Whether it is taking on climate change or addressing the lead poisoning of children, environmental justice ministries could not have a higher purpose or calling than they do now. If the followers of Jesus today care about the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the world in which we live, then environmental justice ministry should undoubtedly be an integral strand in any church’s DNA.
Best Practice for Creation Justice Churches
Creation Justice pushes environmentalists like me beyond our aesthetic focus on natural beauty to consider some deeper ethical and moral issues. What basic rights are being affirmed or denied as we live on this planet? Who are the winners and who are the losers in our world? How do we achieve justice and balance not only with our fellow humans, but with all of creation? And underlying it all, how can we make life sustainable on this blue green earth with its limited space and finite resources?
A Creation Justice congregation is a church that is willing to think about these questions and find ways of addressing them.
Become A Creation Justice Church
Read “The Pollinator”, The UCC’s Creation Justice Blog
Support National Youth Event by Donating Plastic Bags
Plastic is invading every corner of our planet and we need to do something about it. One of the projects at National Youth Event 2020 (NYE) is converting disposable plastic bags into sleeping mats for people who are homeless. Let’s get plastic out of the landfill and put it to good use! Our own Rev. Samantha Houser is on the NYE committee and is tasked with collecting the bags for this project. Support the work of our conferences and show your drive and generosity by donating.
How to Donate:
Hand-to-hand: If someone from the Conference Staff is coming to visit your church this Spring or you’ll see them at an event, collect the bags ahead of time and send the bags back with them!
Snail Mail: Mail them to the South Dakota Office: 3500 S Phillips Ave, Ste 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57105
What kind of bags do we need?
Any size, color, and shape of plastic bag or even dry-cleaning wrap will do. Material needs to be fairly clean and unripped. Please DON’T buy new material just for the project, we already have enough plastic on the planet.
Plastic + Yarn = Plarn
Sleeping mats made out of plastic bags are not only practical for environmental reasons:
1. The plastic mat helps create a lightweight and semi-waterproof barrier between the cold, wet ground and the person and their bedding
2. Because of the plastic, the mat is easy to clean and attracks fewer pests
Why This Work is Essential
Tackling these issues will require the culmination of many small actions to bring about large change. You can be a part of this environmental movement while improving the quality of life for people who are homeless by supporting this NYE project.
The Plastic Problem
Learn about why the MS Sierra Club supports the ban on non-biodegradable shopping bags.
Starting a Green Team
Often known as green teams or creation justice teams, you can think of such church groups as ripple makers for change. While a team’s efforts may at times seem small, never doubt the ripple effect of what is done. Here are five suggestions for starting your own paddle-wielding team of ripple makers:
Starting a team can be a fun and exciting process of finding kindred spirits. Think of who in your church has a noticeable passion for the environment. Sidle up to them during coffee hour and say, “Hey, I noticed you’re passionate about the environment. Would you want to be a co-conspirator with me in making this church come alive with energy to care for God’s creation? Let’s form a green team.”
Make it about Discernment
When your team of co-conspirators meets for the first time, make your meeting first and foremost about discernment. What is God calling you to do? You may want to use this quote by Frederick Buechner to spur reflection: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Give an opportunity for everyone in the group to share their story of being called to this particular ministry. Why do they have a passion to care for God’s creation?
Make Creation Justice Part of your Church's DNA
A reoccurring problem in many churches is that all of the energy for a particular ministry gets funneled to a small group of people while energy and ownership of the ministry dissipates in the rest of the congregation. Creation justice should be a part of an entire church’s DNA. A green team can instigate change in church practices such as energy conservation, but ultimately the goal is for every committee and ministry to have caught the environmental bug so that they are caring for creation on their own.
Focus on Sending your Ripples Outward
A temptation can be to focus solely on internal church needs such as recycling. While it is wise to begin by tackling “easy wins” close to home, remember that ultimately God calls us to the larger world beyond the walls of the church. Research local and regional environmental injustices. Give attention to socioeconomic factors such as race and class. For example, a number of churches get a good share of their energy from coal plants and often those coal plants disproportionately impact low-income, communities of color. Once you have done your research, discern how you can make a difference.
Every Moses Needs an Aaron, While Every Aaron Needs a Moses
In addressing local and regional issues, discern what organization would be your best partner in making a difference. Consider both faith-based organizations such as Interfaith Power and Light and secular organizations like the Sierra Club or 350.org.
“Green Up” Your Worship and Theology
form a book club
Read the Pope’s encyclical on climate change and inequality. Interfaith Power and Light along with the Catholic Climate Covenant put together a helpful encyclical action kit with lots of good resources.
Add a “Season of Creation” to your church’s liturgical calendar.
Design an annual worship service that relates to your immediate environment. For example, Church of the Savior UCC in Knoxville, TN has a Mountain Sunday to celebrate mountains & address harmful mountaintop removal practices.
Delve into a theological perspective on worship that argues for an overhaul of existing worship practices and brings a biblical challenge to our narrow modern notions of God. Convene a worship team or another appropriate group in your congregation to read and reflect upon an essay by David Rhoads about worship, theology, and creation care.
Tackle Big Subjects
If you are a preacher, bring the ideas of the Pope and scholars like Rhoads into the pulpit. Moreover, don’t be afraid to tackle subjects like environmental racism or climate change. Notably, research tells us that leadership from the pulpit is one of the strongest indicators as to whether people accept climate change and will act for climate solutions.