How It Works: Becoming a Creation Justice Church in Five Steps
The UCC’s Creation Justice Church program assists congregations in making the ministry of environmental justice an integral strand in the DNA of their faith community. A congregation can be designated as a Creation Justice Church by taking these five steps:
Step One: Create or Designate a Leadership Group or Green Team
Many green church programs place an emphasis on creating a green team. That is an appropriate step for many congregations, and the UCC offers 5 tips for starting a green team. In some churches, however, it might be advisable for the governing council or the social justice committee to drive the process of becoming a Creation Justice Church.
Step Two: Reflect on Where You’ve Been and Discern Where You Can Go
The Creation Justice Church program is not rigidly prescriptive but instead assists churches in developing creative and ambitious aspirations that are well-suited for a congregation’s own particular context as it seeks to further discern its sense of call and the development of corresponding ministries. To support congregations in their own process, the Creation Justice Church program offers guiding questions to consider along with resource pages that offer ideas for what can be done.
Before jumping into envisioning where you might go as a congregation, affirm where you have been and where you are. Early in the process, gather together your team or committee to recall the strengths of the congregation’s ministries that have led you to this point. Give space as well for allowing group members to name their current passions and interests in relation to creation justice.
Helpful Tip: Before proceeding further, have a phone or Zoom conversation with the Rev. Brooks Berndt, the UCC’s Minister for Environmental Justice. Berndt reviews each submitted application and can be a helpful conversation partner during the process of becoming a Creation Justice Church. He can also link you to persons from other churches who have been through the process and are glad to serve as resources. Email Berndt to connect.
With this foundation, embark upon a process of considering the following discernment questions and accompanying resource pages that are grouped according to “The Four Dimensions of a Creation Justice Church:”
- Theology and Worship
Resource Page: Five Ways to Ignite Ministry with Theology and Worship
Questions to Consider: How can your congregation intentionally reflect upon God in relationship to caring for creation? How can it bring theological understandings of creation care and justice into its services of worship?
- Institutional Life and Practice
Resource Page: Five Ways to Walk the Talk
Questions to Consider: How can your congregation integrate care for creation into the life and work of its ministry teams, committees, and governing council? How can your congregation embody care for creation through its building and land use policies and practices?
- Circles of Awareness and Advocacy
Resource Page: Five Ways to Expand Your Circle of Awareness and Advocacy
Questions to Consider: With particular attention to socioeconomic factors such as race, class, and global inequality, how can your congregation research and inform itself about environmental justice issues at the local, state, national, and/or global levels? How can this awareness correspond to congregational advocacy and action?
- Connections to a Broader Movement
Resource Page: Five Ways to Connect to a Broader Movement
Questions to Consider: Within the UCC, what are the ways in which your church can connect with others, whether it is through a conference task force, a UCC campground, the UCC’s environmental justice newsletter, or other points of contact? Outside of the UCC, what are the ways in which your church can connect with interfaith, ecumenical, or secular partners engaged in environmental justice work?
Step Three: Draft a Creation Justice Covenant
In the UCC, the most solemn and sacred commitment one can make is that of a covenant. It marks a serious promise to God on the part of a congregation. A covenant also entails a promise among congregants to each other as they seek “to walk together in all God’s ways” (Constitution of the United Church of Christ). After a prayerful process of discernment, those who have been leading the church in seeking designation will draft a Creation Justice Covenant to be presented to either the congregation or the governing council for a vote. There are no requirements for how it is to be written but one can read a sample covenant to begin the process of generating ideas for what should be included.
Step Four: Vote to Adopt the Creation Justice Covenant and Become a Creation Justice Church
The Creation Justice Covenant and the decision to become a Creation Justice Church need to be ratified by either a congregational vote or the vote of the church’s governing body. A congregational vote is recommended because it ensures greater ownership and participation on the part of the congregation as a whole.
Step Five: Submit an Application
To become designated, one must simply complete this form which is based on the guiding questions listed earlier for the four dimensions of a Creation Justice Church. To submit the form:
- Fill out and submit the application online.
- Download application. The hard copy can be emailed to the UCC Environmental Justice Program or mailed to:
Environmental Justice Program
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue East
Cleveland, OH 44115
Bonus Step: Spread the Word and Keep It Up!
Once your church is recognized as a Creation Justice Church, it will receive a Creation Justice banner. Gather the congregation to take a picture with the banner before putting it on display. Next, let others know about what your church has accomplished. Send a press release along with the photo of church members with the banner to local media outlets. Ask your conference and association offices to announce your designation in their newsletters and social media platforms. Last, but not least, find ways to maintain creation justice as a core part of your church’s DNA. Here are five ways that can be done:
- On each Earth Sunday (the Sunday closest to Earth Day), have the entire congregation recite its Creation Justice Covenant in unison during worship.
- Each year revisit the discernment questions for the four dimensions of a Creation Justice Church in order to measure, evaluate, and set goals for continued progress. Make a practice of submitting a one-page annual report to the church’s leadership council. Email your report to UCC’s Environmental Justice Minister as well.
- Create an annual event to keep your congregation’s creation justice knowledge fresh and up-to-date. Examples include an environmental justice guest speaker series, an all-church book read, a movie night, or a community fair featuring local environmental organizations.
- Become a Creation Justice multiplier. Through personal contacts in the UCC or through conference committees, annual gatherings, and newsletters, find ways to encourage and accompany other congregations in becoming Creation Justice Churches.
- Have a representative from your church join the UCC’s Council for Climate Justice. The Council meets via Zoom six times a year on the first Wednesday of every other month. Anyone from the UCC can join, and it is a great way to learn what fresh initiatives are happening in other parts of the UCC. Contact Brooks Berndt if you would like to join or learn more.