|Photo: Our Children's Trust/Robin Loznak|
As a Mother of One of the Plaintiffs, a UCC Minister Reflects
“This is the best time to be born,” began 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinezas he spoke to hundreds of youth and adults on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, “because we have the opportunity to change the course of history.” Here’s one way to live that opportunity: my 19 year old son Kiran, Xihutezcatl, and 19 other young people from all over the U.S. are suing the U.S. government and the entire fossil fuel industry. With the support of Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit in Eugene, Oregon, they argue that the U.S. government’s persistence in proactively supporting the extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation of fossil fuels is a violation of constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property as well as a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine which holds that it is the obligation of the U.S. government to protect natural resources for the use of present and future generations. (Read more.)
Art as a tool for climate activism has engaged young and old alike in our local UCC church and in our Southern Oregon community. For our Central Pacific Conference, incorporating art and engaging young participants was a priority for our Rise Up: Climate, Faith, and Action week-end retreat at beautiful Camp Adams in March, 2014. The intergenerational character of that event was rich and energizing. Young people spoke of their interest in embodied activism, and the idea of a “Caminata," was born. A Caminata is an intentional walk, often practiced in Latin America, for the purpose of demonstrating and mobilizing resistance to injustice. (Read more.)
To mark Earth Day and save the planet, join the movement to keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground. UCC Environmental Justice minister the Rev. Brooks Berndt suggests having a Jenga house party to illustrate to family and friends why we need to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
In February, I met with Brooks Berndt, the UCC’s Minister for Environmental Justice, to discuss a proposal for an eco-justice ministries network within the UCC’s Southern Conference. During our conversation, the tragedy of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis arose, and Berndt made the comment that numerous “other Flints” are occurring across our country at this moment with their own terrible consequences.
His words turned out to be prophetic. (Read more.)
With the water crisis in Flint and the ongoing damage to our climate, our country is undergoing an environmental justice awakening. We are continually witnessing how environmental degradation adversely impacts communities, especially along socio-economic lines such as race, class, and global inequality. People of faith are now in a time of crucial discernment, a time to discern our collective sense of calling, purpose, and mission. This Earth Day take the Creation Care Challenge. Find ways to either give birth to an environmental ministry in your church or to take an existing ministry to the next level of engagement.
On Sunday, April 24th, UCC preachers around the country will proclaim from their pulpits a simple message: Keep It in the Ground. No, they are not digging up old, arcane arguments about bodily resurrection. They are talking about fossil fuels. (Read more.)
In December, news outlets ranging from the New York Times to Mother Jones magazine were touting the leadership of California at the UN climate summit in Paris. The LA Times portrayed Governor Jerry Brown’s active presence in Paris as representing not only the crafting of his “political legacy” but also his preoccupation with preventing “catastrophe.” Yet, environmental lawyers, community activists, and faith leaders are increasingly bringing to the public’s awareness what has long been California’s dirty secret. In a state known for its environmentalism, environmental racism has remained a festering, unbridled sin. (Read more.)
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. As the UCC refreshes and renovates its environmental certification program, a new name is needed that captures the spirit of our noble calling. To find such a grand and glorious name, the UCC is turning to you! (Learn more.)
A few days ago the grassroots leadership in Flint began circulating the following list of demands following the ongoing crisis in the city:
As people of faith who want act in solidarity with the community in Flint, what can we do? Here are three ways to get involved:
1) Call President Obama to request an increase in federal funding directed to Flint that would allow for the replacement of the city’s water infrastructure. Call 202-456-1111.
2) Donate to the UCC Emergency USA Fund. You can choose to designate your contribution to Flint.
3) Share articles that highlight the role of systemic racism in the Flint water crisis:
- “How a Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint, Mich.” by Louise Seamster and Jessica Welburn
- “Flint’s Water Crisis: A Story of Racial Injustice” by the Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt
To get an insightful analysis of the international climate accord reached in Paris, I turned to Shantha Ready Alonso, the Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries. Alonso and her organization have been close partners with the United Church of Christ for years. Until 2013, the organization was the Eco-Justice Program for the National Council of Churches. Today, it continues to be a strong force in mobilizing and representing the creation care work of numerous Christian denominations in the United States. Read more.