UCC leader part of panel on climate change at California church
Written by Emily Schappacher April 21, 2014
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
When it comes to climate change, First Congregational Church of San Jose United Church of Christ is located in the epicenter of it all: the waterways and coast lines of California's Bay Area are particularly vulnerable to the impacts, while tech companies in neighboring Silicon Valley work feverishly to lead a green technology revolution. So this Earth Day, the church wants to start an honest conversation about climate change and what it is doing to the planet. Utilizing panels of environmental experts, analysts and advocates, including the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, the church wants to identify and explore the role the faith-based community can play in combatting climate change during a public forum on Sunday, April 27.
"I really consider it an honor and privilege to be invited to take part in this event, and the effort to connect the local church to the wider church," said Jaramillo, the UCC's executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries who will be a panel guest. "We will address issues such as why we consider climate change a matter of faith, why the church gets involved in this kind of work, and why it's important for us as people of faith to be involved with climate change."
"Climate Change: Crisis, Opportunity and a Call to Action" will take place in the sanctuary of First Congregational Church of San Jose. The event will feature three panels of environmental experts and advocates from California and beyond who will discuss the problems associated with climate change, what the faith community is doing in response, and what groups can continue to do in the future. Jaramillo will be one of the three members on the panel representing the faith community. She will discuss the UCC's 30-year involvement with environmental justice issues, and how this has been part of the church's foundation. She will also share significant actions taken by the General Synod regarding issues of environmental injustice, including recent efforts to address global warming.
Keith Casto, a member of First Congregational Church of San Jose and coordinator and moderator of the event, says an event that lifts up a progressive Christian voice is an important element to the climate change conversation and comes at a critical time.
"The faith-based community, in the large part, has been more vocal the other way – more of the view that climate change doesn't exist, or its God's will or it's a natural cycle – with no consideration of science," said Casto. "I think the progressive Christian community has been saying we have an affirmative responsibility to environmental justice, and it's time for these churches to speak up."
Casto expects more than 350 people to attend the public discussion, which has been promoted by organizations such as California Interfaith Power and Light and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and marketed to environmental groups, the business community and other denominations. While a main goal of the event is to raise awareness about the reality of climate change, Casto hopes the event also inspires political and legal action and highlights the importance of green technology.
"Citizens, activists, people of faith – a diverse group will be there," said Casto. "This is such a huge topic and we are covering a lot of ground, so it's kind of a first step, the beginning of a series of conversations and things the church is going to do. The vision for our church is to be a hub for the faith-based response in the Silicon Valley community."
In addition to Jaramillo, other speakers will include Michael Mielke, vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group; Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light; Marianna Grossman, executive director of Sustainable Silicon Valley; Andreas Karelas, executive director of Re-Volv; and Will Travis, environmental consultant and former executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
"I think this group is going to continue to be active and bring together impressive leaders from the Bay Area," Jaramillo said. "The kinds of connections we can form in our coalition building are important to turning the corner and addressing the issue of climate change."