Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Green Service

I'd encourage you to consider taking a little time this week to read some of the articles in the New York Times' Green Issue that they've published in honor of Earth Day. In the interest of mixing things up a bit, I've taken the liberty to arrange some of my favorite articles and features into the structure of a church service.

Where I go to church, the service starts with singing. In churchgoer lingo worship is a way to transition from the business of the week or the day and focus on the time you plan to spend meditating, learning, reflecting and challenging the ideas that will come of the service. Worship can be just song, but could also include projected artwork, dramatic readings, instrumental expression or even dance. The online version of the green issue includes a funky tribute to the sculptures used as headings throughout the article.

Every church service features a scripture reading, whether it be from a pre-determined yearly schedule or selected by that day's service leaders. In most Christian traditions, this includes readings from the Old and New Testaments. It was reading some of the entries in the ACT/ EAT/ INVENT/ LEARN/ LIVE/ MOVE/ BUILD sections that I though of this theme. Scripture readings are small snippets from the Bible that can then offer digestible ideas for study or contemplation. Of these, I recommend the LIVE and INVENT sections.

For the personal testimony, head over to Pasadena, CA where the Dervaes family has gone 'off the grid.' As my wife listened to the video report with me, she pointed out, "Those people used to be called Hippies." Maybe so, but these days, there's a lot more hip to what they are doing. Contrast their strategy with the way rich folks go green a la Bill Nye.

The sermon, tucked in toward the end of the service, centers on the motivation, justification, and implementation of individual efforts to curb fossil fuel consumption and carbon emission. The garden is rich with metaphor. The seed and sower have a long tradition in secular and religious texts. Michael Pollan provides a fresh take on the garden as a social force for lessening climate change.

Finally, for the benediction, I quote Rabbi Julian Sinclair:
“The environmental movement has been overwhelmingly secular for 40 years and has achieved amazing things,” he says, “but it hasn’t yet figured out how to move people on a massive scale because it isn’t telling the right story.’ Sinclair says he believes that the “doom-laden apocalyptic narrative” favored by the mainstream environmental movement can paralyze rather than motivate necessary lifestyle adjustments. Conversely, he says religion — which has been “in the behavioral-change business for 3,000 years” — offers a distinct message of hope and boasts an impressive track record of moral persuasion: “There have been watershed moments when religion has barged into public life, blown away the windbaggery of politics-as-usual and declared with irresistible force, ‘This must change now!’ ”

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