Before becoming the UCC Minister for Environmental Justice in 2015, Berndt served for eight years as the pastor of First Congregational UCC in Vancouver, Washington. While there, he became active in various environmental campaigns including a successful effort to transition the state of Washington away from its only coal plant as well as an ultimately successful campaign to prevent the establishment of the largest oil terminal in the country in Vancouver.
During his time as pastor, Berndt published his first book Sounding the Trumpet: How Churches Can Answer God’s Call to Justice. It was co-authored with the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., a prophetic pastor at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California. Scholar Cornel West described the book as "a masterpiece…full of deep spiritual truths."
Berndt's book reflects on the beginning of what became an innovative social justice ministry at his church. From 2011 onward, the church conducted year-long social action campaigns that brought together members for a common purpose and a climactic public witness. Examples of witness included a 116-mile march to the state capitol for marriage equality and a bi-partisan 24-hour fast of legislators and church members to prevent cuts to programs that served hungry children.
Berndt's second book Cathedral on Fire!: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis will be published in late March of 2020. In the book, Berndt focuses our attention on the unique and vitally needed gifts that churches can offer to the climate movement. He writes with poetic passion but also with an eye toward the practical in offering field-tested actions for congregations to take.
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