Churches around the world are planning to celebrate God’s creation in worship as we approach the observance of Earth Day 2022.

Hymns like “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “This Is My Father’s World” will resound in sanctuaries both large and small.

Scriptures from the psalms will be read as a way of calling to mind the breadth and depth of the world around us. Litanies will be used to challenge us to be good stewards of the planet in our charge.

However, as we celebrate the wonder of creation in worship, we have to ask ourselves if we are truly honoring all aspects of God’s handiwork.

The creation account in the book of Genesis describes in detailed allegory the events of the first days of our world (Actually, it describes them twice!).

On the first five days of creation, God looked at what had been made and pronounced it as “good.” On the seventh day of creation, God rested and established the Sabbath as a time of rejuvenation and worship.

But on the sixth day of creation, God did something different. That day’s creation was not labeled as “good,” but rather as “very good.” On the sixth day, God created an often-overlooked part of creation celebrations: humans.

Humans share the gifts of creation in worship through the bread and wine of communion and the waters of baptism. These are our means of “re-creation” in worship.

But what about the people who are not welcome at our tables? What about those considered by society to be too dirty to enter the baptistry?

Earth Day gives us the opportunity not only to reflect on these questions, but also to rededicate ourselves to doing better in the future.

Let us examine some creative ways through which churches have used corporate worship to care for the parts of God’s creation that are often overlooked, marginalized or discriminated against.

There is a church in Houston, Texas, that has a worship service geared toward people overcoming addictions. The service, while open to everyone, is intended to be a safe place for recovering addicts and their supporters. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

A church in Greenville, South Carolina, formed relationships with local street musicians and incorporated their talents into the church’s worship services. Not only did this add to the creativity and diversity of worship, but it also provided an outlet for the musicians to make money without being susceptible to panhandling charges. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

In New York City, a church allows the unhoused to sleep in the church pews at night. This ministry not only provides much-needed shelter, but also turns the worship space into a physical reminder of God’s love for all people. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

There is a church in Hillsboro, Oregon, that has a special ministry to convicted sex offenders. While this type of outreach should be explored with caution and proper protocols, it provides a worship outlet for people who often feel abandoned by God and the church. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

Many churches around the nation have developed ministries to LGBTQ individuals. A church in New York City has developed a special ministry to teenagers who are discerning their sexuality. This includes counseling, times of worship and opportunities for food, clothing and housing for those who may have been rejected by their families. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

The churches in Savannah, Georgia, have had a long history of ecumenical partnerships. Since the colony’s founding in 1733, different religious groups have shared spaces and helped each other in times of need. When the Methodist congregation was in the midst of building renovations, they were allowed to worship in the Jewish Synagogue even though they didn’t have the same beliefs. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

A church in Atlanta, Georgia, is focused on providing unconditional love and affirmation to the 3,000 unhoused people in the city. They worship together in parks and offer morning prayer and Bible study. The church doesn’t try to “fix” the unhoused but seeks to offer them dignity and community. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, there is a congregation with a strong ministry to those with mental and physical disabilities. They offer an intentional Sunday school program for those with special needs, the entire building has been renovated to be fully ADA compliant, their bulletins and hymnals are available in Braille, and their services are interpreted for the deaf. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

A short-term hospitality program for immigrants escaping the recent terror in Afghanistan was established by a church in Savannah. They provided housing, food, clothing and anything else needed for families who were starting their lives over in a new place. Why? Because God says they are “very good.”

As Christians, we strive toward re-creation in all aspects of our lives.

We seek better relationships with God and one another. We seek to care for those who need our help, to love all those with whom we come in contact, and to change the ways and systems that may be hurting others without our even realizing.

On this Earth Day, I hope you can walk outside and take in the splendor of God’s creation. But I also hope you will take the time to look into the eyes of a brother or sister sharing this journey of life with you.

No matter who they are, what they have done or how much you may not like them, their Creator still thinks they are “very good.” God thinks the same of you, too – no matter what.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week calling attention to Earth Day 2022 (April 22). The previous article in the series is:

Climate Report Notes Emissions Rise, Highlights Key Contributors | Maddie Grimes

The Desert Shall Blossom | James Gordon

Is Mother Nature Jewish? | Leib Kaminsky

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