ďThe Choice to Save the WorldĒ
An Earth Day
Intergenerational Worship Service
Adapted by Rev. Greg Ward
Thanks to Joanna Macy
First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto
March 29, 1998
We are all concerned about how to save our
planet from excessive degradation, consumption and waste.
This service, based on a futuristic myth, allows us to explore how
our efforts toward environmental compassion are actually in line with our
CALL TO WORSHIP:
Narrator: It is the time of year when
you can just see the buds of leaves bulging out slightly on the branches of
leaves. It is Spring. In centuries past it was the time of year when Christian
people celebrated a day of rebirth and resurrection called Easter and when Jewish
people celebrated seven days of remembering liberation called Passover. Now in the
year 2310, it is the time of year when people make their pilgrimages to the
Gathering Sites. It is a time for remembering LIBERATION and REBIRTH. Old men and
women, children, people of all ages they come. Their bags are packed for an
overnight, and they bring instruments and costumes for dancing and singing. Come,
letís join them.
(Old woman who is at the gathering
site - in front of chalice - stands up and speaks):
It is a time for remembering our past
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
ďThis Land is Your LandĒ
CALL TO WORSHIP
Come with me into this place.
(Children 1-5 come and join the Old Woman at the chalice. As
they arrive they begin speaking together: )
Love is our doctrine
(All the children sit down around the chalice and listen to
the Old Woman speak)
STORY PART I
Join us at this Gathering Site in
Southern Ontario. We are beginning to tell stories. These are stories weíve
learned long ago from many of the great wisdom traditions of this planet.
Narrator: A child asks.....
Child1: "Why do we come here
Old Woman: We come here so we will
never forget. We come with our hearts full of GRATITUDE for the courageous men,
women, and children who lived at the turn of the last millennium, the time of the
Great Turning. The people living in the late 20th and early 21st
century, were our ancestors. Without them and their love and courageous actions,
we might not be here. I have come to the Gathering Site every year for 60 years. I
will tell you the story.
(The Old Woman continues to go on, gesturing to the children
Narrator: When human beings first
walked planet earth, they lived simply, respecting the earth. They honored the
clean, fresh air (dancer AIR introduces herself). They honored the crystal,
clear water (dancer WATER introduces herself). They honored the rich,
fertile land (dancer EARTH introduces herself). But then, people became
careless. Their amazing inventions - buildings that reached the sky and spaceships
that could circle the earth, cars that ran on gasoline and houses with all kinds
of things called "modern conveniences" and "appliances" -
these things got out of hand.
All these things helped them to become
quite comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, they didnít notice the green ooze. (Green
Ooze comes up from behind the risers. He has dirty rags hanging off him and he is
very green. He has lots of Easter grass hanging from him and he begins to shake
dirt on the elements - first the air, then the water, then the earth.) It was
easy to miss at first. Green Ooze first appeared in the air, just a bit of it.
People coughed more and the sky was no longer clear. But it didnít seem to hurt,
so they didnít pay any attention. Then the green ooze got into the water. The
fish and the whales and the tiny, invisible animals in the oceans began to die,
but the people couldnít see them. Fish and other animals in the water became
more scarce. Even some people remembered back when they could swim in the lakes
and the rivers without worrying if the water was polluted, and they could eat the
fish without worrying if they were poisoned. But most people thought it wasnít
that bad, so they didnít pay any attention.
Then the green ooze got into the land.
The plants that grew on the land were weaker and they were susceptible to diseases
and bugs that would destroy them. The people tried to grow stronger varieties of
food plants, which worked for few years. They put fertilizers and pesticides in
the land which made the plants look more healthy but it killed the birds and hurt
the people who worked in the fields. In the forests the changes were so gradual
that only a very few people who knew how to pass on the knowledge of the forests
noticed the changes. But very few people changed the way they did things. Then
through the air and the water and the land, the green ooze began to get inside the
people. Some of the people got very sick. The people were very smart and they
looked for cures. They loved the people who were sick. But they also seemed to
love the machines that produced the green ooze. So much of the green ooze kept
pouring out of their machines and their factories and their energy plants. And
though they didnít like the green ooze, they didnít stop making it.
Child2: Why didnít they do something?
Old Woman: Thatís a good question.
Let me tell you a story about frogs. Did you know that if you drop a frog in
boiling water, it will jump out to save himself? But if you place a frog in cold
water and slowly heat the water, he will not realize what is happening. He will
settle down and become comfortable and by the time the frog realizes something is
wrong, it is too weak to jump out. Heís cooked. Thatís the way that human
beings are. Thatís why they didnít do anything to save themselves.
Child3: Why do we honor children when we come here to the
Old Woman: We honor children at the
Gathering Sites because children were the first to listen to the cries of the
planet. They heard the river speak. It said...
(Water dancer moves in a manner trying to speak to the
children. The Green Ooze rises behind it and "oozes" it with some green
cut up trashbags and some Easter basket grass.)
Water: Stop killing me. All the green
ooze you dump into me, itís killing me. I want the fish to grow big and strong.
I want plants and animals and bugs to have a good place to live. I want the
children to play along my shore.
Narrator: Of course the river didnít
speak in words. It spoke in the dirty foam on its waves and the trash that lined
the banks and the oily crust that was left where the water met the shore. But the
children knew what the river was saying. And the children heard the whisper of the
(Air dancer moves in a "windy" fashion trying to
convey to the children itís concerns. Green Ooze rises up behind air and
"oozes" it slightly with trashbags and Easter grass.)
Air: Stop killing me. I have much
power I can share with you but this green ooze is killing me.
Narrator: Again, the children
understood what the air was saying by the soot that kept clinging to the horizon.
And the air stung their eyes and they began to cry. The children also heard the
great rumble of the land saying....
(Earth dancer moves in a heavy, labored fashion and addresses
the children trying to convey its concerns. Green Ooze rises up and
"oozes" it slightly.)
Earth: Stop killing me. I provide you
with food but the green ooze and those pesticides and fertilizers you use are
killing me. I have begun to look forward to the day when the human species dies
Narrator: More and more children had
noticed the earth and the air and the water trying to speak to them. And as they
began to talk to one another, they realized that the elements werenít just
talking to one child, they were crying out to all children. They began to realize
what the elements were saying was true. If people didnít do something to stop
the green ooze, the elements would die. And they knew that if that happened, they
would die too. They wanted the earth to live, not just to sputter along, but to
LIVE, vibrant and healthy. They wanted all children, for years to come, to be able
to run on grassy hills without coughing. They wanted to pull their food from the
ground, not from plastic packages. They wanted to drink water without having to
put tablets in first. It was clear that they must do something . But what?
Old Woman: That was a tough question.
The earliest children, the ones who first noticed the elements crying, came
together to think of what to do. They gathered and talked and thought and listened
quietly to the earth to see if the planet had something to say.
(Three young dancers rise up from the circle and turn to the
Elements who are struggling under their ooze and struggling to be heard. The
dancers make several attempts to hear the elements but cannot because there is too
much ooze. They begin doing "Spiral Dance" and as they do the ooze comes
off. Spiral Dance is done to Hymn 387, "The Earth, Water, Fire Air. As they
start dancing in a spiral and bringing in the elements, they begin to sing. As
they do, the congregation joins in.)
HYMN 387 The Earth, Water, Fire, Air
(The dancers smile and say goodbye to the water, air and
earth. They pick up all their shovels and buckets and rags from cleaning up the
ooze and start to walk away. As they get to the edge of the gathering site - the
inside of the circle - they notice that the green ooze has returned and is oozing
the elements even worse than before. They are shocked and saddened.)
Old Woman: The children who took time
to hear the cries of the elements worked to free them from the ooze and the slime
that were killing them. But just as soon as they were all cleaned up, more ooze
came in and covered them up again. The children were horrified. They knew they
were watching their own future slowly dying. They wanted to stop it. But they
couldnít think of what they could do. So they came together, in frustration and
grief, wondering how they could find enough people willing to help. And as they
prayed for a hope not yet discovered, all was silent.
MUSIC FOR MEDITATION (JOYS AND
STORY PART II
Old Woman: It soon became clear to the
children needed help in order to stop the green ooze from killing the planet. They
began to hold meetings and invite others. They wrote newspaper articles and talked
with politicians. They made phone calls and met with city officials. They planted
trees and cleaned up creeks and rivers. The original groups of children got their
friends involved until hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids were working to
stop the green ooze. And, even when they were very busy, they never forgot to
leave time to listen to the Earth. They played in the out doors, they climbed
trees and lay down on the grass, they watched the clouds, and they sat quietly
Some adults didnít take the kids
seriously at first. But slowly many adults began to hear the babbling of the
river, the whispering of the wind and the rumbling of the earth. They began to
come to meetings and talk to people and help clean creeks and plant trees. The
movement became very strong. Soon they realized that if everyone really WANTED to
stop the green ooze, they could do it.
Child4: Why do we dance the spiral of time every year at the
Old Woman: The children and adults
working to stop the green ooze had to get the attention of the others who did not
care - who didnít see any problem and didnít pay any attention to the green
ooze. Some of these people were people busy with other important things. Some had
become captives of Greed. Some cared a lot about what was happening but felt
powerless or hopeless. They had all forgotten about the many children who would
come after them who were depending on them to keep the elements alive. And they
had forgotten about the elements themselves, who were also depending on the people
to help keep them alive. The elements felt discouraged. It was clear they were
overpowered. Now they almost seemed to be giving up. The children saw this and
began to sing.
HYMN: ďListen, Listen Listen to My Heartís SongĒ (Chant)
Listen, listen, listen to my heartís song
Listen, listen, listen to my heartís song
I will never forget you, I will never forsake
I will never forget you, I will never forsake
(Sung twice by the children at the gathering site)
STORY PART III
Old Woman: The children then created
the spiral dance to help wake up the people to what was happening.
Narrator: Will all the children and
adults who would like to participate in the spiral dance please come out by the
chalice. We are going to do the dance now here together. This dance is simple.
Everyone hold hands in several circles around the chalice. Now while still holding
hands, turn toward your right. Now as the drum begins to beat walk backwards.
(Narrator reads while people walk
Narrator: Come back with me into a
story whose message lives in us still. The story belongs to every person, every
group, every living thing. The story lives like the beat of this drum, like the
heartbeat of our living universe.
From this moment you will walk
backwards through time. Move back through the events and encounters of this
day.... this week... this month... this year. Walk back through the decades into
your younger years, your childhood. Soon you are a baby in your motherís arms,
now back in her womb, and returning to the moment of this lifeís beginning...
But what lives in you did not begin then. Walk back into your parentsí lives,
their meeting, their youth and teenage years and childhood... back into the wombs
that bore them, back into your grandparents.... Continue back slowly into and
through the centuries, into ancestors whose names you no longer know, but a
gesture of theirs, a smile or turn of the head, lives on in you.
Keep moving back upstream in this
river of life, back through the industrial era.. back into simpler, harsher times
marked by the seasons, back into the Middle Ages... Walk back through the lives of
men and womenópeasants and teachers, scholars, artists, thieves, who even then
bore you within them like a future seed.. Move back through the time of the plague
and pilgrimage into lives of ancestors with hands, like yours, that chiseled the
stones of great cathedrals and eyes, like yours, that tracked the movements of
Keep going back... back.... back...
back to the dawning of civilizations we know , and enter the early, wandering
times... the small bands in forest settlements, their feasts and rituals around
the sacred fire, and their long marches in the ages of ice. Back through the
millennia you walk with them, to your beginnings in the heartland of Africa. And
now with the very first ones you stand at the edge of the forest.
Pause now, looking out over the
savannah. The journey of your people lies ahead. Walk forward on it now.
(Group begins to walk forward)
Retrace your steps, returning through
time. Each ancestor has a gift to bestow; open your arms and hands to receive it,
as you walk up through the centuries. They who passed on to you the texture of
your skin, the shape of your back, the marrow in your bones, also have courage to
give you, and stubbornness and laughter. These gifts are yours for the taking.
Gather them, as you come forward
through the years to this present moment, this brink of time. They who loved and
tended this Earth leave for you the strength and wisdom you will need now to do
what must be doneóso their journey and yours may continue.
Please return to your seats.
We take this time
in our service to give one another the opportunity to contribute to the common
vision of this community Ė so that our journey may continue.
We will now receive this morningís
STORY PART IV
The children created dances and plays
and wrote stories. They published articles in magazines and in newspapers. They
tended gardens and planted flowers. They cleaned up trash and restored lakes. All
the while, the green ooze was choking more rivers, poisoning more land, and making
the air thick and dirty looking. It took many years, and some of the children were
no longer children, but finally the clean up began in earnest. The Great Turning
(The children all use their brooms and rags and cleaning
stuff to spruce up the area. They especially focus in on the elements and take all
the ooze off of them.)
Factories and energy plants and
machines and automobiles were stopped from releasing any more green ooze into the
environment. The wind and the water and the sun and the plants were happy to share
their power with the people. The people cleaned up rivers and planted new trees.
They composted what they could and gave back to the land.
(Here, the children start to attack the Green Ooze with
brooms and sweep in into the pile with all the rest of the dirt and garbage.)
But some of the green ooze was so
dangerous it could not be cleaned up nor composted. It was so dangerous it could
not be let out into the environment without causing serious illness and death. It
was so toxic, in fact, that it would have to be kept out of the biosphere for many
times longer than recorded history. At first the people thought they might dig
giant holes in the rocks under the earth to put this dangerous green ooze in, but
the earth rumbled and said "If you put this green ooze out of sight, you
humans will forget it. The containers will corrode and this dangerous green ooze
will again seep into the land and into the ground water. You must store it
somewhere where you will never forget."
(Here they take the big refrigerator box that has been at the
gathering site and place it over the top of the Green Ooze.)
And that is how the Gathering Sites
came into being. All over the world, this dangerous green ooze was put into waste
containers at Gathering Sites. The containers are monitored and repaired
religiously. They are centers of reflection and pilgrimage, where the wisdom
traditions of our planet offer contexts of meaning and where people keep watch.
They are beautiful places where people plant trees and flowers and where they keep
beautiful art. It is here where all people come once a year to remember. To
remember what happens when human beings can become careless, to remember the days
when the green ooze covered the planet, to remember the days of the Great Turning
when the children tipped the balance and the great clean up began, to remember
with gratitude and compassion all of the people who lived during those hard times,
and to remember the rebirth and liberation of our great planet Earth.
Old Woman: It was the children, the
most sensitive among us, who understood deep in their bones that what we were
doing was hurting everything around us. It was wasnít fair to the people who
depended on the elements to live or to the children not yet born who depended on
us to keep it all going. The children saw the pain and the unfairness, and
understood that it had to stop. It was the children among us, and the child within
us, that finally allowed us to make a difference. It is a difference we are called
to make, we are asked to remember and we accept with gratitude. In everyone of our
efforts, the planet rejoices. Let us rejoice together in our commitment to care
for our planet.
(the earth celebrates, dancing joyously with the small group
whoís gathered and with anyone in the congregation who they can get to join
ďFor the Earth Forever
My heart is moved by all I cannot
As we depart this special place