Action Plan for Worship

Action Plan: Part One

Transformation through Worship

Commitment: We seek to worship throughout the year so that we express our gratitude and praise to God the creator and so that we glorify God intentionally together with all creation. In worship, we will celebrate creation, confess our sins against creation, grieve the losses of creation, and commit ourselves to care for the Earth.

People: The pastor, the director of music, the organist, the worship committee, leaders of worship, the choir, and the whole worshiping community. It will be helpful to bring everyone on board, seeking guidance and leadership from them and providing resources and training.

Goal: To make “care for creation” worship an integral and ongoing part of the policies and practices of congregational worship.

Actions: Here are some ideas to carry out these commitments under the following categories

           Creation-oriented worship through the church year

           Special services in the church year

           Observe key national holidays

           Observe special congregational events

           Appoint the sanctuary space with creation-care banners and other art

           Green your worship practices

            Foundations in the theology of worship

           

For additional ideas and materials, check out the links to worship resources at other internet sites at: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/links. Let All Creation Praise is an ecumenical website sponsored by Lutherans Restoring Creation and dedicated to acre for creation worship throughout the church year.

 

A. Incorporate Earth-keeping confessions, intercessory prayers, hymns, and sermons into worship services throughout the year.

 

1.Worship resources: Many resources to include creation-care in worship are available—liturgies, prayers, hymns, litanies, confessions, intercessions, for use throughout the church year. See www.letallcreationpraise.org and www.earthministry.org.

 

The goal is to infuse every worship service with care for creation so as to make it an integral, central, and ongoing part of the worship life of the community. To do this, you can incorporate creation-care into key moments in the worship every worship service.

  • Call to worship: For examples, to invoke the God of all creation, invite the congregation into worship with the choir of all creation, to encourage the community to see Earth as the larger sanctuary in which we worship, to name the plants and animals on your property as worship partners.
  • Confession of sins: Be sure to have a confession of our sins against creation. These can be general or specific, perhaps in relation to a current ecological crisis such as an oil or chemical spill or a hurricane exacerbated by global climate change.
  • Prayers: Introduce the prayers “for the church, the world, and all creation. Then offer one or more petitions of gratitude, celebration or concern. These prayers may be for an endangered species, a threatened ecosystem, or the devastation to human and otherkind life after an ecological crisis event. They may ask God for courage and wisdom to act “for the redemption of all that God has made.
  • Blessing and commission: Offer a blessing that includes all Earth community. Give a commission that includes Earth care, such as “Go in peace, serve the Lord, remember the poor, tend the Earth.” Or ending with “care for creation.”
  • Other opportunities:  Be sure to do the four listed above. Also consider lifting up for notice: creation themes in the psalm for the day and the scripture lessons; the importance of God’s presence in the bread and wine the grapes and grain, in the sacrament; and see below for weekly resources on care for creation preaching.

Over time, the congregation will come to know the ways in which we humans are called to see ourselves and our vocation in relations to all that God has created.

2. Creation-oriented hymns: Consult the LRC website for a list of hymns—from Lutheran hymnals and hymnals of other denominations—that express themes related to care for creation. See the section on “Creation” in the new Evangelical Worship hymnal. Provide the list to the worship committee to draw upon when planning worship. For traditional and new hymns, visit http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/liturgy/hymns. See the “Seven Songs of Creation” by Norman Habel at www.seasonofcreation.com. Many composers have focused on creation care; look for hymns by Ruth Duck, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, and Norman Habel. Earth Ministry also has a detailed list of hymns: http://earthministry.org/resources/worship-aids/hymns.

3. Prayers for the common lectionary. See http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/liturgy/prayers for a list of petitions written by Lutheran pastor Dennis Ormseth and others, which are correlated to the full three-year common lectionary. Other prayers are available there also. Provide the prayers to the worship planning committee to incorporate into the prayers for each week.

4. Other Lectionary Resources: Consider creation-care ideas based on the lectionary readings available for each Sunday of the three-year cycle of the church year. www.env-steward.com.

5. Preaching creation-care through the lectionary:

LRC provides care for creation commentary each week on the lessons for the revised common lectionary. Lutheran theologians provide the reflections with exegesis and its relevance to contemporary environmental problems. www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org.

 

There are two additional sites that provide care for creation reflections for preaching on the lessons of the three-year lectionary cycle.

  • The first, the Christian Ecology Link, is a multi-denominational organization from the United Kingdom for people concerned about the environment. They have provided Ecological Notes on the Common Worship Lectionary: www.christian-ecology.org.uk/econotes-index.
  • The second, the Environmental Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota (MEESC), has collected environmental and earth-centered reflections, sermons, and commentaries on the lectionary readings: www.env-steward.com/lectnry.htm.

 

Sermon Collections: See also collections of sermons on creation-care:

  • Earth and Word, Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet, edited by David Rhoads (Continuum, 2007).
  • The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons to Care for Creation, edited by Stan LeQuire (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1994).
  • Preaching Creation: The Environment and the Pulpit (Wipf and Stock, 2011) by John Holbert, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Preaching at Perkins School of Theology (SMU). The book examines eight passages of Old and New Testaments to unpack what Scripture says about creation and our need to care for it. A sermon accompanies each passage. The last chapter outlines steps for reading the Bible and a variety of helpful resources for the preacher.

 

B. Celebrate key worship services throughout the church year.

Further resources are to be found at www.letallcreationpraise.org and www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org.

 

1. A Season of Creation: Celebrate a season of the church year, called a Season of Creation. The church year is based on the life of Jesus (Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter) and the life of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). Of course, we celebrate God in every aspect of the church year; and yet there is no season in which we focus on God the creator and the life of the created order. Now there is an optional “Season of Creation” available for use by congregations developed on a three-year cycle that is parallel to the Revised Common Lectionary. There are alternative lessons and suggested liturgies for four Sundays each year (recommended for the four Sundays in September leading up to World Communion Sunday and Saint Francis Day), including Bible studies, suggested spiritual practices, and “care for creation” actions celebrating various aspects of God’s creation.

 

Church that have celebrated a Season of Creation uniformly report very meaningful and creative worship experiences that allow the community to focus on creation care for these weeks. For all the relevant materials, go to www.letallcreationpraise.org. For the Australian Season of Creation, with many resources, go to www.seasonofcreation.com. If you do not celebrate the full four weeks, choose one or two of the liturgies to use in worship at this time or at other times throughout the year. Lutherans in Australia (Norman Habel) supported by Lutherans in the United States (David Rhoads and Paul Santmire) have been instrumental in spearheading the movement for congregations to adopt the season of creation into the lectionary year. For other expressions of a season of creation throughout the world, see www.letallcreationpraise.org.

 

Resources for a Season of Creation:

  • The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (Fortress, 2012). Editors Norman Habel, David Rhoads, and Paul Santmire, along with a stellar group of ecumenical and international scholars, provide theological and practical introductions to the season and reflections for its twelve Sundays in the three-year lectionary cycle. The resulting commentary is a valuable tool to help preachers and worship leaders guide their congregations into deeper connection with our imperiled planet.
  • Reflections on the Season of Creation lectionary lessons: These are available for the four Sunday of each year at: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/commentary-on-the-season-of-creation-in-year-b.

2. Greening of the Cross: During the Season of Easter, have a Greening of the Cross service in which worshipers put greenery on a wooden cross to show how Jesus’ death renews all creation. See http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/the-greening-of-the-cross-service.

3. Holy days: There are other Sundays and saints’ days that can be occasions to focus on care for creation. See the calendar of Holy Days on the Web of Creation website site for such times of commemoration, such as Thanksgiving Day, Rogation Day, and St. Francis Day. Go to www.letallcreationpraise.org for resources.

4. Blessing of the Animals: At some point in the year, perhaps around St. Francis Day (October 2), have a Blessing of the Animals service. Some congregations do it with the pets of members of the congregation. Others bring in animals from nearby zoos or police horses or other animals to which they may have access. The Blessing of the Animals is an opportunity to hold the service in an outdoor location (on church property or another public area) and to invite the local community to participate. See www.letallcreationpraise.org for different services of blessing. Be sure to bless the human animals also so as not to set us off from otherkind and as a way to celebrate our solidarity in Earth Community.

5.Celebrate Creation in All Seasons of the Church Year: There are lectionary lessons and themes throughout the church year when it would be appropriate to devote the entire service around creation themes. As you plan worship for a season, keep this possibility in mind. See www.letallcreationpraise.org and www.earthministry.org.

6. Celebrate with the seasons of the natural world. A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth's Ecology (Fortress Press, 2011), by Ben Stewart. Watered Garden begins with the classic, ecumenically held patterns of Christian worship and explores them for their deep connections to ecological wisdom, for their sacramental approaches to creation, and for a renewed relationship to the earth now itself in need of God's healing. This book is written especially for North Americans: people who live in a specific ecological region, and who play a particular role in the world's ecology. And of course it is written for Christians, especially those who are part of the Lutheran movement.

C. Celebrate key worship services to observe national commemoration days.

1. Earth Day/Week: Observe Earth Day on a Sunday near April 22, along with special worship services or educational programs throughout the week. Many churches hold adult forums, outdoor worship services, habitat restoration projects, and opportunities for members to commit themselves to earth-keeping disciplines in their homes and work places. There are worship materials for each Earth Day at the Creation Justice Ministries website, with educational resources and ideas for action. You will also find an archive of worship and educational materials from previous years: http://www.creationjustice.org/resources/#earthday and http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/worship-services/earth-day.

2. Thanksgiving: An opportunity to express gratitude for all creation. For resources for Thanksgiving services focusing on creation-care: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/planning-for-fall.

D. Celebrate services special to the congregation.

1. Covenant with Creation: In the early fall or near the beginning of the year or on Earth Sunday, offer a worship service in which community members have an opportunity to sign a “Covenant with Creation” to establish their commitment to do their part in the Greening of the Congregation. For examples, see http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation. This site also has a brief liturgy for the covenant ceremony to be done during a regular worship service. Or have members make their covenant as an offering.

2. Planting of trees: Some congregations regularly enhance their property, sometimes by commemorating the death of a member of the community with a planting and dedication of a tree in their honor. Planting trees is a responsible way to reduce our carbon footprint. Here is a dedication service: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/worship-services/tree-planting.

3. Blessing of Creation-Care Projects: Bless the land where your church is located! Or consider brief rituals of dedication for your community garden, plants in the sanctuary, and the development of a native prairie, or other natural area, on the property.

4. Christmas Tree Ceremony. Some congregations have a service of the burning of Christmas trees on Epiphany. Instead, why not have a service of recycling and rebirth as the trees are prepared for composting? 

E. Appoint the sanctuary with appropriate banners, greenery, and art that keep before the congregation their earth-keeping identity and mission.

All of these adornments make excellent gifts from groups in the congregation, as commemoration gifts, and from other donors.

 

1. Plants: Green the worship space with living plants/trees and provide them elsewhere in the church as a sign that the whole creation is the worshiping community. Where possible, highlight the relationship between inside and outside the church building as a sign that all of Earth is the sanctuary in which we worship. Some plants also purify the air!

2. Banners: Place banners at the entrance or inside the sanctuary to announce your commitment to creation: “Let all Creation Praise God” “The Whole Earth is full of God’s Glory.”

3. Art: Place artwork in the chapel that celebrates God the creator and creation. Stained glass pieces, for example, may be commissioned with this in mind. Display nature works by local artists.

4. Solar-powered light/font: Consider providing an “eternal light” or running water in the baptismal font that is powered by the natural energy of the sun.

5. Consider green design: Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry: Congregations, Their Buildings, and Creation Care (The Alban Institute, 2012), by Mark Torgerson, who teaches at Judson University in Elgin IL in the areas of worship, theology, and architecture. A practical guide for "cultivating a creation care consciousnes," "Greening worship spaces and certification," "Treating the land as sacred trust," and "the beauty and health of interior environments." With many examples.

F. Make your worship practices Earth-friendly.

● Use beeswax candles instead of oil-based candles.

● During warm months, Raise flowers to cut and place on the altar
● Place plants on the altar instead of cut flowers; send them home for planting.
● Use local wine that does not require transportation from a distance.
● Provide organic, whole grain communion bread.
● Use recycled paper for printed materials.
● Purchase furniture with certified wood and non-toxic fabric.
● Reduce/reuse/recycle or eliminate bulletins.
● Place basket to recycle printed materials at the exits.
● Practice intinction or provide reusable glasses (not plastic) for communion.
● Wash worship utensils/communion vessels in eco-safe dish-washing detergent.
● Purchase fair trade palms for Palm Sunday.
● Consider the origin of material used to make paraments.
● Use a live tree(s) for Christmas, then plant it in the church property.

 

G. Foundations in the Theology of Worship

Consider the following materials that provide theological grounds for creation-care worship.

  • Read A Theology of Liturgy in a New Key: Worshiping with Creation a chapter from The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary by Norman Habel, David Rhoads, and Paul Santmire (Fortress Press, 2011).
  • Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology (Fortress Press, 2003), by Gordon Lathrop. Holy Ground illumines how the central symbols and interactions of Christian liturgy yield a new understanding and experience of the world and contribute to a refreshed sense of ecological ethics - a Christian sense of the holiness of the earth itself.
  • Ritualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis (Fortress Press, 2008), by Paul Santmire. Is the Christian faith ecologically bankrupt? Theologian H. Paul Santmire has responded forcefully to that frequently voiced question by maintaining that, notwithstanding ambiguities, a single Christian tradition of long standing has something profoundly promising to say about nature and human life in nature.

 

 

 

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