The Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches (NCC) has announced their Earth Sunday theme for 2006, "Through the Eye of the Hurricane: Rebuilding Just Communities".
An eight-page background resource, downloadable from their web site at http://www.nccecojustice.org/KatrinaDownload.html provides key facts and liturgical suggestions for engaging the issues in congregations.
"In the days and weeks following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, communities of faith sprang to action and assumed important leadership roles in the efforts to collect and send money, supplies, and relief workers to the Gulf Coast region. By focusing our Earth Day resources on the Gulf Coast region, we hope to remind people in our churches that the efforts to rebuild continue and the needs are beyond urgent," said Cassandra Carmichael, NCC director of Eco-Justice programs.
Andrew Whitehurst, Chair of the Diocese of Mississippi Stewardship of Creation Committee, notes that media have reported widely on the environmental situation underlying the recent devastation. Whitehurst, who coordinates the Scenic Streams Stewardship Program of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, reminds that "subsidence dominates the equation" in the Mississippi bird foot delta, where silt is carried downstream and off the continental shelf, rather than being deposited. "Louisiana is and has been sinking because of the sediment deficit, sea level rise and subsidence."
He adds that the churches can help keep attention on all the problems that the storms have underscored. "It will be a test of resolution and staying power [for churches, as] the needs of the region will be great for years to come."
Congregations may re-energize their efforts by using the Working Group's resource for celebrations on the Sunday closest to Earth Day (April 23 this year) or another Sunday of their choosing. The resource offers informational support for related parish action events, study groups, or fund raising efforts.
Questions suggested for reflection groups in "Through the Eye of a Hurricane" stretch participants to consider how economic vulnerability and environmental degradation may be going hand in hand in their own communities.
For those looking for inspiration and hands on learning beyond their parish programs, Martha Gardner, environmental ministries consultant for the Episcopal Church, urges participation in "Eco-Justice for All", the NCC conference on God's People, God's Planet. Keeping the focus on the Gulf region, representatives from many denominations will meet June 1 - 4 at Loyola University in New Orleans.
For more information email Karen Galles firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202/481-6943. To obtain the conference brochure visit http://www.nccecojustice.org/conf.htm or email Cassandra Carmichael email@example.com with questions.