UUA to take over environmental program from UU Ministry for Earth
Green Sanctuary is the designation earned by a congregation that, following specific requirements set out by the UUMFE, develops programs and practices that are environmentally responsible and sustainable. To earn the designation congregations are required to fulfill at least 12 activities or projects spread over four focus areas––worship, environmental justice, religious education, and sustainable living.
Because of the growing interest from so many congregations, the part-time Green Sanctuary staff was having difficulty managing the program and responding to requests for information, said the Rev. Kathryn Jesch, the UUMFE’s programming coordinator.
“It was actually quite difficult for the board to make the decision to let it go,” she said. “But this move will give it more visibility and provide more consistent management. It raises the status of the program in the Association. This is the right thing to do.”
The first Green Sanctuary designations were earned by five congregations in 2002. Today there are 73 Green Sanctuary congregations and 95 that are formally working on that goal as candidates.
“A number of factors combined to propel Green Sanctuary to prominence,” Jesch said. “There’s been an increase of awareness of climate change. In 2006 delegates to General Assembly adopted a Statement of Conscience encouraging congregations to become engaged with climate change and other environmental issues. And there’s been a turn toward doing environmental activism as a part of one’s faith rather than just with groups like the Sierra Club.”
Green Sanctuary will become part of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Services office. “The Association has really committed to bringing this under the larger UUA umbrella and I could not be more pleased,” said Wayne Clark, director of Congregational Stewardship Services. “This is a logical extension of the stewardship work we are doing already.” Robin Nelson, administrator of Congregational Stewardship Services since 2006, will become program manager and will have day-to-day responsibility for Green Sanctuary, effective July 1.
The UUMFE, whose offices are in Portland, Ore., will continue to maintain a close relationship with Green Sanctuary by providing supporting materials to congregations.
Jesch said the UUMFE will focus now on three program areas: environmental justice, sustainability, and spirituality, including “resources and practices to deepen our relationship with the Earth, including worship, meditation, and spending time in nature. It also means understanding on a deep level about the interconnectedness of the web and the role of humans in that web.”
Transfer of the program creates a financial challenge for the UU Ministry for Earth, Jesch said. The Green Sanctuary Manual, which it sold for $30 ($20 for the CD), is one of its main income sources. “This is our core program and it’s what people know us for and give us money for,” she said. “We hope they will see our new emphases as worthy of their continued support.”
Jesch said the organization will work on developing environmental leaders within congregations and is planning a conference that will look at the ethical, moral, and spiritual aspects of environmentalism. The conference will also explore ways of collaborating with community groups. “There’s a great need for interfaith environmental justice work,” she said, “but Unitarian Universalists need to get clear about what we mean by environmental justice and what our priorities are, first.”
Continue to go to the website www.uuministryforearth.org for information about Green Sanctuary and other programs of the UUMFE. A Green Sanctuary website will be created later on the Congregational Stewardship Services site at UUA.org.
New Green Sanctuary program manager Robin Nelson can be reached at rnelson [at] uua [dot] org or 617-948-4251.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.
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