To: Pastors and leaders of UCC Churches in Massachusetts
From: MACUCC Minister and President, Jim Antal
So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel ;
whenever you hear a word from my mouth,
you shall give them warning from me.
The prophet Ezekiel reminds us that we are God’s sentinel’s for the communities we lead. When a moral challenge confronts our nation, all together God expects us to blow the trumpet Ezekiel 33:3). We did so in the hope that we could rid our land of slavery. We did so in the hope that civil rights and voting rights could be guaranteed for all.
Today I invite us to “blow the trumpet” – actually to ring your church bell – in the hope that our love of God’s creation can inspire our communities to make the necessary changes in our behavior so that our grandchildren will enjoy the Eden into which we were born.
This invitation – this challenge – is a simple one:
Between now and December 15, 2008 , pick a date when you will ring your church bell 350 times as part of a campaign that seeks to engage at least 350 of our 400 MACUCC churches to do the same.
350 parts per million (ppm) is the amount of carbon in the atmosphere that is sustainable on a long term basis. Currently, our atmosphere holds 385ppm, and we’re headed towards 450ppm (see below for additional information on 350.) Environmental author Bill McKibben (who was raised in Hancock Church UCC, Lexington ) has launched a world-wide movement to make the number 350 the most recognized number on the planet.
Our campaign begins June 22:
This Sunday, June 22, the campaign begins with churches in 2 corners of the Commonwealth: First Congregational Church, UCC in Williamstown and Dennis Union Church in Dennis. Then, on 4th of July weekend, two churches in the other two corners will join: Old North Church in Marblehead and First Congregational Church in Sheffield.
What I’m asking you to do:
- Take a few minutes to read the sample press release pasted below and learn a little bit about the number 350 and the science behind it by viewing the links in the press release.
- Pray about this opportunity for 350 or more of our churches to chime in on this critical issue.
- Consult others in your congregation. Many congregations already have active environmental committees.
- Consider the positive publicity you could generate for your church. Rev. Carrie Bail in Williamstown has already sparked numerous articles, blogs and an NPR interview.
If you decide to participate in this campaign:
- Pick a date and plan the event. Consider various ways you could engage your congregation – in the ringing, through liturgy, by inviting the town council and/or mayor, etc.
- Email Willie Sordillo (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know:
- your date;
- your plans;
- the contact information for whomever is organizing this and/or your environmental contact person
- Adapt the press release (below) for your purposes and distribute to all local media.
When you ring your bell:
- Try to get press to attend and photograph your ringing event/service.
- Take photos and send one to Willie.
- I have begun to say to clergy that within two or three years, every third or fourth sermon (or at least every third or fourth worship service) must in some way mention or focus on one or more of the very broad set of issues related to creation care and healing the planet. I invite you to prayerfully consider making a commitment to this, and if you do, email me to tell me so. What convinced me of the necessity of this was thinking about sermons given from the pulpits of black churches in the South between 1958 and 1964: What percentage of these sermons do you think touched upon civil rights and related topics?
- With others in your congregation, prayerfully consider making a commitment to take action towards greening your church building. For information and ideas, see Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light: http://mipandl.org/.
I believe we can do this.
I look forward to your responses.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal ,
Conference Minister and President
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Sample press release
For more information:
????name of pastor????
????name of church????
????adds of church????
????adds of church????
????phone of church or pastor’s cell????
????email of pastor????
Rev. Jim Antal, Minister & President
Mass. Conference, UCC
One Badger Road
Framingham , MA 01702
Assistant Willie Sordillo:
(508) 875-5233 , ext. 225
June 20, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
????name of church???? WILL RING BELLS 350 TIMES ON ????DATE????;
PART OF UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST CLIMATE ACTION CAMPAIGN
Church bells normally ring on Sunday mornings to alert the neighborhood that God is calling the faithful to worship. But this [???? Saturday afternoon], [????name of church????] will ring its bell 350 times—joining UCC churches across the Commonwealth as part of a campaign to signal the desire for real steps towards solving the global warming crisis.
[????QUOTE FROM LOCAL PASTOR, SUCH AS:] “Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But we would certainly not want to subject ourselves to the mosquito-borne disease and rising seas our neighbors now face because of climate change,” said [????name of pastor ????]. “Because we can no longer stand idly by, we’ve started to take real steps in our own church building. And we also want to join with people around the world to demand a political solution.”
The number 350 comes from the latest scientific estimates of how much carbon dioxide is a safe level in the atmosphere. At the moment, burning coal, oil, and gas have taken that number too high—the atmosphere currently holds about 385 parts per million of carbon dioxide. “As a result, the planet is heating up too fast,” said Bill McKibben, environmental author and coordinator of the worldwide 350.org campaign.
“In December of 2009, the world’s leaders will meet in Copenhagen to forge an international agreement on global warming,” McKibben said. “So people in every country on earth are mobilizing to make sure that they don’t bend to the special interests and instead meet the targets science has laid out. African villages are planting 350 trees at the edge of town; we’ve even had people planning 350 mile marches to bear witness to this message.”
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ called the bell-ringing, which is taking place in churches across the state, “more than symbolic.”
“As the largest Protestant denomination in the Commonwealth, as each congregation decides to ring its bell 350 times, more and more of our 82,000 members will learn why the number 350 is so important. And when Christians learn that our choices threaten the most vulnerable people on earth and all future generations, they will change their behavior and demand that governments change everyone’s behavior.”
Antal has issued a challenge to the 400 United Church of Christ congregations in the state, asking that 350 of them ring their bells 350 times by the 350 th day of the year -- December 15, 2008 . Four churches – one in each corner of the Commonwealth – are initiating this campaign between June 22 and July 6.
Photo / Video opportunities:
[?????Provide specific info about the church bell you will be ringing, or having your Sunday School children ringing, or your handbell choir ringing along with the bell, etc.????]
[????If your church has begun an effort at greening, invite the press to run a photo of what you’ve done????]
[???? Invite a recording of the sound of your church’s booming bell ????]
For additional information on the science behind the number 350, contact:
For additional information on the science behind the number 350, contact Phil Rice of the Sustainability Institute at (802) 436-1277 x103 or view the slideshow, “Why350?.ppt”, posted on http://www.sustainer.org/oco/oco-resources/
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...