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Volume 1, Issue 2
Caring for Creation in Wisconsin Conference
Pope Francis reminds us that Christians are called to "'an ecological conversion' whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience." (Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home, 2015)
The Kairos Call to Action is one roadmap for us, here in our Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, to find our way on this spiritual journey. Kairos Call to Action is a guide for a pilgrimage toward deeper "ecological conversion." There are ten "calls to action" that congregations and households within them can use to direct our environmental stewardship over the next crucial decade. The Conference Creation Care Team invites you to study this "call to action" and become a Kairos covenant congregation. Kairos means "the right time." Now.
Melting polar ice caps, rising seas, and raging storms and wildfires need not intimidate us. Our warming planet, observed from a place of hope and faith, could melt God's frozen people. God sends messengers, once again, to say, "Fear not!" There is good news and hope in the midst of this planetary crisis. We can take actions to protect God's handiwork. It is possible for the coldest and stiffest of us to catch fire! (See our recent webinar with Brooks Berndt, author of Cathedral on Fire, titled "Getting Started on the Kairos Call to Climate Action.").
Kairos Call to Action begins with "Enter a period of study and immersion." Educate yourself about the environment and faith-based movements to care for creation. The second call is "Plan inspired worship that continually focuses attention on this kairos moment." Many of our churches observe an Earth Day Sunday in April. But every Sunday is an Earth Day, and we must always keep before us the Christian vocation to protect God's handiwork. (View our webinar with Jim Antal, Engaging the climate Emergency in Preaching and Worship.)
Many of our churches are doing these things, and more. Kairos Call to Action is not a check-list, but a menu. Find a place to start and get going! Following in this second Kairos Newsletter, creation care team member Kathy Bartilson has written about Wisconsin Conference ministries that are being awarded Catalyst grants to further their environmental stewardship. As you will see, each project in some way responds to Kairos Call to Action. Also in this newsletter, you will see examples of how God is already at work in our world's ecological conversion. Good things are happening that challenge each of us to get on board. Thanks for reading and covenanting for an ongoing "ecological conversion." 
"Blessed are they who reverence all created things as sacred."
(Fr. Ed Eschweiler, Beatitudes for Stewards of the Earth)
Creation Care Projects Receive Grant Funding

By Kathy Bartilson

The Creation Care Team is pleased to announce nearly $10,000 in grants are being awarded to 10 congregations throughout Wisconsin and our United Church Camps, Inc. to begin implementing the Conference’s Kairos Call to Action adopted at this year’s Annual Meeting. We are most grateful that these churches and our camps have stepped forward with a variety of faithful actions for the sake of God’s creation and our common home. We hope these projects inspire all churches to become “Kairos-Covenanted” congregations to sustain our earth.
Our team is also grateful to the Wisconsin Conference Catalyst Fund for making these grants possible. Catalyst Grants are enthusiastically and generously supported by the people of the Wisconsin Conference UCC through our giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM). Since Catalyst grants are contributed from all of our congregations, all of us are helping to make these important, creation-sustaining projects possible, as if we were there at each of these churches helping erect the solar panels and planting the pollinators. The Creation Care Team hopes to offer these grants again next year. 
The projects underway are very creative, including solar-panels, LED lighting, heating improvements, outreach to local communities, and spiritually-enriching educational work. Each grant recipient will be sharing progress and insights learned through our Conference newsletters and webinars, an effort that relates to Kairos Call to Action Step #10, sharing widely the good news stories of our creation care ministries. Some projects are short-term, and others will take many additional funds and months to years to accomplish.
Please hold all of these congregations and our UCCI partners in prayer as they take these important steps in Creation Care ministry. Thank you to every congregation for your support of Our Church’s Wider Mission to make these projects possible through the Catalyst Fund. Following are a few examples of the grant projects. Please click here to read about all of the projects.
  • Congregational UCC, Ladysmith: Funding from a $910 Creation Care grant will be used to replace fluorescent lights with LED bulbs in the church's offices and lower level to greatly lower energy use. Kairos Call to Action #5, becoming a carbon neutral church. 
  • Plymouth Congregational UCC, Madison has received a "Solar for Good" award of 48 solar panels that will provide approximately 85% of their electrical needs. This $1000 grant will be applied toward the remaining project costs. The church has already completed a multi-year project converting all fluorescent lighting to LED bulbs. They also plan to hold several "kairos-type" educational events. Kairos Calls to Action #1, education and immersion, and #5, toward greater carbon neutrality.
  • Trinity UCC, LaCrosse plans to purchase an energy efficient dishwasher and replant trees on their grounds with a $1000 grant. This project relates to Kairos Calls to Action #5, on carbon neutrality, and #4, cultivating gardens and landscapes for justice.
  • Bethel-Bethany UCC, Milwaukee: Grant assistance helped cover the cost of a summer immersion course for retired Pastor Tim Perkins. He plans to use the knowledge and tools gained to address environmental justice concerns in Bethel-Bethany’s multicultural/multiracial and economically diverse neighborhood. This project relates to several of the Kairos Calls to Action, but most directly #9, on becoming a Kairos mobilization hub. 

Please read the complete grant project descriptions here.
Sharing Good News
Good news in SE Wisconsin: We Energies will eliminate its older of two coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek. (See Journal Sentinal article) God is at work. Kairos Call to Action Step #10 is to share good news and environmentally friendly developments, wherever they may be found. 

Please share your creation care good news. Send to resourcecenter@wcucc.org.

Moving Towards Carbon Neutrality: One of the Kairos Calls To Action is to become a carbon neutral church. That means finding out what your carbon footprint is, and reducing or eliminating it. If your electrical power comes from a coal-fired power plant, that's one thing. If it comes from a utility with a renewable source (water, wind or solar), your electrical usage will mean less to the planet. In either case, the first thing to do is reduce the amount of power you use, turning down thermostats in winter and up in summer, adding insulation, changing out all light bulbs to LEDs etc, then you will use less of the electricity that comes from your utility. Adding solar to your building (or nearby if you don't have a good roof for the sun) or buying in to a solar co-op is another way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Moment of Awe
When we look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for us?  
Psalm 8:3-4 (NRSV)

View this video - "Round of Applause: Trumpeter Swans taking flight," which was taken in a bend of the Yellow River near Spooner, where volunteers and DNR staff hand-cut purple loosestrife years ago, and the banks are now covered with a native aster valued for wildlife. Thanks to Kevin Hagen, Spooner, who shot this video from a canoe.

Take a moment to experience the beauty of creation. And share a photo or video by emailing to resourcecenter@wcucc.org.
Sustainability Tip
Provided by First Congregational UCC, River Falls’ Mission Education Committee
Recycling gift wrap materials: With the holiday season comes the season of gift giving and receiving. This year, consider making your gift exchange events more sustainable by recycling wrapping paper and packaging materials. Most non-glitter, non-foil wrapping paper can be recycled with everyday paper products (if in doubt, check with your local recycling company). Ribbons, bows, and tissue paper can be reused for gifts next year. Packing foam and peanuts can be used for shipping items later in the year, or are usually accepted at your local shipping center for re-use. And when purchasing new wrapping paper and supplies, consider selecting items that are reusable or recyclable.
Recommended Resources

  • Forming a Green Team, January 14, 7:00 p.m. Save the date! The Creation Care Team will be kicking off the new year with a series of webinars to help congregations begin to implement the 10-year Kairos Call to Action plan adopted at our 2020 Conference Annual Meeting. Be sure to save the date for this webinar featuring members of St. Stephens UCC, Merrill, and First Congregational UCC, River Falls who are at different stages of forming Green or Kairos Action Teams in their communities. We hope this will provide inspiration for congregations and help them connect with others working toward the same goals. Watch for more information after the first of the year. Guided by the Kairos Call to Action adopted at the 2020 Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting the Conference has established goals of having 100 congregations engaged in the Kairos Call to Action by the end of 2021, and 150 congregations forming a “Kairos Action Team” by the end of 2022.

  • How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change, Turning Angst into Action, by Harriet Shugarman, "provides tools and strategies for parents to explain the climate emergency to their children and galvanize positive action ... A lifeline for parents who are feeling overwhelmed with fear and grief, this book provides both hope and practical ways to engage children in pursuit of a better world that is still possible." Shugarman is Executive Director of ClimateMama, professor of Climate Change and Society and World Sustainability, and Chair of the Climate Reality Project, NYC Metro Chapter. She is also a recipient of the prestigious Climate Reality Green Ring Award.

  • Climate-Smart Cooking and the Future of Food. Free e-book from the Climate Reality Project - Food brings us together. It unites families around the dinner table, especially this time of year. It documents cultures and places and traditions. It marks some of our most important moments. And it is critically threatened by the climate crisis. Why? Because if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rates, food may become harder to grow in many places and harder to access in others, and what does grow could be less and less nutritious. It doesn’t have to be this way. This holiday season, we’re reminding you what’s at stake and the ways you can take action to mitigate the worst of it in our new free e-book. In it, discover how you can support better, more sustainable farming techniques through the choices you make in the kitchen. Download here.

Solar Powered!

Pictured is the solar array on the Trost Center in Deforest.

If your church has a solar array, please send us a photo so that we can feature it in a future Kairos Newsletter!

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

Sign up for the Kairos Call to Action Newsletter to ensure you don't miss future issues!
This newsletter is made possible by your contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support.
Wisconsin Conference UCC | wcucc.org