Volume 3, Issue 4
September 2022
Listening to young voices in church – and in Creation Care
By John Helt

What if we listened to what children, teens and young adults have to say about the urgency of this planetary moment?

In 2019, teenager Greta Thunberg said this at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire. Because it is. 

Climate change images that inspire me to action are not the daily news footage of floods, burning forests or drought. Rather, they are Greta Thunberg speaking boldly to adult world leaders, and that iconic photo of John Kerry signing the Paris Accord in 2015 with his granddaughter on his lap. With my own 8-year-old grandson and 5-year-old granddaughter in mind, the Kairos Call to Action’s “fierce urgency of now” compels me to better care for the Earth that will be their home long after I am gone from it.

Over the past seven years, I have led worship here and there around the Wisconsin Conference about once a month. “Pulpit supply,” we call it. Conspicuously absent from the congregations gathered together for worship are the children, teens and young adults to whom Earth’s future belongs. Mine is just one more gray head in the assembly. “Where are the young people?” church leaders ask me.

Might they help us address both our response of faith to climate change and our congregational graying?

With those questions in mind, our Creation Care Team challenges the congregations of the Wisconsin Conference to engage in a series of listening sessions. Where there is a Sunday School class or a youth ministry gathering, invite conversations about care for the Earth, with the adults doing most of the listening. Rather than drawing young people into the apparently unappealing agendas of those of us who sit alone in the pews, we graybeards could “act our age” with the wisdom of silence. Where there are no longer classes and youth groups, go to where younger generations assemble and listen to what they are saying.

Our Creation Care Team wants to hear from you. 

  • How are you listening to youth voices in your congregation and community? 
  • What are young people saying? 
  • How can we help you spread the Good News that our youth and young adults are bringing forward so urgently?

Listen and learn. Share what you learn. Then let’s act. Together.

John Helt is co-chair of the Conference Creation Care Team. Contact John.
Awesome Youth Creation Care Video

Check out this awesome video made by two members of First Congregational Church of Montclair, New Jersey. “[FCC] has the opportunity to become a Creation Justice Church as a part of a wider United Church of Christ initiative. If adopted, FCC will become formal advocates and be pro-active about the climate crisis we are facing. It is a way to demonstrate that care for our environment is at the very core of who FCC wants to be.”
The background (via Brooks Berndt, UCC minister for environmental justice): “The UCC climate justice fellows program led to the formation of a cohort of UCC young adults who met monthly over the summer. Two members of that cohort created an awesome video for their church to generate interest and enthusiasm among members for becoming a Creation Justice Church. We would love to see more videos like this in the UCC.”

Click image above to view the video.
Four congregations receive Kairos funds; more grant money available

By Kathy Bartilson

The Wisconsin UCC Creation Care Team has awarded four more grants for Creation Care projects. These congregations have been awarded $1,000 each:

  • First UCC in Menomonie. The congregation will host an opening ceremony in support of a Native American Nibi-Water Walk for the Red Cedar River. (See related story.)
  • Hope UCC in Fremont, for an energy-efficient refrigerator for the church-sponsored food pantry.
  • Ebenezer UCC in Sheboygan, for two energy-efficient heating boilers.
  • Plymouth UCC in Eau Claire, to continue native plantings and removal of invasive plants from on the church grounds, with outreach to the community. Read more about the project.  

Kairos grant funds remain available. Grant applications will be accepted at any time, and awards of up to $1000 per project occur as long as funds last. Congregations are encouraged to apply for funding for eligible projects. These include any work that advances Creation Care such as faith formation activities, resource conservation efforts, church and community projects and energy efficiency initiatives. Past grants have financed community organizing around care of the Earth, speakers on key environmental topics, solar panel and LED lighting installations, and native plantings and pollinator gardens.

To apply for a grant, complete the application and send it to Lisa Hart at the Conference office.  

Kathy Bartilson is a member of Namekagon UCC in Earl and chairs the Resources Work Group of the Conference’s Creation Care Team. Contact Kathy.
FCC Menomonie hosts Water Walk Ceremony
More than 100 people attended the Sept. 25 opening ceremony of an Ojibwe Nibi (Water) Walk hosted by First Congregational United Church of Christ, Menomonie. Participating in an Ojibwe Nibi (Water) Walk is a way to embrace Native American knowledge and wisdom and express your concern, care, and gratitude for the waters of the Red Cedar River and Lake Menomin.

Creation Care Retreat
The Wisconsin Conference UCC Creation Care Team and United Church Camps Inc. invite you to join people from UCC congregations throughout Wisconsin the first weekend in November for a retreat designed to help us work together on creation care:
“Cross Pollination: Joining Hearts and Hands to Help Save the Earth”
This retreat will bring together members of our churches and the Wisconsin Conference creation care team to encourage and learn from one another, from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon at Daycholah Center. (An optional extension through Sunday morning is available.)

Addressing Climate Crisis Consequences: Pakistan Relief and Immigrant Welcoming
A painful reality is that part of our response to the climate crisis needs to be caring for people being harmed by it right now -- in addition to our attempts to get at root causes and reverse the trajectory of the crisis.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has experienced unprecedented flooding. Major media all report that scientists say global warming has been responsible for the severity of these floods. “Climate change could have increased the most intense rainfall over a short period in the worst affected areas by about 50%, according to a study by an international team of climate scientists,” reported The Guardian. “The floods were a one in 100-year event, but similar events are likely to become more frequent in future as global temperatures continue to rise, the scientists said.”

The United Church of Christ’s Pakistan Relief Fund has made an appeal for assistance for the 33 million people affected by the flooding so far and an estimated 6.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance. 

More generally, in the face of climate-driven natural disasters, our creation care efforts are intimately tied to our work as immigrant welcoming communities. The Wisconsin Conference's Immigration Working Group is inviting congregations around the state to a conversation about the many ways we are living into our 2017 resolution to be an Immigrant Welcoming Conference. A discussion of what we are doing now – sponsoring refugees, accompanying asylum seekers, raising money, advocating for reform, and partnering with resettlement and other agencies to provide volunteer and financial support – will lead to ideas for specific actions for congregations to take or explore.  
What Does It Mean To Be Immigrant Welcoming in 2022?
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Date: Sept. 29
Legislation offers incentives for more drivers to go green
Want to know how new legislation can concretely help you take action to save the planet? Here are specifics about the benefits expected to boost electric vehicle purchases.

In Oshkosh, First Congregational Church proclaims the Good News with Creation Care garden
Many hands (and a Kairos grant from the Wisconsin Conference) have come together to create a witness to the work of care for God’s creation in Oshkosh. “Pedestrians walking by our parking lot have expressed appreciation for our gardens, and neighborhood kids stopped by while I was watering last week, and were very interested in the garden,” said Green Team leader Pat Dwyer-Hallquist. Click here to read the full story.
Creation Care Good News!
Solar Projects – Lots of Learning Opportunities

We have a lot to learn from each other! If you are interested in connecting with others who are at various stages of solar projects – everyone from beginners to veterans of completed projects – contact Joe Scarry. Solar projects will be the subject of several activities at the Creation Care retreat in November (see above). In addition, a webinar will be offered Oct. 12 about how the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act makes it possible for nonprofit organizations, including churches, to receive reimbursement from the federal government equal to 30 percent of the cost of a solar-energy installation. Register here.
Single Day Participation Available for Oct. 8 Immersion Event at Daycholah

Join us on Ho-Chunk land at Daycholah Center on Green Lake as we immerse ourselves in a three-day experience Oct. 7-9 to explore how local churches can faithfully respond to calls for justice from Wisconsin’s Native American communities. Click here to learn more about event.

NEW: Alternately, you can now sign up for participation during just the main day of events on Saturday, Oct. 8, or for two days on Friday-Saturday, Oct. 7-8): 

Hurry! Registration ends Sept. 29.
Calling all kids

Kids of all ages can join in the United Church of Christ’s Climate Hope Cards art contest. Participating children will design postcards that highlight hope and love for the Earth. Any child can enter, but church youth especially are encouraged to participate!
Help us promote your congregation on Facebook! 

Does your congregation have a presence on Facebook? Join the Wisconsin Conference Creation Care group page on Facebook, and share your activities there. We’ll help you amplify your message! Click here to see the group.

Do you have a news item for the Kairos Newsletter? Send it to Joe Scarry.

View Franz Rigert's video Announcing the Wisconsin Conference UCC Kairos Call To Action and share with your congregation!

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Wisconsin Conference UCC | wcucc.org