Scoop on Sustainability: Durham-area church combines religion with environmental values

By Megan Barry
On April 26, 2013

In celebration of spring, this apst month the Durham Unitarian Universalist Church is offering a series of environmentally-themed services, in support of its desire to achieve Green Sanctuary Certification.
The first of these services took place on April 7, and featured Larry Brickner-Wood, the chaplain and executive director of the United Campus Ministry. His inspiring talk focused on his reasons for publicly supporting divestment from the fossil fuel industry.  
The service on April 14 featured John Maci of the Fellowship Green Sanctuary Committee and the Program Manager of the EOS Center at UNH.  On April 21, Barry Rock, professor of natural resources and the environment at UNH, discussed the science behind climate change.
The Green Sanctuary program, developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association, provides the framework for congregations to take on initiatives to explore "what it means to live today within a religious community on an imperiled Earth."
It is one of the principles of Unitarian Universalism to have respect for the "interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part"; the Greener Sanctuary program is the exemplification of this value. It creates a venue through which all Unitarian Universalists can collaborate and become stewards of the Earth.
To become a Green Sanctuary, a congregation must make an effort to create sustainable lifestyles for its members, and demonstrate commitment to a living in harmony with the earth. The Durham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is prepared to pursue this certification.
Another effort to bring the environmental discussion into a religious setting took place on April 21 at South Church in Portsmouth, N.H.
This was a community forum entitled "Climate Disruption and Investing" and focused on the use of investments to decrease the use of fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.  This is part of an overarching movement by 350.org to help churches to divest their endowment portfolios from fossil fuel companies.  
What these events demonstrate is an engagement of moral values in the discussion, not only of divestment and climate change, but sustainability. It is argued as to how effective the moral argument will be in convincing people one way or another; some feel that economic incentive is more compelling.
But as Larry Brickner-Wood noted, there should be a sense of what is right and what is wrong, regardless of political views and social background.
Too often the outreach about climate change is "gloom and doom," citing terrifying statistics and calling upon the people to change their ways. Frankly, this approach can be ineffective, creating apathy and anger among the general population.
 It is Much more compelling  to meet people where they stand, and to move forward together by leveraging actions they are already taking.
This is the approach of the religious climate movement, which uses values that speak to the heart and cannot be ignored, rather than norms that speak to the brain, and can be so easily avoided or navigated around using "clever" rationalization.
 


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