gray
    Climate Justice Intern, Massachusetts Conference of the UCC

  • Rev. Elizabeth Griswold

    "Our church is focusing on nonviolence for the season of Easter. And God calls us to model nonviolence in all of our relationships—with ourselves, with other people, with other countries, and of course with the Earth. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is one vital way to do that!"

    Rev. Elizabeth Griswold
    Pastor, Parkside Community Church, Sacramento, CA

  • Rev. Stephanie Johnson

    "Preaching about "keeping it in the ground" invites congregations to re-new and re-imagine their relationship to all God's creation. In this Easter season, we live in the light of the resurrected Christ who makes all things possible for our future and future generations."

    Rev. Stephanie Johnson
    Associate Rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Fairfield, CT

  • Rev. Elena Larssen

    "In our city, you drive right past oil drilling; pumps are running at all hours of the day and night, right next to shopping centers and housing tracts. Popping over to the hospital to see a church member? Drive past oil fields. Driving up to LA for a meeting? Drive past oil drills. Acknowledging our dependence on fossil fuels requires the strength of faith and the energy of the Holy Spirit to vision a better future for our good, green earth."

    Rev. Elena Larssen
    Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Long Beach, Longbeach, CA

  • Rev. Bev Lewis

    "Fracking, ocean drilling, and coal mining destroy and contaminate what's left of the natural world every single day and those who follow us will never understand why we wouldn't save the world from the devastation of climate change. No fossil fuel should have that kind of power."

    Rev. Bev Lewis
    Pastor, Immanuel United Church of Christ, Catonsville, MD

  • Rev. Rob Mark

    "Climate change and our addiction to fossil fuels comprise the most significant moral issue of our time. The humility, frugality, and stewardship that is required to leave fossil fuel's in the ground is a deeply spiritual and high moral calling for all people of faith. I am excited to follow the Spirit's exciting lead in this movement. "

    Rev. Rob Mark
    Pastor, Church of the Covenant, Boston, MA

  • Rev. Laurie Manning

    "Climate justice is the spiritual and ethical issue of our time. We are called to go forth, from our places of worship, lifting up our voices, into the halls of power, through voting, through legislation, and by working to end the war between our economic systems and life on this planet."

    Rev. Laurie Manning
    Pastor, Skyline United Church of Christ, Oakland, CA

  • Rev. Da Vita McCallister

    "Preaching the importance of "keeping it in the ground" will help to create a space for real questions on climate change and our role in environmental justice. Stepping up to this challenge allows us to give voice to those who have doubts about the impact we have on the climate and to invite them into a space to discern together what God may be calling us to do."

    Rev. Da Vita "Day" McCallister
    Associate Conference Minister of Leadership and Vitality, Connecticut Conference UCC

  • Rev. Dr. Janet Parker

    "Signs of climate change are all around us, for those who have eyes to see. It's clear that we have crossed the threshold from climate change as a future threat to climate change as a present reality, affecting global climate and weather patterns in profound ways. Sadly, too many Americans, including Christians, keep their heads in the sand when it is the oil, gas and coal that we need to keep in the ground!"

    Rev. Dr. Janet Parker
    Senior Minister, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Salem, OR

  • Rev. Mark Pettis

    "We are blessed each day by the natural beauty and wonder of God's world. Yet, far too often we take these gifts for granted, failing to recognize our responsibility as stewards of this world. The neglect of this responsibility must become a thing of our past, and we must live each day holding ourselves and others to a higher standard of earth care … for our own sake, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of the earth."

    Rev. Mark Pettis
    Senior Minister, Manhattan Beach Community Church, Manhattan Beach, CA

  • Rev. Meighan Pritchard

    "When the Pharisees tell Jesus to make his disciples be quiet, Jesus replies, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.' All of creation is crying out. Species are going extinct at a lightning pace. Whole ecosystems are being destroyed. As followers of Jesus and beloved created beings who care for all of creation, we have to speak out. Creation care is in our very DNA, as people of faith called to till and keep the Garden."

    Rev. Meighan Pritchard
    Prospect United Church of Christ, Seattle, WA

  • Rev. Thea Racelis

    "In the book of Genesis, all that God created was called Good. We are called to participate in this Goodness as we care for all of God's creation. We are called to participate in this Goodness as we proclaim boldly that our care for God's creation must be greater than our economic interests or our (mis)perceived need for fossil fuels. Keep it in the ground is a powerful and hope-filled campaign that restores us to the path of Goodness. "

    Rev. Thea Racelis
    Pastor, South Congregational Church, UCC, Middletown, CT

  • Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper

    "I think we ought to aim for keeping most of the remaining oil in the ground because I am a common sense kind of gal. We all know that something big has to change. People of faith declare at Easter that we can rise again. We can! But without common sense applied to fossil fuels, we will actually sink ourselves and our beloved earth."

    Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
    Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church, New York City, NY

  • Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell

    "Each of us, individually and collectively, has an invaluable role to play in the healing of our world, beginning with the reduction in our carbon footprints. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our vital gifts, our clear vision, our mindful steps, our rule of life which includes keeping carbon in the ground."

    Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell
    Rector, Emmanuel Church, Newport, RI

  • Rev. Amy Sens

    "For me, caring for the earth is core to what it means to show love for both God and our neighbors. Climate change is a devastation to God's good creation, and its impacts fall hardest on the people and the ecosystems with the least power and the least protection. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground and finding ways to reduce energy use and get clean energy from heaven—solar and wind—are vital to slowing climate change down."

    Rev. Amy Sens
    six:eight UCC, Baltimore, MD

  • Rev. Dana Allen Walsh

    "Our faith is not something that we ascribe to because it is convenient for us. Jesus' teachings are not meant to uphold our present behaviors, habits, and choices. Instead his message challenges us to live by a higher standard. As Christians, we hope and pray that our faith changes us and transforms us so that we are less about finding ways to support the life we want and more about creating a life that sustains the earth and God's creation."

    Rev. Dana Allen Walsh
    Senior Pastor, South Church, Andover, MA

  • Rev. Dr. Mary E. Westfall

    "What an unprecedented opportunity to now truly be the church, the beloved community, spiritual leaders in the midst of this moral and environmental crisis. What could be a more critical reality to bring to worship, our preaching, our pastoral leadership? We must keep unspent fossil fuels in the ground and begin remediating the damage we have done. What does our God require of us in these times? Preach, pray, teach, lead!"

    Rev. Dr. Mary E. Westfall
    Senior Minister, Community Church of Durham, UCC, Durham, NH

Join the Preach-In

Sermon Seeds for Preachers: Would Jesus Give up on Us?

Children's Sermon: Using Jenga to Explain "Keep It in the Ground"

Keep It in the Ground - Liturgical Resources for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

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

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.

The Conveners

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 AntalRev. 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 BerndtRev. 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.

Contact us

For media inquiries, please contact 216-736-3722 or ecojustice@ucc.org.