I have frequently thought of churches as laboratories of love—places in which we are constantly experimenting and learning how to be vessels of the divine, how to put love into action through our own lives. When it comes to the business of discerning how to embody God’s love in each and every sphere of life, one is ultimately compelled to consider how we relate love to our role as citizens. As citizens, how should we care for God’s creation? As citizens, what can and should we be doing to care for those devastated by environmental injustice? As citizens, how do we respond to the question raised in 1 John 3:17: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”
For years, justice-themed buttons that one can pin on one's shirt, hat, or backpack have been a special part of General Synod culture in the United Church of Christ. It has been an important way to make known to others some of the most vital values and causes that one holds. Long after General Synod is over these buttons can also be a reminder of important moments in denominational history such as the passing of the resolution in support of marriage equality. As the UCC's Minister for Environmental Justice, the Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt has loved this part of church culture while also wishing that it could be more ecologically friendly. What happens when some may wish to latter discard old buttons—buttons that might still be highly valued by others? To address the conundrum of how to support justice-causes in a way that is just to the environment, he has the launched "The Next R Button Shop," so that those attending General Synod can donate, trade, and collect used buttons. (More.)
I was speaking with some of my dearest brothers I have in ministry. I was complementing them on their success in ministry. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Man, y'all boys really doing it big out here. I love your hustle.
Pastor M: Man, you're out here doing major work too and, I don't even understand what you're doing.
Pastor B: Yeah bro, you're doing major work!
For Earth Sunday, Plymouth Church UCC of Shaker Heights, Ohio decided to undertake an activity to demonstrate how everyone—young or old—could do something to care for God's creation. After worship, they had a cookie sale for planet earth with the belief that every bit counts, or in this case, every bite counts! Earlier that morning, the children of the church had baked thumbprint cookies that were then sold during coffee hour to support a program that reduces the carbon footprint of humans. (More.)
Professor Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College says we are “arming the heavens.” During the Obama administration, she observes, the U.S. defense and national security establishments took an increasingly aggressive stance toward the use of space for military purposes. Today we are well down the road toward conflict and low Earth orbit has replaced Iran and the Korean Peninsula as the world’s most dangerous military flashpoint. (More.)
This past year my congregation went through a process of deepening and enriching our understanding of faith as we intentionally reflected upon our relationship to God’s creation. Living and worshipping in St. Petersburg, Florida makes us keenly aware of the very real dangers that threaten not only our global home, but our coastal community here in the Tampa Bay area. (More.)
Sunday, May 5th, will mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. The day was chosen to honor the memory of Hanna Harris, a young citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who went missing from her reservation in Montana in 2013. She was found murdered a few days later. (More.)
On March 15th, as high school students around the world walked out of their classes as part of the youth climate strike inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, I walked down the block to join the crowd gathered in downtown Cleveland. I had been in communication with one of the youth organizers all week, but it was not until that moment that I made the connection between the youth taking action and the history of the movement behind my own work as the Minister of Environmental Justice for the United Church of ChristThe birth of the environmental justice movement in 1982 owed a lot to children and youth, including at least one who skipped school. As Dollie Burwell, "the mother of the environmental justice movement," once explained, her ten-year-old daughter Kimberly had refused to go to school on the first day of a civil disobedience campaign that ultimately lasted six weeks.(More.)
To express our commitment to care for God’s creation, the Green Team at our church presented a Creation Justice Covenant to our governing body. We were surprised when two members were unsure why we included a paragraph about social justice and racism. As a predominantly white congregation in socially and religiously conservative Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, they did not appreciate that social justice issues were relevant for our church. After some discussion, the covenant did pass with the necessary votes but we were dumbfounded by that initial response. (More.)
For me, the focus of the United Church of Christ on Three Great Loves hits home as I reflect upon how love of neighbors, love of children, and love of creation are intertwined for me. I live in Carlisle, Cumberland County, the transportation hub of the mid-Atlantic. We are plagued with fine particulate matter air pollution from the thousands of 18-wheelers passing through here daily. Our doctors claim increased numbers of respiratory disturbances in young children and at one time even placed a full-page ad in the local newspaper to draw attention to the problem. The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania works with the Carlisle Area School District on a “flag program” to warn parents when levels of pollution are higher. Some children get no outdoor play on these days. (More.)