The United Church of Christ is beginning the 50-day post-Easter period ending in Pentecost with an effort to plant 100,000 trees in the U.S. and abroad as part of a wider campaign focusing on earth care and environmental advocacy, with hundreds of congregations having already pledged to take part.
The denomination website of the Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days campaign says the effort is a way of living out Jesus' let-your-light shine proclamation in the Sermon on the Mount: "That they may see your good works."
Participants also include the UCC's colleges, seminaries, camps and outdoor ministries and health and human service agencies.
"Since Eastertide falls during the spring for northern-hemisphere Christians, it is a natural time to think about the Earth's regeneration and resurrection, just as we are exploring these theological themes in our spiritual lives as well," the campaign manual for the campaign says.
The three goals of the campaign – which are being tallied prominently on the website www.ucc.org/earth - are to provide more than 1 million hours of "engaged earth care," plant 100,000 trees in the United States and around the world, and write 100,000 letters on environmental concerns to local and federal lawmakers as well as local media outlets.
As of early April 1, there had been 288 hours of earth care performed, 516 trees planted and 647 advocacy letters sent.
Among examples of efforts at churches in Illinois, Arizona, and California are tree plantings on church property, setting up a church garden and collaboration with a local school to plant trees.
"It's been my experience that UCC people absolutely crave synergistic moments when we are connected deeply in shared mission, because, first, we know how to have wacky fun together and, second, we know we are walking in lock step toward reaching a common goal," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries.
"I think it's because we can feel the power that comes from tallying up evidence for the thing that really matters most: the expressed love of God's people for God's world.
Even though the campaign has already started it is still accepting new stewards for the effort, according to UCC News.
Rev. Guess describes more of what he envisions the effort to be.
"Mission 4/1 Earth will be the United Church of Christ's next incredible shared witness to the world, and we need every single person, minister, church, camp, school, and agency of the UCC to become committed to making sure that these 50 days will be the life-changing, earth-blessing, and church-empowering moment we know it can be," he said.