A nationwide 50-day environmental campaign of all United Church of Christ congregations has seen local members of the church picking up trash by the bagful and planting trees.
The campaign, titled “Mission 4/1 Earth,” calls for one million hours of earth care, 100,000 trees planted, and 100,000 letters of environmental advocacy sent.
“We called it trash and trees,” said Corliss Marsh, who helped organize the local campaign. “We had 25 trees and they’re all gone and planted.”
“We’re keeping track of all our earth-friendly activities for the month,” said Pastor Deb Allen. “We’re a small church but we’ll add our figures to the denominational total.”
The program started on April 1 and concludes May 19, on Pentecost Sunday.
Local officials picked the trash and trees focus because “we thought it was something everyone could do.”
“We wanted to focus it and not just say, ‘Go out and do something,’” Marsh said.
Doing the project has helped increase awareness of trash in the community. “One gal collected six bags on her walk,” she said.
Allen and Marsh hope the congregation continues with trash pickup, and makes it just a part of their everyday lives.
Most of the trash found was fast food wrappers – and a hubcap.
The group didn’t keep track of how much trash it picked up – and put into paper bags, to be more eco-friendly – but it did keep track of the hours spent.
So far, as of early this week, the church had put in 114 hours on trash cleanup. That will be added to the 86,124 hours tallied so far nationwide. The total trees planted thus far is 15,761 and 14,435 letters have been sent.
The church did not have a goal of how many hours it wanted to reach. “We’re just a small congregation, we’ll just add it to the stream of the total.”
The church did do one group effort over one week, “to show what, in one week, we could do,” Marsh said.
She would like to see the church “adopt” an area nearby to keep clean, and hopes other churches will do the same. “We want to start a movement,” she said.
The trees planted are fir trees, which were donated by the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District, Marsh said. A member of the congregation potted them, making them easier to transport and plant.
“Just dig a hole, water it — and say a prayer,” Marsh said of the simplicity of planting the trees.
Allen said the church has long had an environmental interest — “UCC has been involved in environmental issues for 45 years” – and takes that cue from the Bible itself. “We are called to be stewards of the earth,” she said. Genesis has a verse that says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
“As Christians, we’re called to be good stewards of the Earth,” Allen said.
This is the second year there has been an all-denomination project. Last years focused on collecting cans of food.
“We just like that there are 1.2 million of us working on this project at the same time,” Marsh said. There are 5,100 churches in the denomination.
The early days of the denomination were focused on education and hospitals. The UCC church was the denomination of the nation’s founders. Harvard and Yale were established by the congregation to train ministers, and it founded Dartmouth to educate Native Americans, Allen said.