What You Need To Know
In 1982, the State of North Carolina chose a poor predominantly African American community for the placement of a toxic waste landfill to dispose of PCBs illegally dumped along the roadway of fourteen counties. Residents of Warren County, North Carolina enlisted the support of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ) to engage in a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.
In response to this experience, and from others across the nation, the CRJ commissioned a study to examine what was perceived at the time to be the intentional placement of hazardous waste sites, landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in communities inhabited mainly by African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, farm workers and the working poor. These groups were, and still are, particularly vulnerable because they are perceived as weak and passive citizens who will not fight back against the poisoning of their neighborhoods in fear that it may jeopardize jobs and economic survival.
In releasing the findings of the 1987 study written by Charles Lee, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, CRJ Executive Director, referred to intentionally selecting communities of color for wastes disposal sites and polluting industrial facilities – essentially condemning them to contamination – as “environmental racism.” He called on the United Church of Christ to be a champion working for environmental justice across the nation and across the world.
Why Is Environmental Racism an Issue of Faith?
People of faith are called to care for all of our neighbors, regardless of their race, their income level, or their life circumstances. Jesus taught us this behavior in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was also a student of the Hebrew Scriptures where he learned to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Jesus did not discriminate or separate people into artificial groups, but rather declared that the Kingdom of God is available to all of God’s children.
Racism divides people and alienates them against each other based on ethnic origin or color, and environmental racism adds an additional degree of injustice upon people or communities. Since 1987, the environmental justice movement has been trying to address inequalities that are the result of human settlement, industrial contamination and unsustainable development. Through the Environmental Justice Office, the United Church of Christ seeks to educate congregations and communities and to assist groups in organizing, mobilizing and empowering themselves to take charge of their lives, their communities and their surroundings. We also seek to address the issues of power imbalances, political disfranchisement and lack of resources in order to facilitate the creation and maintenance of healthy, livable and sustainable communities.
In the conclusions of the landmark report Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007, you will read that “people of color are found to be more concentrated around hazardous waste facilities than previously shown.” You will see that race matters. Place matters too. Unequal protection places communities of color at special risk. And polluting industries still follow the path of least resistance.
Climate change and global warming bring an additional peril to communities of color or poor communities all over the world. Many who live near the coasts or in lower-lying areas will be the first to feel the effects of rising temperatures and oceans. They will not have the resources to make choices that others can make and may lose their homes and their livelihoods and will be displaced as environmental refugees. Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf coast in 2005 was one of the most dramatic examples of what may occur in the future, as those who had no transportation or means of escaping the rising waters became refugees in their own city.
What You Can Do
The environmental justice movement is as much concerned about the environment as any of the traditional environmental groups. There is only one environment. The environmental justice movement is concerned about wetlands, birds and wilderness areas. It is also concerned, however, about urban habitats, about reservations, about the things that are happening on the US Mexican border, about children poisoned by lead in their own homes and about children playing in contaminated parks and playgrounds. The UCC is committed to keep bringing these issues to the attention of environmental groups, communities of faith, and the broader society. Here are a few suggestions about how you can become more aware of environmental racism and work for environmental justice:
- Organize a group from your faith community to take a tour of your city and map the neighborhoods, commercial areas, industrial sites, and environmental hazards. Get familiar with zoning laws and urban planning, and see if your community practices any forms of environmental racism.
- Organize a study group in your congregation that looks at the historic and current forms of environmental racism. Understand that discrimination is not always obvious and that it is present in social structures and local customs as much as it is present in individuals or organizations.
- Attend an Environmental Justice workshop sponsored by the UCC and take what you have learned back to your community.
- Join and support national or local organizations that seek to address environmental racism. If you belong to an organization that works to enhance the environment, help to make its members more aware of the issues and effects of environmental racism.
Links and Resources
What does Our Church’s Wider Mission Support?
Great for new board and mission committee members! This resource highlights work being done in the national setting which is supported by Our Church’s Wider Mission. Print and post for church bulletin boards, use in newsletters or on websites. Also great for stewardship and mission committees!
OCWM Brochure - Great for church members and church leaders. Order copies. Free.
OCWM Infographic – Great tool to share at Annual Meetings and Churches. Order copies. Free.
Take the UCC Environmental Justice Quiz!
1. Did you know that UCC ministers coined the phrase “environmental racism” and played a leading role in giving birth to the environmental justice movement in the 1980s?
During a six week campaign of civil disobedience in 1982, a movement was born that made national headlines and introduced the world to the issue of environmental racism. Learn more about this inspiring movement in which the UCC became the driving organizational force.
2. Did you know that the UCC has formed a special partnership with a leading climate organization called 350.org, so that church green teams are now becoming 350 affiliates?
Members of the United Church of Christ have often worked with 350.org in the pursuit of justice and shared goals. This informal, longstanding relationship is now being deepened through a pilot endeavor that encourages and invites UCC green teams to affiliate with 350. Read about this exciting undertaking.
3. Did you know that in places like Flint and Standing Rock the UCC has been actively involved in standing alongside those struggling for justice?
Solidarity is one form that love takes in the ministry of environmental justice. The goal is to find ways that local churches and members can actively support others who are facing environmental injustices. Read more about this important part of our work together.
4. Did you know that the UCC is building a powerful environmental network that stays connected through a blog and e-newsletter called The Pollinator?
The Pollinator is a digital platform of the UCC for the sharing of ideas and inspiration, so that we might become more fruitful in the pursuit of environmental justice. Its focus is the building of a faith-filled and faith-rooted movement for the care of creation. Read the Pollinator blog and sign-up for its newsletter.
5. Did you know that UCC churches are deepening and expanding their commitment to the environment by becoming Creation Justice Churches?
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. Join the movement and become a Creation Justice Church. Learn about the six steps for doing just that.
The United Church of Christ coin symbolizes the covenant relationship between the church and its chaplains serving in the Armed Forces, Department of Veterans Affairs and Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is presented as a mark of trust and an expression of gratitude.
The seal of the UCC is imprinted on one side of the coin. Around the seal is a sunburst, signifying that our church's inclusive expression of the Gospel is to "shine forth" in the chaplain's ministry. The words called, chosen, and sent forth to serve remind a chaplain that (s)he is called by God to this specialized ministry, chosen to represent the United Church of Christ, and sent forth to be God's servant in the service of others.
The reverse side of the coin bears the seals of the government entities to which the UCC chaplains are endorsed. In the center of the coin is a globe, surrounded by compass points, symbolizing that these ministries are provided in the U.S. and abroad. The words of appreciation on the outer ring acknowledge that government chaplains serve both God and country, creating a relationship that must always be held in dynamic tension.
Liturgical and Pastoral Resources:
The War and Pastoral Care of Soldiers, Military Families, and Chaplains
Holy Joe's Café Coffee House Ministry
Homemade Camouflage Stoles
Order for Reaffirming the Covenant between a Pastor and Congregation upon return of a pastor from service as a chaplain. A number of military chaplains endorsed by the United Church of Christ serve in the National Guard or Reserves. Some of these chaplains are also local church pastors. For the past several years, a number of these pastors have been mobilized for lengthy deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. Once their deployments are over, the chaplains usually return to their parishes to resume their ministries. Just as they go through a period of readjustment as they rejoin their families, they also need to readjust to being pastors again. It is important to understand this, and to recognize that it's part of the relationship between the pastor/chaplain and the church.
Chaplain Deris Rice, an Army Reserve chaplain who served in Iraq, worked with the Rev. Jeanny House, his Associate Conference Minister (Northwest Association, Wisconsin Conference), to produce a liturgy that would help reestablish his relationship with his congregation. The edited version of this liturgy, available on this page, is suitable for use by other congregations. We are grateful to Chaplain Rice and Rev. House for their original liturgy and for granting permission to offer the edited version for your use.
News of UCC Military Chaplains:
Government organizations for specialized ministry:
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP): www.bop.gov
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): www.va.gov/chaplain
U.S. Air Force Chaplain Service: www.airforce.com/careers/specialty-careers/chaplain
U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains: www.chapnet.army.mil
U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps: www.chaplaincare.navy.mil
Military Chaplains Association (MCA): www.mca-usa.org
Stillspeaking. It's the shorter form of "God is still speaking," a campaign by the United Church of Christ to remind us that God still has a lot more to say. Since 2004, Stillspeaking has worked with thousands of UCC churches and individuals across the country to make religion relevant again and to extend an extravagant welcome to all—because no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here. Here at the United Church of Christ.
In 2004, it was concluded that there was a present and real need for the United Church of Christ to spread its message of extravagant welcome which continues to historically re-shape our understanding of the Christian faith and proclamation. The UCC responded to this call and challenge with a new identity and marketing campaign to let all others know that anyone could find a spiritual home in the United Church of Christ, be strengthened and nurtured in their faith and be blessed to reach out to others with their God-given gifts and talents.
Today, under one collective identity, we can enthusiastically lift up that the UCC is a welcoming, justice-minded Christian community. At a time when religion is too often portrayed as narrow-minded and exclusive, many are raising their VOICES for an alternate vision:
- Where God is all-loving and inclusive
- Where the Church of Jesus Christ welcomes and accepts everyone as they are
- Where your mind is nourished as much as your soul
- Where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary
- Where together we grow a just and peaceful world
The first Sunday in May has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the United Church of Christ. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day: to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, hear their pain, pray for their well-being, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration.
Welcoming the stranger among us as native born is part of our faith tradition, for we too were once strangers (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, Deuteronomy 10:17-19). However, too often the immigrants among us are rejected, treated as outcasts and placed on the margins of society.
May 1st is international Labor Day and has become a day in which we recognize the value and labor of immigrants in the U.S. On the first Sunday in May, congregations are encouraged to include stories about immigrants in their worship service and explore avenues to advocate for immigrant justice. Below are the most current issues this year on immigration with potential ways to get involved to limit deportations and unnecessary detention of immigrants.
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
- Explore our worship worship and prayer resources and start planning your congregations Immigrant Rights Sunday observances.
*If your congregation would like to get more involved on immigrants' rights advocacy and organizing efforts please contact Rev. Noel Andersen - mailto:email@example.com.
The Rev. Noel Andersen serves as UCC & CWS Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the worship resources you find below, we have prepared and compiled sources Immigrant Rights Sunday which are useful anytime. They include sermons and reflections, prayers, orders of worship, and other worship elements.
- Biblical References to Immigration: A comprehensive listing of all Bible references to immigrants and refugees.
- Faith and Immigration (with Reflection Questions): A theological exploration of immigration and overview of the UCC’s General Synod’s thinking on this issue.
- And Who Do We Say We Are? sermon by Rev. Loey Powell, Aisnworth UCC, Portland OR
- "An Immigrant Rights Sunday sermon by Rev. Chuck Currie, First Congregational, Salem, Oregon
- Hearts that Long for Justice By Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas
- God’s Extravagant Welcome: Extending Citizenship by the Rev. John Thomas
- Our Response to Fear by the Rev. Daniel Romero
Theology of Immigration
Theological Reflections on Immigration by Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. including:
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration and the Human Journey
- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration, and the Human Journey
The Rev. Alice Hunt: Love thy immigrant, column in Chicago Tribune
All hymns are from the New Century Hymnal
Tu has venido a la orilla (You have come down to the Lakeshore), #173
De Colores (Sing of Colors), #402
We are Marching in the Light of God, #526
We Are Not Our Own, #564
Lead Us From Death to Life, #581
Through all the world a hungry Christ, # 587
Come and See – Minnesota 2015 (ppt)
Come and See – Missouri Mid-South 2015 (ppt)
Come and See Event – IL Conf. 2015 (ppt)
Come and See Event – MA Conf. 2015 (ppt)
Come and See Event – PennWest 2015 (ppt)
Come and See Event – EOA/ERA 2015 (ppt)
Come and See Event – NY Metro (ppt)
Come and See Event – SONKA Association (ppt)
Come and See - Prairie Association (ppt)
New Beginnings Come and See Event (ppt)
Becoming the Vital Churches and Disciple
L.I.F.E. Presentations on Evangelism – Eden Seminary
Presentation #1 - Church and Culture
Presentation #2 - Evangelism
Presentation #3 - Missional, Relational, Conversational
Creating the Church You Want to Join – Midwest Seminarian Gathering, April 2012
St. Louis Area Still Speaking Event – Feb. 2011
Wisconsin Evangelism Event
Wisconson Conference -- June 2010
New Orleans Association - May 15, 2010
Living into the Future – 2010 -- Vital Possibilities for Churches in New Orleans Association
Becoming the Vital Churches and Disciples that Tomorrow Requires
Tiffin Area Churches -- May 16, 2010
Becoming the Vital Churches and Disciples that Tomorrow Requires
Welcome to the Church House!
God is Still Speaking, Ready Set Grow ! Retreat
Resources for the Florida Event
Church Vitality and Faithful Discipleship in Difficult Times presented at the Tri-State Association Fall Meeting 2009, IK Conference.
- Ministry and Mission Uncertain Times PowerPoint
- Becoming Vital Generous Congregations for God's Future
(a Stewardship in Tough Times PowerPoint)
- Evangelism for Missional Churches and Disciples in Difficult Time
(an Evangelism Tough Times PowerPoint)
- Church Vitality and Faithful Discipleship in Difficult Times PowerPoint
Resources for the Western Association of the IL Conference
Pastor’s Retreat Kansas Oklahoma Conference Feb. 2010
- Becoming the Vital Churches and Disciples that Tomorrow Requires
- Ministry and Mission in Uncertain Times
- It’s a Whole New World -- Church & Culture in 21st Century