Earth Day Worship Service


Chalice Lighting by Laura Horton Ludwig
[For this service, the chalice was a large pillar candle in a clear glass bowl of water.]

Call to Worship
Welcome to this Earth Day worship service! Like so many days, this day holds wonder and sorrow. Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 as a day to honor the Earth and to participate in environmental teach-ins. Since then, the environmental movement has grown in this country and environmental awareness permeates much of our society.

At the same time, the environmental problems we face have grown as climate change —which had already begun in 1970 but was barely recognized — has had deeper and graver impacts on Earth. Problems with consumption and other environmental degradation have also grown with the world’s economy and population.

There are promising signs, too. Alongside these problems, people have begun working for solutions. In the process, we’re healing some of the other hurts of our society.

Today we join together to hold our hope and our pain, to honor Earth, and to recognize how deeply our relationship with Earth and our work for environmental justice is intertwined with ALL of our spiritualities. This is not the work of one day, and on this day we honor Earth.

In this service we will be honoring the elements: Water, Fire, Air, and Earth. We begin with water, which symbolizes Rejoicing and Celebrating Our Natural World. Come, let us worship together!

Suggested Hymn: #38, “Morning has Broken”

Opening Responsive Prayer by Richard S Gilbert
[We suggest printing this in your order of service or on screen as a responsive reading.]

FIRE – Reckoning With and Grieving the Loss We Are Confronting
[Read briefly the symbolic meaning of fire, may add a sentence of your own]

Scripture Reading: John 11:17-25
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…

Pastoral Prayer

Suggested Hymn: #125, “From the Crush of Wealth and Power”

AIR – Reconnecting with Front-Line Communities and Earth in All Her Glory
[Read briefly the symbolic meaning of air, may add a sentence of your own]

Reading: from Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis

The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane. Water, oil, fire and colours are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise. The hand that blesses is an instrument of God’s love and a reflection of the closeness of Jesus Christ, who came to accompany us on the journey of life. Water poured over the body of a child in Baptism is a sign of new life. Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature. This is especially clear in the spirituality of the Christian East. “Beauty, which in the East is one of the best loved names expressing the divine harmony and the model of humanity transfigured, appears everywhere: in the shape of a church, in the sounds, in the colours, in the lights, in the scents.” For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation. “Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act, whereby the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation.

Story: “The Children Take Action! — A Climate Change Story” by Seema Deo and Kylie Jayne
This illustrated children’s story is about a group of kids on a Pacific Island who learn about global warming and do their own small part to help stop it, and save their island. Although the book was written for Pacific Islander kids, it is relevant to all children, and offers actions that kids can take to help stop global warming.
A low-resolution version of the book is available in PDF, or a higher-resolution version in PowerPoint.

Seed Ritual

Air symbolizes Reconnecting with Front-Line Communities and Earth in All Her Glory.

Suggested Anthem: #298, “Wake Now My Senses”

EARTH – Committing to a New Way

Prayers of the People: U.N. Environmental Sabbath Service, Earth Day 1990
To bring new life to the land To restore the waters To refresh the air
We join with the earth and with each other.
To renew the forests To care for the plants To protect the creatures
We join with the earth and with each other.
To celebrate the seas To rejoice in the sunlight To sing the song of the stars
We join with the earth and with each other.
To recall our destiny To renew our spirits To reinvigorate our bodies
We join with the earth and with each other.
To recreate the human community To promote justice and peace To remember our children
We join with the earth and with each other.
We join together as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery: for the healing of the earth and the renewal of all life.

Reflecting on Your Commitment
[Note: This closing ritual uses a basket of “ribbons” (strips cut from old, worn-out clothes) and a tree. For the tree, if you have a potted tree, you can bring it into the sanctuary and use it, or invite people to go out into the sanctuary to tie their ribbon to the tree. Or you can designate a tree outside and have a procession.]

As we come to the end of our service, we have traveled through celebrating our natural world with Water, reckoning with and grieving the losses we’re confronting with Fire, and reconnecting with front-line communities with Air.

Now, with Earth we find that we need to commit and recommit to new ways of being in relationship with Earth. We may need to commit to new ways of acting in this world, or in our religious communities, or to appreciating Earth as part of our spirituality, or to something else. Only our hearts know to what we need to commit ourselves.

In a few minutes, after we sing one last hymn and share a benediction, we will participate together in one more ritual, a ritual that is found in many cultures to as a way to mark an important commitment or prayer.

I invite you to take a ribbon — a scrap of fabric — from this basket and tie it to this tree, as a marker of a commitment that has grown out of our time together and is rooted in this community and our shared love of Earth. Or, if you feel so moved it may symbolize the grief or love you feel. Only our hearts know to what we need to commit ourselves or what we need to note in this moment.

I invite you to a brief time of silence for reflection on what your ribbon will symbolize.

[30 seconds of silence]

Suggested hymn: #163, “For the Earth Forever Turning”

As we go forth from this sacred space,
May we celebrate Earth and our shared lives,
May we recognize our connections to all that is in and on Earth,
May we truly and deeply value the inherent worth of all
In this awesome interconnected web of existence,
May we commit ourselves to a new way,
And may we hold our commitments and each other
 Gently yet firmly.
Blessed be and Amen.


Please come forward to take a ribbon, tie it to the tree, and, if you feel so moved, share your commitment with your neighbors.


Ocean water swirls as it crashes against flat wet rocks.
LEADER RESOURCE 1 Photo of Bean Plant
An arc of Earth's surface, blue oceans and swirling white clouds, taken from space