My high school calculus teacher used to occasionally show us clips from the Monty Python tv series, which has resulted in one line being permanently engraved in my mind: “And now for something completely different.”
I can use that line to describe several transitions in my life, but it seems particularly appropriate for the mid-point of my Eco-Stewards internship. One day, I was living atop a beautiful mountain with camp staff and children running around everywhere; the next, I was back in a town-setting–back in civilization–working more-or-less in an office, doing internet-based research for much of my day.
This is not to say this was a bad transition; it was simply two very different settings. In many ways, my time at First Presbyterian in Hinton was more akin to my “regular” life. After roughly eight years of college and grad school, research comes naturally to me, and the internet is a familiar place.
My task in Hinton was basically three-pronged: to research options for the running of the church that were more eco-friendly, to help the church set up a recycling area, and to design and lead a worship service based around our responsibility to care for all of creation.
Research? No problem. I found all sorts of options–100% recycled paper, recycled pens and pencils, natural cleaning products, non-disposable plates and bowls. The range of options was pretty exciting to me; I felt like a geek for it, too. But I am okay with my eco-geek side.
The recycling area was fairly straightforward. We cleared out a set of shelves in the basement of the church, found bins made of recycled materials, and got started. The recyclables are going to be taken to Ronceverte (WV), where they recycle a surprising number of items, so I made labels for our fifteen bins and set it all up. My bulletin board skills were put to use in posting information about recycling. Perhaps the best thing about this project was the tangible result–you could actually see that I was doing something at the church.
The most memorable part of my Hinton experience, though, is the worship service. I was asked to plan the whole service–pick the hymns, write the liturgy, and prepare and deliver the sermon. Preaching I’ve done before; not extensively, but enough that I’m fairly comfortable with it. The rest of the liturgy, though? This was new territory for me.
I have more respect now for those who do weekly worship planning. I was lucky enough to find a list compiled of hymns relating to creation-care, but it required a surprising amount of time to flip through them and find those that best fit what I wanted to portray, and best fit my theology. And writing the welcome and the confession of sins and the assurance of pardon and the prayers and the other prayers and the benediction … plus, it was communion Sunday, so there was the setting for that to adapt to a creation-care focus. Let’s just say I don’t think I want to be doing this every week, and kudos to those who do.
It excites me to see churches take more interest in the ecological impact of the ways church happens–to see them want to make a difference in creation. It excites me to have had congregation members come up to me after the service and tell me that I made them think about something, or that they are going to start bringing their recyclable products to the church. It excites me that there is a movement within the church towards ecological responsibility, and I am glad to have been a small part of this.