Spring is when the seeds of intention that we planted early in the new year start to shoot and bud, along with the tips of green emerging from the earth. It is a time of hope, growth and regeneration in both the natural world and Christian tradition as we celebrate the life and promise of Easter.
When we realize how deeply the natural cycles are connected to our lives, we begin to discover that when we work to heal our lives, we also help to heal our collective experience on planet earth. As we strive for health and harmony in our own lives, our relationships and daily interactions improve. Even intentions like choosing to eat healthier, and substituting more local fruits and vegetables for red meat, have a beneficial impact on the planet.
Or, if you are someone who starts with the outer, and seeks to make a difference in the world, you will most likely realize that in order to sustain your activism, you will need to learn how to go within and fortify your soul with gratitude practices and prayer and meditation.
Whether your intention of healing yourself in turn benefits the world, or your intention to bring healing to the world leads you to restorative personal practices, these mutual exchanges of healing energy are examples of sacred reciprocity.
A beautiful expression of this connection is found in Unity’s publication, Earth Blessings: Prayers for Our Planet. It is the Daily Word, from August 2, 1999:
When I look at the sky, hear the birds singing in the trees, or feel the heat of the sun on my face, I am reminded that planet Earth is a wonderful gift that God has given all. I am also reminded that I have an important responsibility as a caretaker of life on Earth.
This prayer reminds us that our divine impulse to care for the earth is first and foremost inspired by love and gratitude. At times, it may feel like our actions are motivated by fear or guilt, but those emotions are draining and do not honor our oneness with creation. When we feel motivated more by the latter than the former, it is time to step outside and reconnect to our true essence.
The solace that we find in nature, whether hiking among our elders in a forest of ancient trees or strolling barefoot along a vast seashore where possibilities seem limitless, is both grounding and transcendent. These experiences resonate deeply in our core, as our heart center opens and tunes to the vibration of the universe.
If we are lucky, a portal opens briefly, offering us a deep, unshakable inner knowing of our oneness with this world and all that is in it. Our human worries dissipate and are carried along invisible threads into the ether. These experiences may last only a few fleeting seconds, but they make an impression and create an insatiable craving for connection that can last a lifetime, as the Divine beckons us back time and again to Her groves and shores.
Coming from the deep desire to honor this connection and demonstrate Unity’s belief in our oneness with all divine life, the Unity EarthCare Team (UET) was formed. It is a ministry team of Unity Worldwide Ministries, and our mission is to foster awareness of our spiritual oneness with our Earth home and promote active care of creation by integrating an earth-oriented spirituality into its ministry. Be sure to check out all the resources this team has collected to support you in living with oneness. In so doing, congregations manifest Unity’s Fifth Basic Principle: “Through thoughts, words and actions we live the truth we know.”
The Path to EarthCare is a seven-step action plan which is also a circle of sacred reciprocity.
It begins with creating a consciousness for the work through prayer. Prayer guides the ministry to its own unique expressions of caring for creation. Once a ministry discerns, through prayer, a call to adopt EarthCare, it should create a vision for the work with the ministry leadership.
From that vision, specific actions will be identified and planned. They may be simple or complex, contained solely within the ministry or reach out into the broader community.
When we act, we remember that we do come from a place of inspiration, and look to take it from the small ministry and weave it into Sunday services, with prayers, songs or special ceremonies. The Truth that God is everywhere present in creation then becomes alive in people’s minds and hearts, and translates into daily action.
Ideally, actions will be ongoing, and learning is an important part of the process. Sponsoring educational activities in our ministries opens a space for individuals and the community to explore, pray and discern greater understanding about complex environmental topics.
Sharing our ideas and successes is important for fostering the work within our congregations and the larger community. Networking with other groups and programs reminds us that we are not alone in the task of caring for creation. As we become aware of the work within Unity and elsewhere, we can unite our actions to care for humanity and the planet that sustains us.
Just like the cycles of nature, there are also ebbs and flows in EarthCare work. There are times when there is a lot of focus on action and education and there are other times when we need to focus on renewal, nurturing, and restoration. A hike or other outdoor activity is a perfect form of renewal, as it reminds us of our love for creation and why we are called to this work. We can then pray together once again, and ask how we can best be of service and care for creation.
All of these steps on the path to EarthCare can help to retain and invigorate current members by strengthening the bonds between them, and attract new members by the outward manifestation of love in action. When a congregation supports the healing actions of their EarthCare team, the church community is also strengthened, creating yet another circle of sacred reciprocity.