Perhaps you, like me, woke up Monday morning to every news outlet alerting you to the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on the catastrophe that is the climate crisis. (IPCC report: ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating, warns UN chief, Aug. 9, 2021)
Perhaps you, like me, have long been concerned about climate change, so found this report simultaneously unsurprising and devastating.
Perhaps you, like me, wanted to turn away, to keep your heart safe from bearing the awful truth that some climate degradation is already irreversible.
Perhaps you, like me, heard God’s calling through the scientists’ voices, affirming that human communities – working together – can still make changes that are solely needed.
As your Minister of Environmental and Economic Justice, I believe that the Church has a critical role to play in helping bring our world back from the brink of climate disaster. I believe that churches are a place to challenge our dominant culture’s narrative that salvation comes through triumph and consumption – because in church, we testify that salvation comes from God, who calls us into beloved community to seek radical transformation.
I also believe that, in church, we learn that radical transformation can come in bite-sized pieces. We are transformed not all at once, but every Sunday that we show up to worship God instead of anything else. We inch our world toward transformation when we set a table where anyone is welcome, preparing vats of coffee and laying out cookies. Our hearts are transformed, bit by bit, every time we lift up a prayer, or hear the Gospel proclaimed, or sit beside someone unlike us.
Here are five ways I suggest churches can respond to the IPCC report and the climate crisis:
1. Acknowledge feelings of grief, guilt, and despair at climate-related news – whether through sermons, prayer circles, or Sunday school classes. Be willing to sit with others in your community in these painful emotions.
2. Foster hope by remembering that God calls us, as beloved community, to co-create God’s kingdom of justice and mercy. Tell stories – from scripture, other texts, or your own life – of the marvelous things God has done through people working together.
3. Choose one small step to reduce your building’s energy use or waste over the next month or two – and then celebrate! Examples could include reducing paper waste, making a small adjustment to your thermostat’s setting, or ensuring that electronics are turned off/unplugged when not in use. If you’ve already done these things, make a first or next step toward a bigger action, such as shifting to renewable energy.
4. Stay connected with others who are committed to remedying the climate crisis. Offer a gathering space for mutual support in your church or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss connecting with other congregations for cross-pollination of ideas and resources.
5. Invite church members to identify their elected officials – national, state, municipal – and write a brief email or letter expressing your hope that they will take seriously the IPCC report and act faithfully in responding to the climate crisis. Contact Legislative Advocate Michele Mudrick (email@example.com) or me for additional guidance and resources, or to let us know how many letters you sent so we can celebrate with you!
Looking for more ways to stay engaged? Join the Green Congregation Challenge! The Environmental Ministries Team has been hard at work updating the challenge, incorporating elements from earlier challenges and bringing in new ideas. The new challenge has four levels, and each level asks congregation to engage in five different areas. Whatever your previous engagement with greening your building, Creation-centered worship, or public witness on climate change, this renewed challenge is an invitation to take the next steps in your congregation’s transformation – that together, we might transform the world.
Noah serves as the Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Southern New England Conference. Noah supports congregations in making God’s love real through engagement in environmental and economic justice. Contact them for: ...