Story written by MN350 writer, Claire Curran.
A spark to dream. Creativity to overcome. Courage to inspire. That’s what the congregants of Mayflower United Church of Christ (MUCC) believe it takes to create profound justice for the earth and all its creatures. This deep commitment to justice is not a recent development. Throughout its history, Mayflower has undertaken several social justice projects including the development of Creekside Commons, a housing development that serves 30 low income families. The seeds of justice, peace and environmentalism have been sown long before their most recent commitment to becoming a carbon neutral congregation by 2030.
This isn’t a publicity stunt or a way to cut costs. The congregants of MUCC feel a prophetic call to care for God’s creation. Why? As Pastor Gretchen Deeg puts it, “honoring God means honoring the earth. We are a people that love God by loving the things that God created. “The people of MUCC see creation as an integral part of their own spirituality and their call to action. Even a cursory perusal of the bible will generate countless images of the earth and the call to protect it. The MUCC sees climate change not as an “issue” but as a prophetic call, something their faith implores them to respond to. That call echoes long after worship ends. It is present in church meetings, justice centered sermons and accompanying talk backs, the daily lives of congregants and the guiding mission of the church. As Gretchen so aptly put it, “churches are born to do more than serve the internal congregation but to serve the community by serving as a leader and a prophetic voice and that means being involved in issues of social justice.”
MUCC is not keeping quiet about the work they are doing and their goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. Instead, they hope to spark interest, conversation and commitment to environmental justice in other churches and organizations nationwide. They started that work by creating the Earthwise Congregation Resolution which initiated a framework for congregations of specific ways to commit to climate justice from implementing recycling programs to significant building changes. MUCC adopted the Earthwise Congregation Resolution in 2009 and has been hard at work ever since. In addition to making considerable changes to their building, the congregants of MUCC have been partnering with Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) taking political action to promote significant policy changes that will make the systematic change we, and the earth, so desperately need. MNIPL’s Executive Director, Mindy Ahler Olmstead, commends MUCC for their work. “Mayflower has gone another step by issuing a challenge to other UCC churches to follow their example in going carbon neutral (both in Minnesota and nationally). These changes happen congregation by congregation and individual by individual, but they add up to a very significant impact.”
With a long focus on justice, the congregants of MUCC see the earth as one of the most marginalized groups in need of urgent advocacy. Perhaps some will find it strange that a church is working so tirelessly to advocate for the planet. But as the MUCC congregants are showing, environmental activism is a natural progression of their commitment to justice and something that originated organically out of their faith. In the words of Professor of Theology Karen Baker- Fletcher, “God loves the earth fully. By loving one another and every sentient being- even the rocks who cry out- we love God. In this love we are called to resist the poisoning of peoples and the earth.” Adding the voices of religious communities to the environmental movement is an exciting, catalyzing event in the larger environmental movement, one that will hopefully spark significant change that will heal our planet and all its inhabitants.