Recently, as I undertook my daily devotional practice of reading a chapter from the Bible on my train ride into work, I came across a verse that placed a finger on what is perhaps the hardest continual spiritual challenge I face in my fulltime ministry of environmental justice. To understand the significance of this verse from the book of Numbers, I must first place it context. After years in the wilderness, the Israelites are finally on the doorstep of the Promised Land when they receive some despairing news. The spies that went ahead to scout out the Promised Land came back with a report that essentially said, “Yes, indeed, it is a land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants who live there and they devour anyone else who attempts to reside there. Numbers 13:33 then reads, “To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (More.)
The following message was delivered at First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC, on Earth Day of 2018 as part of the Justice for #EachGeneration campaign that calls for a thousand sermons in support of the 21 youth who are suing the federal government over climate change.
When Naomi Klein was twenty-six years old, she visited the Philippines to do research for her book “No Logo,” a story about the destructive business practices of large corporations. She met hundreds of exploited workers who were in the midst of struggling for their rights, banding together to fight businesses such as Disney or Nike. It was a simple narrative, but Klein was shocked by a detail that seemed to contradict everything she knew about activism: all of the workers wore clothing from the very brands they were fighting against. (More.)
While waiting to speak at an environmental event earlier this year, another speaker told me a fascinating story. As part of his work for a university program dedicated to energy research, he invited a prominent fossil fuel executive to a graduate-level seminar. For the class, these sharp and highly informed students prepared themselves with arguments to deftly rebut the climate denialism they fully expected to confront. The actual encounter, however, went different than they anticipated. The executive befuddled them with heart-felt declarations of how his corporation was doing the will of God. The students did not know how to respond. (More.)
The second of two excerpts from Jim Antal's recently released book Climate Church, Climate World. The first excerpt shared a fictional letter set in the year 2070. The letter painted a bleak picture of world thrown into climate chaos and despair. What follows offers a scenario that indicates future suffering as well hopeful possibilities.
The year is 2100. You’re sitting in a hot arena with about five thousand others. The air conditioners, powered by solar energy, have reduced the outside temperature by 25°F to the standard setting of 88°F. Like everyone, you travelled to this event in an electric vehicle charged by solar or wind power. While travelling long distances is rare, you were willing to sacrifice to attend this gathering convened by the World Council of Churches. Millions of others from all over the Earth are participating in the conference electronically. It promises to be a wonderful celebration of the enormous progress made over the past eighty years. The opening speaker is a teenage girl. (More.)
To Environmental Stewardship Mission Group of the New Hampshire Conference, I had suggested that we have a youth conference on Environmental Justice, as we had had the example of the International Indigenous Youth Council winning the "Movement Makers Award" at the UCC General Synod for creating an environmental justice movement to protect their water sources. I called the conference the "New England Youth Environmental Justice Summit." I wanted to stress the regional aspect of the conference because I wanted the youth of this and other regions to understand that they are all in this environment together and that they can work together to solve regional problems. I invited speakers and activist from different states and organizations to present in order to have a varied program. This model can be duplicated in other regions, as well. (More.)
Some years ago a sermon title caught my eye. Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon had announced the winner of its Earth Words contest for outstanding sermons on environmental stewardship. The grand prize went to the Rev. Dr. Steven Koski whose sermon was entitled “Earth Day: As Big as Christmas and Easter.” My immediate reaction to the title was, “Wow! That’s provocative!” In the sermon, Koski argues that Earth Day should become an official church celebration like Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. He bases his contention in how foundational love of creation is to our faith. Because of how the sermon expounds upon this love, a member of the UCC today would automatically think that his sermon was written for our Three Great Loves initiative which focuses on love of neighbor, love of children, and love of creation. What follows is an excerpt from Koski’s sermon which is as remarkable today as it was years ago: (More.)
With Earth Day falling on Sunday this year, now is a good time to reflect on how your church can live out its commitment to care for God’s creation. Here are five things your church can do to honor the Earth: (More.)
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1Sam 2:3)
One of the most critical questions of our age is “How do we engage people with the process of accepting science?” In this current era of “populism” wherein feelings are given priority over scientific knowledge, how do we engage people in the difficult task of exploring scientific fact? This is particularly challenging in the case of Climate Science as it may well mean we have to change how we live. How do we do this? (More.)
The first of two excerpts from Jim Antal's recently released book Climate Church, Climate World.
What follows is an imagined a letter from a pastor to her congregation written on Ash Wednesday 2070. The church had been serving a city on the eastern seaboard of the United States since the church’s founding in the seventeenth century. The pastor mentions the frequent catastrophic weather events, the endless border wars, the hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing flooded cities, the permanent deployment of military to protect the interests of the rich, and billions of people dying from uncontrollable disease, drought, and starvation. These conditions will have caused the world population to drop from its peak in 2040 of about 9 billion people to a huddle of survivors in 2070 numbering about 2 billion. This letter paints a picture of how a particular church might close its doors. (More.)
When I was a boy, I worried about dead fish and polluted rivers. I still worry about fish kills, but today I also worry about dead satellites and other space debris whizzing around congested orbits.
In 1963, the modern environmental movement was gestating, and I was in 6th grade. Crossing the Hudson River by ferry on a sunny afternoon, I was revolted by the dead shad floating on the surface and complained to my father. He helped me convert my complaint into a commitment before we docked. (More.)