The time has come for our denomination to show that UCC can stand for “Unifying for Climate Compassion,” an acronym that is certainly hokey, but is also something like my job description. I have just begun a position at the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ as Climate Justice Intern. For the first half of 2015, it will be my role to empower Massachusetts congregations to act on climate change.
The stark nature of climate change is probably not news. The science has spoken, and what it has to say is quite alarming. (See Science of Global Warming Impacts Guide.) But between conflicting messages and the complexity of climate change, most people are lost on how to effectively act. I believe it is the church that has the moral voice (and organizational backbone) necessary to shepherd people towards the UCC’s mission as it “serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world.” Like a lamp upon its stand, we can shine to the wider community through our example.
In this season following Epiphany, the church can embrace action through the epiphany of climate justice, that working to prevent climate change isn’t just about becoming good stewards of God’s garden planet—it also involves living rightly with our human neighbors. Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable (view report here), increasing food insecurity and severe weather events for the “least of these”, those least responsible, exacerbating present injustice. The storm of climate change has first effects that are being felt here and now (view report here), and these impacts will intensify for each future generation until we fully embrace the cause of climate justice.
What, then, are some principal ways that congregations can act against climate change? There are endless steps that congregations can take to “green” by reducing their carbon footprint. Yet three crucial actions shine brightly as symbolic statements, sharing the encouragement of our faith with the wider community. These are:
Organizing to oppose natural gas pipelines in our and our neighbor’s backyards
All three bear witness publicly to God’s hope for a just and sustainable future. All three state loudly that injustice is not inevitable. All three push our social and political climate to change as fast as our global climate.
As church-going folks, climate change presents us with an opportunity to live into our faith. Through the climate crisis, Jesus calls us to strive for the betterment of all God’s children. If we react rightly to climate change, thoughtfully and urgently, loudly and profoundly, then this historical moment can become more than maintaining the status quo. Following Jeremiah 22, we can ensure that our house – our oikos, the Greek root in “ecosphere,” the planetary home of us all – is one built of justice.
If your church has been discussing environmental or climate action, or if you are interested to learn more, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Cage served as environmental intern at the Massachusetts Conference, UCC for six months in early 2015. He is a recent graduate of Yale College where he was an environmental studies major with a concentration in religion and the environment,