February 2nd, 2011: Not Just for Groundhogs This Year

[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]

Girl worshiping in a field.

February 2 is the International Day of Prayer for Creation. (cc image courtesy {Salt of the Earth} via flickr)

On February 2nd, a reluctant little groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, will be coaxed out of his hole so that we can all predict winter’s length according to his shadow.

But a better (and less ridiculous) way to consider the future is through prayer. On the same day as Groundhog Day, February 2nd, Christians will be praying for a brighter future—whether winter stays around or not—on the International Day of Prayer for Creation. Sponsored by Renewal, the student-led creation care organization, this day of prayer started on Christian college campuses, but it has spread to worshiping communities of all ages.

Whether your church community gathers to pray on February 2nd or on one of the Sundays on either side of that date, here are some suggestions for creative and meaningful ways to praise and plead with the Creator on behalf of his creation:

At Church
The 2011 theme for the International Day of Prayer for Creation is Environmental Justice. From the farmer who loses his land to drought and is forced to sell his children into slavery, to the rural and urban communities suffering the health impacts of polluted drinking water, unjust situations often arise from environmental degradation. We cannot fully pray for justice to come to suffering communities until we also pray for the environmental conditions of those communities to improve.

On a Sunday close to the International Day of Prayer for Creation, consider committing all or a portion of your regular worship service to lifting the broken lives, bodies, and landscapes of the world to the One who loves and can heal them.

  • Educate – Environmental disasters may make the news, but the stories of communities and individuals suffering the prolonged and everyday consequences of enduring environmental injustice do not. Use this PowerPoint presentation and resource page, provided by Renewal, to learn and teach about just a few of the environmental justice issues destroying communities from India to Detroit. The “Global Community” and “Where We Live” departments of each issue of Flourish magazine also highlight communities struggling to overcome unjust environmental conditions.
  • Pray – As a community, pray for God’s justice and shalom to help and heal the communities you have learned about or others you may be aware of—perhaps even your own. These prayers and petitions may occupy your service’s regular prayer time or a portion of the service set aside for prayer on this subject. They may include a request for God to guide your church in what it can do in the face of environmental justice. They may be articulated solely by your pastor or by the voices of many in your congregation. Regardless, they will be heard.
  • Praise – You may want to travel, in your service, from a time of lamenting environmental injustice, to begging God for healing and restoration, to praising God for what he is already doing. Here are some hymn and praise songs for worshiping God with and for creation. Use these to be sent forth from your time reminded of God’s goodness to and delight in what he has created.

At Home
If prayer for creation doesn’t work in your church’s worship service—or even if it does but you’d like to pray more!—gather your small group or a bunch of families and individuals at a home on February 2nd to pray for environmental justice together.

  • Around the table – Prepare a meal from one of the countries or regions you plan to pray for and remember that

    Share a meal, like Haiti's soup joumou, that hails from an area of the world in need of prayer for environmental justice.

    area in prayer before, during, and after your meal together. For one meal from a place in need of environmental justice, see our recipe for Haiti’s soup joumou. Find more international recipes in the Extending the Table cookbook.

  • On the wall – A prayer activity that will especially engage children is to tape a large sheet of paper to a blank wall and encourage everyone gathered to write or draw their prayers on it. Or hang a large map on the wall and have folks write their prayers on post-it notes and stick these to the areas of the map their prayers cover. Join together to pray the prayers written on the wall, and keep them displayed here or in your church as a reminder of those prayers and the people they are for.
  • All night long - …or for a couple of hours, at least, hold a prayer vigil for the communities directly affected by environmental injustice. Incorporate periods of music and Scripture reading into this time, and light candles to symbolize that you are remembering and holding out hope for the suffering; to symbolize that they are not forgotten.

Related Posts at Flourish
Slurp a Little Soup to Help Haiti Rebuild
David Gushee on environmental ethics and the sanctity of life

Further Reading
Renewal’s International Day of Prayer for Creation

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