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  • Rick Bonetti

Green Teams for Creation Justice

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

On September 17, 2018 Medford Congregational United Church of Christ made application to become a Creation Justice Church. They outlined the context and drafted a Creation Justice Covenant:

Creation Justice Church Context for Medford United Church of Christ

"As we write this application to become a UCC Creation Justice Church, the members of our church community have been living inside a thick haze of wildfire smoke through most of the summer. Our county and the surrounding counties are filled with some 40 fires that started in July and more that started in August from lightning strikes and human causes. We listen every night to the fire report on the local news to learn what areas have been issued evacuation notices and the air quality alerts. During the day, we hear helicopters and airplanes flying overhead carrying water and retardant to fight the fires.

Our condition stems directly from climate change. Fire season in Southern Oregon has been starting earlier and earlier and lasting longer and longer year by year. Winters bring us less rain and reduced snowpack which creates summer drought conditions, diminished water supplies, hot dry weather, warming temperatures in our creeks and rivers, and impacts on wildlife, including our iconic species of salmon.

Other impacts:

  • Ranchers and native tribes all depend on water levels for irrigation and traditional salmon catches, which results in ongoing fights over water rights.

  • Illness increases from air pollution among vulnerable populations.

  • Cooling centers for homeless population in summer are as important as warming centers in winter. Police do crackdowns on our creekside greenway to empty homeless camps where several fires have started.

  • Economic impacts from smoke on our economy include downtown businesses, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt outdoor concert venue, Rogue River sports, hiking, camping, and fishing.

  • Dry conditions increase disease in forest trees, forest fuels, and dry soils.

  • Over 10 have died this summer from fire including a homeless man living on Bear Creek Greenway, residents in Northern California, and several firefighters.

Climate change and environmental impacts have become a daily challenge to the entire population of Southern Oregon. Our faith requires us to pay attention and act together for creation justice."

Creation Justice Covenant

"We the members of the Medford Congregational United Church of Christ affirm our connections to God, each other, and the world around us. We all depend on our earthly home, yet there is an injustice in the distribution of environmental burdens and benefits.

We commit ourselves to confront the human abuses of creation which increasingly cause human and other living species to suffer and many to die.

We pledge to stay awake and aware of our responsibilities as God’s stewards of Earth and to act in ways that protect and respect it.

Therefore, with God’s help as individuals and as a congregation, we enter this Creation Justice Covenant."

A Green Team may be formed in a church congregation as part of becoming a Creation Justice Church or simply because there is a core group concerned about how to best care for God’s creation. The United Church of Christ offers Five Tips for Starting Green Teams in Congregations:

  1. Find Co-Conspirators - Find kindred spirits who show a noticeable passion for the environment.

  2. Discern "the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." ~ Frederick Buechner

  3. Make Creation Justice Part of Your Church’s DNA - the goal is for every committee and ministry to have caught the environmental bug so that they are taking actions to care for creation..

  4. Focus on Sending Your Ripples Outward. God calls us to the larger world beyond the walls of the church. Research local and regional environmental injustices. Give attention to socioeconomic factors such as race and class. Once you have done your research, discern how you can make a difference.

  5. Discern what organization would be your best partner in making a difference.- local environmental justice organizations that can connect congregations to nearby struggles led by those most affected by environmental harms.

Rev. Kate Mosley of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light also has an informative YouTube video on How to Start a Green Team in Your Church.

Green Teams frequently focus on making changes to church buildings and ground to make them more energy efficient or on changes that individual congregants can make in their personal lives such as recycling plastics, changing light bulbs, etc. However, we are reminded that the notion of "carbon footprint" was promoted by the fossil fuel industry to intentionally shift responsibility from corporations to individuals.

Less frequently do green teams focus on directly confronting the systems that support the fossil fuel industry most responsible for causing our impending global climate crisis. Climate justice also requires that the church give voice and support to those most affected climate change.

In 2015 the UCC Council for Climate Justice resolved to: "go beyond a focus on individual behaviors to collectively address institutions and systems—ie., the oil industry; to develop a pervasive prophetic culture within the Church, advancing a perspective rooted in progressive theology and scientific understandings to address the root causes of climate-related pollution as it relates to factors such as race, class, and global inequality."

The UCC Council for Climate Justice does their work by: "sharing best practices for educating and organizing congregants, cultivating collaborative endeavors with ecumenical, interfaith, and secular partners; and articulating the values that motivate people of faith to action through the framework of the UCC’s Three Great Loves initiative which lifts up Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, and Love of Creation.

In partnership with Blessed Tomorrow, the UCC produced Three Great Loves and Climate Action: A Guide to Getting Started. "This guide focuses engaging one’s congregation and community in responsible energy use and just environmental practices, so that our children, our neighbors, and all of creation might thrive more fully. Download the PDF to learn more about how churches can turn love into action.

Engage Congregants:

  • Create a Green Team.

  • Incorporate creation care into worship through prayers, liturgy, sermons, hymns.

  • Educate your congregation about the sources of local energy and whether pollution from those sources has a disproportionate racial or economic impact on particular communities.

  • Highlight benefits of your Green Team activities (e.g. utility bill savings) in your newsletter.

  • Put creation care on your church home page.

Engage Other Congregations:

  • Encourage other congregations to join you in caring for creation. Share ideas and resources.

Engage Our Community:

  • Host a community presentation to inspire others.

  • Participate in a community solar program.

  • Create a community garden/host a community dinner.

  • Collaborate with other ecumenical partners and faith traditions to share information and best practices.

Engage Society:

  • Let our elected officials know you want policies that expand your clean energy choices.

  • Encourage members to take the Creation Care Voter Pledge so that they consistently vote and prioritize caring for creation.

  • Write letters, op eds, engage in social media.

  • There are a number of ways to connect with the broader movement for change Join forces with environmental groups like GreenFaith, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, or

Other UCC Resources:

In 2020 Brooks Berndt published Ten Ways to Mobilize. We are living in a Kairos moment in world history. calling the church to action for 10-Years of Church Mobilization on Climate and Inequality.

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