Small steps churches can take right now were part of it. So were big, inspirational ideas — like jazz as a model for fighting climate breakdown.
The American Climate Leadership Summit, held online March 28-31, brought people together from science, business, religion and other disciplines.
What people of faith can do to slow Earth’s warming came up often during the annual event, sponsored by ecoAmerica. Its interfaith arm, Blessed Tomorrow, led several of its sessions. The United Church of Christ was a sponsor — and the source of two notable speakers. Videos of the summit’s sessions are here, at ecoAmerica’s YouTube channel.
As part of a March 29 segment, “Local Action, National Purpose,” the Rev. Jim Antal listed ways for people of faith to have an impact. A retired UCC pastor and Conference minister, he serves as special climate advisor to the church’s general minister and president.
Getting started can be as easy as getting people talking, he said. “Watching a brief video and then engaging in discussion is a great first step.” For churches, he recommended a series of nine videos, each 5 to 6 minutes long. They feature climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, one of the summit’s keynote speakers — and herself an evangelical Christian. The topics of the videos range from what the Bible says about the natural world, to how to talk to people with different opinions about climate change, to why “it is not too late” to slow the global rise in temperature.
The UCC, too, offers food for thought with two climate webinars coming in April:
Besides reducing their carbon footprint, Antal described these steps that congregations can take:
Religious leaders must play a role in all of this, Antal said — and people should expect that of them. “Help them recognize that the climate crisis is humanity’s greatest moral challenge, and that, as moral and spiritual leaders, your clergy must address the climate crisis,” he said.
“Whatever social issue your congregation cares about – it might be hunger, it might be homelessness, racial inequality, economic inequity, war – … the climate crisis is already making it worse,” Antal said.
“And remember: once your clergy leader begins to offer climate leadership from the pulpit, more and more members of your congregation will begin to engage the greatest moral challenge and opportunity of our lives.”
A climate focus can energize people, said the moderator of the session, the Rev. Carol Devine. A Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, she is program director of Blessed Tomorrow. “The congregations and houses of worship that I know of that are most involved in this work are thriving,” Devine said. “They have energy and passion. People walk into those spaces and feel the energy and the relevance.”
A dire United Nations climate report, issued just weeks earlier, added urgency to the summit. Speakers stressed that no single sector of society can solve the climate crisis alone.
One of them was the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Chicago’s Trinity UCC. In a panel session titled “Caring for Creation in Congregations and Communities,” Devine invited him to talk about jazz as a model for climate activism. Jazz, blues and faith have been a topic of Moss’s sermons and lectures, including “Stay Woke: Remaining Conscious in an Unconscious World” and “Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World.”
Moss encouraged climate activists to improvise together — like a jazz ensemble.
Not only, he said, does jazz use an assortment of “instruments that are supposedly not supposed to play together.” It also involves “the kind of band with the necessary specialists” who are willing to play democratically.
Each specialist must sometimes step forward as a soloist within the ensemble — “in other words, elevating their work within the civic arena,” Moss said. And yet, he said, “all are playing in the same band, moving in the same direction. To address the climate crisis we have to have a jazz narrative.”