[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]
Mark your calendars! With the flip of the page onto January 2011 a few days ago, we entered a new year full of opportunities for faithful stewardship and cultivation of God’s creation.
Some of those opportunities (like Earth Day or Bike to Work Day) have been made official holidays or times of recognition. Others depend on the turn of the seasons or the observances of traditional church calendar. To help your church community keep track of a year’s worth of creation care activities and special days, check out the following month-by-month list of fun and important ways to get involved. Then, working with your pastor or creation care ministry, choose the opportunities that best suit your worshiping community, and create your own creation care calendar of events for 2011!
Planning a Church Garden
Even though the buds might not show for a few months, now is the time to gather as a church community and plan if and how a church garden might enhance your Christian witness and community.
February 2: World Wetlands Day
Learn more about the wetland ecosystem that, though fragile, provides us with clean freshwater and contributes to the world’s biodiversity.
March 9: Ash Wednesday; Lent Begins
This year the Lenten season begins on March 9th. Even if you’ve never before observed this traditional church season of penitence and sacrifice, consider giving up a habit or activity that you know to be harmful to creation and prayerfully discerning how God would have you treat for his creation, instead.
March 22: World Water Day
The theme for 2011 is Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge.
March 26: Earth Hour
One hour. No lights. A small act with a big impact.
April 22: Good Friday
This day of contemplation, penitence, and sorrow is a good time to avoid the Internet and shopping malls, and to wait on the Lord in silence.
April 22: Earth Day
Christians sometimes avoid Earth Day celebrations, but local conservation activities, conferences, and fairs provide great opportunities for caring for creation in community and praising the Creator.
April 24: Easter
An Easter sunrise service is beautiful for its symbolism and for how it gets us outdoors on the most joyous day of the Christian calendar.
April 29: Arbor Day
Plant a native tree species in your community and add a little health and beauty to creation.
May 20: Bike-to-Work Day
May is Bike Month, and the perfect opportunity to reduce your personal pollution and increase your personal health. In addition to the official Bike-to-Work Day celebrated on the 20th, encourage your congregation to hold a Bike-to-Church Day!
May 22: International Day for Biodiversity
The theme for 2011 is Biodiversity and Forests. As a church, you can join with local nature and wildlife preserves to cultivate biodiversity in your own region.
June 4: National Trails Day
From simply finding a local trail and hiking it to taking responsibility for its maintenance on this day, National Trails Day is a great time for getting outdoors and reducing your family’s risk of Nature Deficit Disorder.
June 5: World Environment Day
Like Earth Day but on a scale that incorporates all nations of the world, World Environment Day presents the opportunity to celebrate God’s creation and point others toward the Creator.
June 8: World Oceans Day
A day for enjoying, learning about, and protecting the ocean nearest you.
September 22: World Car-Free Day
Walk, bike, or ride public transportation instead!
September 25: International Coastal Cleanup
Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, this is a straightforward one: A day to clean our coasts and waterways of debris that harms marine ecosystems.
The first week: Junk Mail Awareness Week
Opt out of one of the greatest wastes of paper.
October 4: World Animal Day
Taking place on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, World Animal Day is the perfect time to host a shelter pet adoption event at your church.
November 15: America Recycles Day
The perfect opportunity for your church to serve the larger community and creation through a very simple act. It’s a great time to start recycling at your church or to offer the community the chance to recycle electronic waste.
November 24: Thanksgiving
Learn why Thanksgiving is an even better day than Earth Day for Christians to care for creation.
November 25: Buy Nothing Day
Don’t get the Black Friday blues. Instead, take time to be with family and friends, and get started on those handmade, recycled Christmas gifts!
Alternative Gift Market
With Christmas approaching, hold an alternative gift market as a church community, encouraging others to buy Christmas gifts that have been made in humane and ecologically responsible ways.
December 14 – January 5, 2012: The Christmas Bird Count
You don’t have to be an expert birder to observe which bird species are visiting your community and report their numbers to the Audubon Society as a participant in what is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world.