Unitarian Universalist congregations together affirm and promote seven principles, the seventh being “Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part.’ Our Seventh Principle may be, as Rev. Forest Gilmore likes to say, our UU way of coming to fully embrace something greater than ourselves.
In spring of 2017, St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church became accredited by the UUA as a GREEN SANCTUARY CHURCH. We now belong to a growing number of UU congregations who are working to restore and showcase environmental sustainability and justice in our community and in our world.
The accreditation process takes a number of years to complete. We are required to implement an Action Plan that includes a full comprehensive assessment of how our congregation lives the seventh UU principle. This includes an evaluation of our commitment to environmental stewardship; the contents of our worship services and our educational programs; the attitudes and habits we have adopted to live more sustainably at home, at church, and in the community; but most importantly, our recognition that the Seventh Principle is more than environmental responsibility alone. It is a statement of human connection to each other, to future and past generations, and to the earth systems that embrace us.
Churches must also complete a professional energy audit, and we are required to evaluate our dedication to environmental justice issues – how our growing ecological awareness transforms our response to the disproportionate impacts caused by climate change, the abuse and unfair distribution of our natural resources. For our final report, we documented many of the highlights of this journey: the formation of a team we called “Green Sanctuary Partners,” the initiation of a series of monthly community education programs we called “Changing CO2USE,” and an environmental justice project which supported the planning of a cooperative grocery store in the “food dessert” of the Northside neighborhood.
This is just a beginning. Climate warming continues to challenge, and we are called to deepen our work with the renewed purpose. Now, after the Covid hiatus, the UUA is offering churches a process of re-accreditation which focuses on three categories of action: mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions), adaption/ resilence (adapting to climate impacts), and climate justice (helping to reduce impacts to vulnerable communities.)
Being a Green Sanctuary is a way we can work toward a vision of healthier more sustainable future. We are deepening our awareness of the climate crisis and the environmental injustices of our time. We commit to the following four practices grounded in Unitarian Universalist principles:
- Sustainable Living: We treat the world more gently by using fewer resources and being mindful of the choices we make, both as a congregation and as households.
- Worship and Celebration: As we work together towards a cleaner, more just and sustainable world, worship inspires our work and reminds us of what is most sacred and most true.
- Religious Education: Our workshops and programs for all ages shape attitudes and build practices that are sustainable and spiritually-grounded.
- Environmental Justice: We partner with marginalized communities who are on the frontlines of the environmental crisis. In partnering with these communities we are able to address human and environmental needs at the same time.
We invite all who share these values to join us on this journey of connection, sustainability, and hope. Contact Jeanne Nightingale at email@example.com to get involved.