United Church of Christ

New Hampshire youth taking on climate change creatively

DarthmouthYOuth.jpgA group of young people in a New Hampshire United Church of Christ congregation concerned about climate change plan to fund creation care in developing nations by feeding their family and friends.

The teens, members of the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., are planning a potluck dinner on June 1, to raise money for people impacted directly by climate change. They also hope the evening becomes an educational opportunity for their church community.

"We know that God has asked us to care for all of creation, and we know that our generation needs to be the one to step up and lead," said Alice Rodi, a sophomore from Lyme, N.H. "We've seen how powerful the voices of concerned youth can be, and there is no cause more important than the moral challenge of facing up to climate change. This is our small part to try and help, and we'll build from here."

The youth group was inspired to design their own church event to address climate change in a "creative ministry incubator" led by the Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC minister of Environmental Justice. He was one of several leaders working with young people during a Youth Climate Justice Summit in Manchester, N.H. on Saturday, April 7.

"The youth immediately focused on what fundamentally motivates people to address climate change: love. Love of neighbor and love of creation are at the heart of the event they are planning. As good students of church life, they also know this event has to have food! If you feed them, they will come," Berndt said. "These young people clearly know how to focus on what's meaningful for people in addressing climate change."

The Environmental Stewardship Ministry of the New Hampshire Conference UCC sponsored the gathering, inviting youth from several states to imagine how they could mobilize against the negative effects of global warming. They heard from a number of speakers, including Berndt and the Rev. Jim Antal, Massachusetts Conference Minister and author of the new book, Climate Church, Climate World.

"Many people know that climate change is real and caused by humans but I think that too many aren't willing to act on it," Rodi said. "Additionally, with those who are able, willing, and ready to make a change, far too many simply don't know how. Summits and seminars like this one are huge opportunities to learn the 'how' in this issue of our changing climate."

Rev. Rob Grabill, associate pastor at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, noted that the idea for the event had its beginning at the 2017 General Synod in Baltimore last July. "I was a delegate there, and one of the 97 percent who voted in favor of the emergency Resolution of Witness written by Rev. Antal to underscore the need of UCC communities to speak prophetically about the issue. Jim's tireless work on the front lines has been an inspiration, and when I returned to New Hampshire, I joined with Susan Moore, a longtime member of the Environmental Stewardship Ministry, to write our own Resolution of Witness for the New Hampshire Conference. One of the action items was the Youth Climate Justice Summit, and we're so pleased that we were able to make this happen, and have such impressive speakers. The students were clearly inspired."

The young people from Grabill's church got started on their project right away. They ultimately want to send money through the United Church of Christ to people in developing countries for climate caused flood/disaster relief.

"This project shows that you really only need a small group of dedicated people and a couple of hours to plan a creative event that would spark a congregation to address climate change," Berndt said. "It also shows that youth are tremendous climate leaders and churches need to let more youth-led events happen."

This story, highlighting the ministry of a local church, is part of the UCC's 3 Great Loves campaign, seeking to build a just world for all as one united church. Visit 3GreatLoves.org to learn how we’re showing Love of Children, Love of Neighbor, and Love of Creation.

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