Caring for God’s Creation: A 2023 Statistical Snapshot of the UCC
The care of God’s creation is a central calling of Christians that has found unique expression in the life of the United Church of Christ ever since the birth of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s under the leadership of Dollie Burwell, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., the Rev. Leon White, Charles Lee, and many others. Now, for the first time, the United Church of Christ is tracking the commitments of our churches in caring for God’s creation through an annual survey conducted by the UCC’s Center for Analytics, Research & Development and Data (CARDD).
While there are countless ways that a congregation can live out its environmental commitments, the survey sought to track some of the most prevalent manifestations. With slightly more than a thousand churches responding to the survey questions, 22% had a green team or group devoted to creation care, 16% had a community garden, 10% had divested from fossil fuels, 9% had solar panels, and 6% had achieved an environmental designation such as the UCC’s Creation Justice Church designation.
In accord with past General Synod resolutions and with an awareness that the present climate crisis necessitates action at the federal level of government, UCC churches are also answering the call to care for God’s creation by coming together for joint advocacy endeavors. This has been seen most prominently in the UCC’s Climate Hope Cards campaign.
In the first phase of the campaign, a denomination-wide art contest for children and youth led to more than 900 submissions from congregations in 44 states and Washington, D.C. The winning artwork from this contest was placed on the cover of 25,000 postcards that were shipped to 152 congregations who had registered to participate in collecting signed cards that will be delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency. This campaign seizes a rare opportunity as the EPA considers updating protections to a level that would save thousands of lives, address societal inequities, and put our nation on course to have a carbon free electrical grid by 2035.
The power of the UCC in championing the care of God’s creation can be seen in our local churches and in the immense potential that is realized when our churches come together to seek change.
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Environmental Justice Minister for the United Church of Christ and the author of Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis.