Faith in Place/CUCC Approach

Story circle

Engaging the CUCC Congregation in Climate Change

Approach

Introduce climate change to the congregation through culturally relevant educational activities and workshops, including migration stories linking monarch butterflies to African American migration, green movies, informational tabling, and intergenerational environmental stewardship activities.

Description

Faith in Place partners with congregations on environmental initiatives, meeting each faith partner “where they are” on their journey to be better stewards of the earth, beginning with metaphoric low-hanging fruit, then delving deeper into subject-matter education and engagement.

To ensure a holistic methodology to climate change interpretation, our approach involves having each faith partner create a Green (Ministry) Team whose members plan and implement culturally relevant educational activities. Here are some of the ways we moved the Covenant UCC community toward climate change awareness and individual and collective change:

  • Faith in Place worked with the CUCC Green Team with the concept of first “tabling.” The team set up a table in the narthex that was filled with relevant environmental handouts and demonstrations around particular climate change issues. Tabling included using the Connect Collage tool to teach folks about the effects of climate change on the food we eat, the water we drink, water sources, how we dispose of our waste/recycling, gardening (food and native), composting, and the like.

  • At our tabling events, participants learned how to sign petitions and send them to their legislators regarding climate change and clean jobs, how to use environmentally friendly and homemade cleaning solutions, the benefits of native plants and seed giveaways, and celebrated the accomplishments of other local faith partners, like Vernon Park Church of God, which runs the Mother Carr Congregation-Supported Agriculture Program (CSA). It was during the Connect project that several Convenant UCC members also joined the CSA.

  • Through story circles, we invited and often preselected folks to share their families’ migration stories about coming to Chicago, using the Migration Stories tools from both Connect and Faith in Place. The story circles were an excellent way to gather people to not only share their stories in a relaxed and affirming setting, but to make the connection to the plight of the monarch butterfly and other species, and to understand how climate change affects all of us and our natural habitats.

  • We then moved to the more challenging “in your face” type of climate change education through our Green Movie events. It was in these events that we were able to introduce the community to some pretty heavy and challenging topics surrounding climate change and the environment. We showed documentaries such as TAPPED, What’s On Your Plate, Trashed, Flow, and other movies to engage all ages in the education of these issues. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the adage goes—and nothing showcases an issue like a full-screen movie theater experience. At these events, environmental topics, like water, waste, food, and climate change were introduced to hundreds of congregational and community members. Afterwards the floor was opened for discussion and Q&A. At the events, the CUCC Green Team served healthy snacks and drinks without high-fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients. The Green Team also had tables filled with handouts about the subject matter.

  • Then we sponsored workshops and invited local environmental experts to share, teach, and engage the community in topics such as Climate Change 101 (using the Connect tools, Climate Jeopardy, and the Climate Change 101 presentation), rain barrels, rain gardens, composting, recycling, garden planting, and what each has to do with climate change.

  • Finally, we organized hands-on intergenerational activities such as tree planting, planting and harvesting through a local church-owned, congregation-supported agriculture program, planting a native garden on  church grounds near the youth church building, and recycling and advocating for clean air and clean jobs at the annual outdoor Bar-b-que and Business Expo. This last step was actually physical engagement in activities to reduce and/or reverse some of the damaging effects of climate change in our community and surrounding areas. We used the Connect Climate-Community Connections: Gardens and Landscaping tool for many of the intergenerational projects, to help participants understand the connection between gardening activities and climate change.

Faith in Place has a lending library of movies, books, and environmental educational supplies that congregational green teams can borrow to support their green initiatives.

Conclusion

This case study, with the collaboration of Faith in Place and Covenant UCC, was a journey in testing the theory that if climate change is introduced to any community (of faith) in a culturally sensitive way, people will “get it” and change their behavior correspondingly.

Through the African American bible study tool Climate Change and African-American Bible Study: National Council of Churches-Eco Justice Program: http://nccecojustice.org/resources, CUCC Green Team Ministry was able to educate church members about the impact of climate change on the African American community. The bible study also helped support the notion that climate change and how we respond to it as people of faith is important. Having both science and scripture backs up our claim that climate change is not only real, but that faithful people need to play a role in eradicating its impacts.

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