What’s all this talk about food?

If you went to the UUA’s General Assembly in Charlotte, NC last year you may have been present for (or watched via live-streaming) the heart-felt debate and vote for the 2011 Statement on Conscious Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.

If you’re involved in Unitarian Universalist Association issues you may have been aware of th3 2008-2012 Congregational Study Action Issue: Ethical Eating.

If you’ve been in the market for food you may have seen an increase in “CSAs,” “farmers markets,” “organic gardens,” “community gardens,” “sustainable gardens” etc.

If you’ve been to a store you may have noticed the increase of “sustainable,” “organic,” “green,” “natural,” “GMO-free,” etc products.

Or maybe you’ve just recognized that people are talking about food a lot more today than they were say 10-20 years ago.  Saturday, the New York Times published the article “The Myth of Sustainable Meat.”

So the topic of food seems to be everywhere. Yes, we eat everyday, and I’d contend that most of people in the middle-to-upper class in the USA did little thinking about how the food they ate everyday affected others. Climate Change is impacting our planet’s ability to produce food and there are a whole other list of issues that are impacting the World’s Food Economy.

Rev. Peter Morales, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s President, has appointed a President’s Advisory Council on Ethical Eating.  This appointment demonstrates a commitment on the part of the UUA to follow-through with the SOC: Ethical Eating.  I highly encourage folks to check out the Ethical Eating website on UUA.org to learn more about the community the that is flowing from this creation and our continued dedication to this important subject.

If you’ve exhausted the resources on the Ethical Eating website and want to bring the subject back to your congregation you may want to investigate using one of the Nortwest Earth Institute‘s discussion courses: Hungry for Change and Menu for the Future.  While Hungry for Change is a newer curriculum, Menu for the Future has been used over the past several years by many UU congregations.  These curricula are helpful in educating people to thoughtfully about Ethical Eating.

This year Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22nd.  If your congregation is planning on celebrating Earth Day please consider reporting your community’s action to the UU Ministry for Earth


UUMFE 2012 Earth Day materials now online

By Cindy Davidson, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) board member

Looking for a way to bring the UUA’s focus on immigration to your Green Sanctuary work?  Or, conversely, a way to bring your Green Sanctuary team’s environmental justice concerns to the table?  Or, perhaps you’re wondering just how these issues are interconnected?  With this in mind, UUMFE has chosen to focus Earth Day materials this year on Environmental Justice and Immigration.

The Earth Day 2012 materials, now available, will help guide you in exploring ways your Green Sanctuary committee/team and your congregation might explore the link between EJ and immigration this Earth Day, April 22nd.  The collection of materials can help in planning worship services and other activities around Earth Day.  We’ve pulled together background information, resources, and suggested actions with a broad focus on links between environmental justice and immigration.  We’ll give you some ideas to consider, from the injustices of health care issues disproportionately affecting migrant populations to the environmental impact of border walls upon all species.  We look at climate change and the connection with forced migration and the disproportionate impact climate change extols on the most vulnerable. We look at environmental injustices hidden in anti-immigration legislation, including access to water. And, we even look at the anti-population growth and “immigrants are bad for our environment” arguments. We hope you find much food for thought!

As in past years, we include practical materials to use for worship services, including Order of Service covers and inserts about UUMFE.  We also encourage congregations to take advantage of Earth Day to honor and celebrate the contributions of an Eco-Hero in your midst; you’ll find a certificate you can use online, too.  Most importantly, we hope you will nominate your Eco-Hero for UUMFE’s Guardian of the Future award.  See full details online.

As you plan your Earth Day activities, please remember to register them on our website to share with others.  Your plans may just be the inspiration others need to take action in congregations near and far!  If this year’s theme is not a “good fit” for your current environmental focus, we encourage you to use the materials for prior Earth Days, especially Earth Day 2010: Food and Environmental Justice or Earth Day 2011: Sacred Waters. In fact, the 2010 and 2011 tables of Earth Day activities from registered congregations contain hundreds of inspirational ideas for you to try.

We look forward to hearing about how UU congregations across the country celebrate Earth Day 2012!

The Story of UUCF’s Certification as a Green Sanctuary

After a congregation has achieved Green Sanctuary Accreditation I always encourage them to “begin to assemble a “scrapbook” which shares information about your Green Sanctuary movement – congregations create these in many different way; some use their applications, some include orders of service, newsletter columns, fliers about special events, and pictures, some write storybooks about the journey, and some come up with new ideas that we’ve never seen before.”

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick took this task to heart.  Sandi Smith-Gill sent me an email encouraging me to take a look at the “just finished Green Sanctuary pictoral history – which started as a project to send for the reception at the GA, but ended up taking 3 months to finish.”  I opened their scrapbook and was impressed by the amount of time and effort that was put into pulling it together.  I was equally impressed with how well they did at sharing lots of information and showing that lots of people from the congregation had been involved in the project.

I don’t expect all scrapbooks to look like this, each is individual and unique.  And I encourage you to look at what they’ve done for inspiration for projects as well as what a scrapbook might look like.  I have a feeling that the UU Congregation of Frederick will have a printed version of this book in their congregation for many, many years.

143 arrested at Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Over 300 people gathered today in Lafayette Park across from The White House to participate in the Tar Sands Action civil disobedience.Today was interfaith day.  The Key Stone XL Pipeline is something that will affect everybody in the United States and beyond our borders.  Rose Berger and Tim Kumfer brought together people from various faith traditions (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Franciscan priests, and Unitarian Universalists) to show that faith communities are concerned about the environment, the inter-connected web of life, and the environmental injustices this pipeline will cause.

The day started out with a Jewish Song Service.  The leaders of this service explained to us that in Jerusalem, traditionally, the Jews and Muslims, gather to sign together in the square before going to their respective worship services and wanted this to be a reflection of that.  Singing happened for about 45 minutes – Rev. Craig Roshaven led the group in “We are a gentle angry people.”  This was followed by a short interfaith service.  Unitarian Universalists (UUs) were represented by Barbara Ford.

Then the rally started – Bill McKibben spoke as did James Hansen about how important this action was today and how brave people were being.  “What started out as a protest has become a movement” McKibben stated.  And all those there today and the previous 7 days are a part of this movement.

The group lined up in front of the White House, and, after “refusing to follow a lawful order”  (standing in front of the White House) around 143 people were arrested.  Today’s protest has become the largest day of arrests at the pipeline protest.

UUs were well represented among the protesters.  Approximately 40 people were there on behalf of their faith community.  14 UUs were arrested, while 11 others served as observers and support people, and one chaplain was present and available for pastoral concerns.With the faith community being so large, the tone for the protest was peaceful and involved lots of signing.  James Hansen, climate scientist, decided he wanted to be arrested with “religious folk” and gave a shout out to the Methodists.

The police systematically arrested the women and then the men, putting them into vans for transport to Anacostia Detention Center.  It was a long hard day for all involved.  UUs started their day at 9am and were all finally released (after post-and-forfeiting $100) by 3:18pm.  Most were tired, exhausted, and a bit dehydrated.  At the same time, they all seemed proud, changed, and glad that they represented their faith community and its values by witnessing for it.  Several UUs commented that they also appreciated seeing UUA staff support at the Tar Sands Action Rally.

I’ll be following up with individual stories over the next week or two so make sure you check back to learn more about what inspired each of the 14 arrested UUs to participate in this act of non-violent civil disobedience.

Chalice Lighting “Going Green Beyond Belief”

written by Robin Nelson and Rowan Van Ness

“Going Green Beyond Belief Chalice Lighting”

We call upon
the sacred of the everyday,
the mystery of life,
God, Holy One,
The Divine,
Spirit of Life,
Spirit of Love,
Creator of the Sun and Moon,
Gaia, Gracious God,

All around us faith communities are beacons of light, moving hearts and spirit.

Our people are transforming lawns into community gardens.
Our people are searching for truth about how our individual and collective actions affect us all. Our people are finding meaning in caring for the Earth.
Our people are standing up and witnessing what we believe in, and what is right and just.
Our people are working collaboratively to build the sustainable world we dream about.

In any one place, we may feel alone, unable to see the light of others.  When we step back and look into the night sky, may we see the brightness of the stars and think about our connections to a larger movement.

We know that even in hard moments, when the sky is dark, the stars are bright, guiding us toward the vision of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

We Unitarians and Universalists and Unitarian Universalists are part of a larger world community.  Let us see the light and feel moved to join people who are guiding the way.

For our blue boat home,
For our planet home,
For our Mother Earth,
For Gaia.

You can also watch the Chalice Lighting.

World as Lover, World as Self – Book Review

World as Lover, World as Self:  Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal
Written by Joanna Macy, PhD
Parallax Press

World as Lover, World as Self, written by Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar, eco-philosopher and spiritual activist, counters the standard notion that true enlightenment leads to withdrawal from all worldly concerns.  To the contrary, says Macy, it leads to the fortitude necessary to address them. Three themes emerge from this reading relevant to the very important work involved in your congregational Green Sanctuaries projects: the dynamic tension between despair and hope, the need to develop a larger sense of self in order to address global problems, and the benefits of spiritual practice in sustaining one’s commitment to creating social change.

Macy rightly devotes an entire chapter to the necessity of despair work in order to move forward to create solutions for these massive problems, stating “of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear warfare, none is so great as the deadening of our response.” We cannot heal what we cannot feel.  Once we begin to heal, we develop a profound sense of what our role in what the UU Seventh Principle says is “the interconnected web of existence of which we are all a part.”

Development of this larger sense of self hinges on the theory of co-arising.  Not only that, the Buddhist theory of co-arising “frees us from having to have it all figured out ahead of time, for the solutions arise as we walk the path and meet each other on the road.”  It allows for the possibility that although previous attempts have resulted in failure, solutions may yet arise, provided we persist in moving toward them.

Most importantly, Macy beautifully articulates the vital link between spiritual practice and faith. Joanna Macy states that “it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenge ahead becomes nearly impossible.”

I strongly recommend this book for anyone seeking to participate in their Green Sanctuaries Program as an enriching spiritual practice, rather than another thing on your to-do list.

We’ve Got the Whole Earth (song adaptation)

Ken Hutton, the Green Sanctuary Chair at Unitarian-Universalist Church of Canandaigua (UUCC), recently share that for their Earthday Celebration they sang songs such as “Happy Earthday…dear Gaia”  and “How Old are you now?” along with the following adaptation of the popular song “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”

“We’ve Got the Whole Earth”

We’ve got the whole Earth in our hands  (4x)

We’ve got the flora and the fauna in our hands (3x)
We’ve got the whole Earth in our hands.

We’ve got the sacred blue water in our hands (3x)
We’ve got the whole Earth in our hands.

We’ve got the birds and the bees in our hands (3x)
We’ve got the whole Earth in our hands.

We are a Green Sanctuary, it’s in our hands  (3x)
We’ve got the whole Earth in our hands.

After their celebration, they ate Earthday cake with a picture of our Earth on it.   Congregants filled out Earthday gift cards for what they would give to the Earth for next year and most importantly they had fun!

UUCC was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on March 3, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website.

We All Live Downstream

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the UUA 40-Day Challenge for Earth Day video on the homepage of UUA.org. The video culminated in an UUA Chapel Service that I co-led yesterday (we have Chapel on Tuesdays at the UUA) Sacred Waters – A Chapel Celebrating Earth Day. I wanted to share the Chalice Lighting reading.

“We All Live Downstream” from the book Water Consciousness: How We All Have to Change to Protect Our Most Critical Resource edited by Tara Lohan.

” ‘We all live downstream.’
We are connected to each other by our dependence on water and our participation in its use.
Overtime, water has been our world’s architect – carving and sanding stone, breathing life into forests, testing the patience of deserts.
But water has also been the architect of our communities, enabling us to put down roots along the banks of rivers and build lives as deep as our wells.
How we use or abuse our water resources has shaped the kinds of communities we live in and the land that surrounds them.

How do you use or abuse water resources?  Can you think of ways to change these habits/patterns?

Green Altar – UU Society of Bangor

For one of their Green Sanctuary Worship and Celebration projects, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor (UUSB) created a ever-evolving Green Altar.

They took a unused christening font, located in the back of the Sanctuary, and turned it into a pedestal for a vase holding items such as harvest corn, pine cones and acorns. On the other side, they set up a bulletin board where members of the congregation could add natural elements.  At one point in time there were feathers, dried plowers, photos and mini-gourds – and of course, the elements change from time to time.  As a symbol of their reciprocal relationship with the natural world, there are “wonderful world” cards to take when leaving an item on either side of the altars.

The double Green Altar was advertised in the church newsletter, The Chalice and Chimes, and sometimes at services people were encouraged to add a little something to the altars.

The Green Sanctuary Committee wrote:
“This has been a simple and easy project, but very satisfying, and we think it has added to the atmosphere of the Sanctuary, giving it a green flavor… and draw comments from visitors.”

UUSB was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on December 8, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website.

Up for Adoption, The 10 Tree Challenge

Guest Author, Rev. Phil Schulman

IF YOU ARE A LOVER OF TREES… this could be your opportunity to make a profound contribution to our UU religious tradition and to GAIA (Earth).

Up for adoption, is the “10 Tree Challenge,” a simple project that resulted in 40+ churches (and 50-100 other orgs.) planting over 3,000 trees. Beyond the tangible results, an exceptional spirit emerged across the UU world as a result of this project. UUs grasped the simple idea, and then brought it to life in a myriad of creative ways that fit their particular congregation.

UU’s are still hungry for meaningful ritual. Tree Planting proves to be both a powerful symbolic ritual and a way that UUs could make a visible contribution to their communities. UUs of every ilk, young and old, intellectual, political, spiritual all embrace this project.

I initiated, encouraged and facilitated the project, and watched it take off. Then other aspects of my ministry intervened. I was serving two congregations, and offering trainings in “Compassionate Conversations” (aka nonviolent communication). I wasn’t able to remain focused on the “10 Tree Challenge.”

The right person could help this project spring back to life like a tree after a season of dormancy. I would be glad to advise, coach, encourage and share some ideas. Or perhaps your creativity will be what makes the difference. (more…)