The Pollinator: UCC Environmental Justice Blog

The Pollinator is a digital platform of the UCC for the sharing of ideas and inspiration. Its focus is the building of a faith-filled and faith-rooted movement for the care of creation.

Sign up to recieve the Pollinator newsletter to get regular updates from our UCC Minister for Environmental Justice, Rev. Brooks Berndt.

Mary’s Song and Justice for #EachGeneration

Mary_Child.jpgThere is a particular cultural outlook that continually reappears in the Bible but never seems to find its way into contemporary outlooks among most Christians today. The outlook of which I speak is a generational outlook. In the Bible, the customary mode of thinking is not to simply fixate upon one’s own generation but to always think of past and future generations as well. This is readily apparent in the lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday, but I doubt many preachers will even consider mentioning this outlook as they discuss the song of praise known as Mary’s Magnificat. Nevertheless, Mary begins her song by framing that very moment within the span of generations. She declares, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” She then continues to speak of a God whose mercy extends “from generation to generation.” She ends by placing all of Israel within a generational continuum as she remembers the promise God “made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


Clean Space for a Green Planet: Ecology for the Space Age

spacedebris.jpgIn 2015, the UCC General Synod passed a resolution on Responsible Stewardship of the Outer Space Environment. Through a regular series of articles, the UCC maintains its commitment to addressing the serious threats posed by space debris

In 1970, a nun working in Zambia named Sister Mary Jacunda wrote to Ernst Stuhlinger, the director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. She asked him how he could justify spending billions of dollars on spaceflight when so many children were starving on Earth.


What About the Children?: A Moral Argument for the Clean Power Plan

MichaelMalcom.jpgAt a public hearing on the EPA’s plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan that requires states to reduce emissions from power plants, the Rev. Michael Malcom of Rush Memorial UCC in Atlanta delivered the following remarks.

The Clean Power Plan is projected to prevent 90,000 asthma attacks, 300,000 missed work and school days, and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030. Repealing these standards means more sick kids, more expensive hospital visits, and thousands of premature deaths that could have been prevented. Now, I realize in me standing here today that I am one lone voice. However, I bring with me the generations that will come after me as I ask the question, “What about the children?” Is anyone thinking about the generations to come? Growing up I was taught that you always leave a space better than how you found it. I must ask this morning, how are we leaving creation? Are we so focused in the present that we refuse to look beyond our present and take a look at the future? 


Movement Theology: Leon White Reflects Back on a Movement’s Start

RickyStilley-LeonWhite1.jpgOn September 15th of 1982, more than 125 people gathered at Coley Springs Baptist Church in Warren County, North Carolina. They had gathered to march and physically prevent dump trucks from delivering the first shipments of toxic waste to a newly created landfill. Ultimately, the efforts of that day would spark a six week civil disobedience campaign that would awaken the conscience of a nation and kick-start the Environmental Justice Movement. 

Among the leaders of the protest was the Rev. Leon White. At the time, White served as a regional field director for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Along with local organizer Dollie Burwell and others, he was arrested on the first day of demonstrations. Ultimately, more than 520 would be arrested over the course of the six weeks.


Grass That Grows Thru the Crack: Gratitude Amid Hard Times

More than one classic cartoon character has been portrayed as being so beset by misfortune that he is followed by a perpetual rain cloud above his head everywhere he goes. For those concerned about environmental justice, this past year could have easily induced the feeling that our nation has a perpetual cloud hanging over its head—a toxic cloud to be precise. In a recent interview, Bill McKibben observed how the Trump administration has wasted no time in “dismantling 30 years’ worth of environmental regulation.” (Read more.)


Uprisings and Churches: A Resource for Churches Seeking Change

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A number of years ago as a divinity school student I found myself attending a rally for the activist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal who at the time was on death row. Among the speakers that day was a former political prisoner who imparted a lesson derived from hard experience. With an emphatic passion, he advised, “Don’t fight to fight. Fight to win.” Since that day, I have thought about that comment a number of times. In the ministry of pursuing social change, one can easily get swept away in the strongly felt impulses of the moment while failing to take a step back to consider the best strategic path forward if the goal is to make a tangible difference in the lives of those suffering. (Read more.)


Tales of EV Chargers & Burning Bushes

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There’s a story that I heard a while back that just so resonates with me that I have used it during sermon messages, presentations & reflections from Honduras to Michigan.

The story is of a Rabbinic argument taking place in the Middle Ages during which a group of Rabbis were trying to discern the deep-deep truth behind what seems to most of us modern progressive protestants to be simply a presumed biblical fact. Their argument focused on the familiar verse of Exodus 3:2 “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” The question that the Rabbis debated very vigorously for an extended period was simply this: “Why was it necessary for the bush to burn but not be consumed?” (Read more.)


The Story of an Earth Care Festival

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As part of an ongoing series of articles on best practices for Creation Justice Churches, Elizabeth Griego shares about an Earth Care Festival organized by First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC.

Envisioning an Earth Care Festival  

Ten years ago, our church adopted an Earth Care Covenant with the goals of reducing our impact on the environment and helping to repair the damage that has been done to God’s Earth.  Since then, our Earth Care Committee has assumed a leadership role throughout the California Sonoma Valley in the work of advocacy, education, and preservation of the environment. One highlight of the past two years has been an Earth Care Festival organized to engage local partners and to highlight contributions being made to climate, ecology, and earth justice. We intentionally planned the Festival for the Saturday closest to the national observance of Earth Day, April 22. (Read more.)


Monthly Nature Walks

FCCS-Montly-Nature-Walk-Photo-web.jpgEach month our Earth Care Committee at First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC, organizes and leads a nature walk.


Re-Envisioning Rural and Agrarian Ministry

Berndt4-web.jpgAt The Keep & Till church in Carroll County, Maryland, we are committed to being a community of learning.  We keep our ears are tuned to anything that may impact our place and people.  That's why we started "Headwaters:  A Rural and Agrarian Ministry Conference."  We wanted to bring emerging voices to our place to strengthen and encourage our congregation, the existing churches in our "ecosystem," and the dreamers and prophets who envision a new kind of church.  At the recent Headwaters conference, we experienced an estuary of discipleship, commensality, theology, and practical ministry for healthy, productive, and sustainable rural churches empowered to speak prophetically to a world threatened by community erosion, climate change, and food insecurity. We would like to share a few ideas that were presented at Headwaters and are shaping our thinking about agrarian communities of faith.


Contact Info

Brooks Berndt
Minister for Environmental Justice
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, OH 44135
216-736-3722
berndtb@ucc.org