Through Earth Day, series of invitations to join Commit2Respond, a new climate justice campaign.
Unitarian Universalists march in the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014 (© David Vita, courtesy Commit2Respond).
For the Rev. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa—assistant minister at First Parish in Brookline, Mass., and president of Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM)—the invitation to participate in Commit2Respond and its Climate Justice Month opened up an opportunity for her to attend to the issues she cares about—climate change, economic inequality, and social and racial disparities—without having to segregate her identities. “I used to have to bring twelve different sets of lenses to every meeting,” she laughed, as she explained how she has experienced typical approaches within Unitarian Universalism.
Climate Justice Month emphasizes the links between these challenging issues. Launched on World Water Day, March 22, and running through Earth Day, April 22, Climate Justice Month offers daily inspirations and ideas via email and on the Commit2Respond website, and provides resources for learning more, planning worship services that connect environmental issues to economic and social issues, and sharing ideas.
Since being approached by the Commit2Respond organizers, Vlassidis Burgoa feels like she has been invited to bring all of her identities to all of the work of the church. “It’s a way of embodying our theology, of being a spiritual practice, so you don’t leave climate concerns only with the environmental justice committee.”
Alex Kapitan, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Congregational Advocacy and Witness program coordinator, explains that Commit2Respond is a tool, developed by eight different UU organizations, and Climate Justice Month is an invitation to use that set of tools and resources.
On the Commit2Respond website, organizers have developed a set of activities to focus attention on the urgent need for a different response to climate change, leading to commitments for individuals or households to long-term climate justice work.
“When we met in March 2014, we realized that in order to change anything, we had to change everything,” said Kapitan, referring to a grassroots meeting of UUs on the issue of climate change. From that meeting came an open letter to leaders throughout Unitarian Universalism, asking for their commitment to participate in a larger conversation. Eight organizations joined together to work as one to push out for dialogue and change.
Kapitan said the idea was to create a collaborative opportunity for people from around the globe to participate and chronicle the things they are doing to change thinking and actions around climate change and then to share with each other. It is less a to-do list than a suggestion box, with the end goal of encouraging people to think holistically about justice work. Using the month between World Water Day and Earth Day seemed a perfect time to invite people into the conversation, and Kapitan hopes that this experience will provide congregations with a valuable resource for planning for the next calendar year.
For Vlassidis Burgoa, the collaborative and grassroots foundations of Commit2Respond have brought joy to the hard work of shifting the paradigm. “It is a way of holding ourselves accountable to each other for all the work that we do. It is a holistic journey where we don’t have to leave parts of ourselves behind in order to be heard.”
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Tina Porter is a writer living in Northwest Indiana. She blogs at tinalbporter.com.
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