Today is the very first day of lent 2019. And if you’re a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, you might be cutting out plastic for the next 40 days instead of giving up baked goods, swearing, or television. The Washington Post reports that a group of churches throughout the United States have asked those in the pews to bid adieu to single-use plastic cups, bags, and straws.
In case you’re not up on your scripture, lent is the period between Ash Wednesday (March 6) and Easter (April 21) when certain sects of Christianity pay homage to the time Jesus spent in the desert praying to be resurrected. For thousands of years, lenten practices have been about abstaining from one vice or another, but this year the Evangelical Lutheran branch leaders are calling for a eco-conscious approach to the age-old practice.
“Landfills are overflowing with plastic—people think they are throwing it away but there is no ‘away’,” says Marianne Novy of the diocesan social justice and outreach committee in an interview with Well+Good. Participating churches throughout the country are meeting the challenge in various ways. St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in the Washington, D.C., area will be offering five workshops that cover topics including solar energy and green homes; St. John Neumann in Reston, Virginia, will be serving up meatless soup on Fridays (in reusable bowls, of course).
Church leaders say that the switch-up also takes the focus on the individual and places it instead on the collective. “It’s a way to think about it as more than just a personal thing, like chocolate or alcohol that’s enjoyable,” Reverend Sarah Rossing, pastor of St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, told The Washington Post. “This is asking people to give up convenience … and be more intentional with things and the Earth.”
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