Response: November 2016 Issue

New Generations for Climate Justice

United Methodist Women trains young women to be God-centered actors for climate justice.

New Generations for Climate Justice
United Methodist Women members working for climate justice participate in the New Generations for Climate Justice Pilot Program in Arizona.

The New Generations Climate Justice Pilot Program 2016 began as a training platform for younger generations of United Methodist Women to come together to build on our knowledge and skills to advocate and act to end the injustices of environmental and social degradation. Throughout the 10-week online course and subsequent pre-Mission u retreat, we were guided through a learning experience designed to train, encourage and develop new leaders within the fight for environmental justice.

During our time together, the 12 participants focused on three topics: basics of climate justice: the movement, the community, your role; effective solidarity work and organizing; and teaching at Mission u and educating others. Overall, the aim was to build the necessary skills to teach the Mission u climate justice study in 2017 and receive support in continued work as God-centered environmental actors within our communities through learning, engaging and acting.

Learning

This group was built with intent to employ young women from diverse backgrounds into a community of women seeking justice and faith in God. We ventured to have the difficult conversations and learning moments that became pertinent to our learning experience. In an effort to engage effectively, all of our online learning experiences were delivered through mediums such as Facebook, GoToMeeting and Google Docs.

The topics we explored required serious dedication to inward and outward reflection. The subjects covered included spiritual gifts, solidarity work, community organizing, the Doctrine of Discovery and the mission study Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action. Through this customized learning experience women were able to engage in the study online while applying their knowledge to their everyday lives. Participants shared their thoughts through reflections and small break-off groups. Hearing from guest speakers who have worked on the front lines of the climate justice movement, such as community organizers and faith leaders, gave the women insight on the impacts of effective community organizing.

Participants learned and collaborated from their homes from January to May and then participated in a pre-Mission u retreat and a Mission u training in Tempe, Arizona. The in-person experience of learning together became a helpful follow-up to the online study. During the retreat in Prescott, Arizona, the participants trained, planned and engaged in sessions that expanded their understanding of justice work. This time together fueled lasting relationships between participants while fostering Mission u leaders and United Methodist Women members to connect with the participants in meaningful ways.

Engaging

We were able to engage with other activists in the climate justice movement throughout the process. During our first months of learning together we scheduled one-on-ones with local organizations fighting for climate justice in our own cities. As a result, each one us connected with members of our community and learned about how to become activists where we live. During our retreat we engaged with one another through prayer, song and conversation, making connections with young women our own ages who see climate change through a lens of faith. During that sacred time we created a safe space where each young woman was able to participate, learn and grow in her own way, resulting in strong connections that will last a lifetime. Going to the Mission u training in Tempe was the perfect way to wrap up our three-month adventure, in fellowship with the larger United Methodist community. At the end of our journey we each pledged to go home and continue to foster connections made during our trip, to engage within our communities, to educate other United Methodist Women members about what we learned and to continue to fight for climate justice.

Acting

For many of us, this effort is not easy. There is a lot of work to do both in and out of the Church in striving toward justice and reconciliation with God's Creation. We struggle even within our global denomination about what this work looks like and what is valued. But God calls us all to this plight and offers strength. The New Generations Climate Justice Pilot Program experience brought a group of young women together to learn with and from one another for 10 weeks. The program connected us to build a foundation of learning and support not only from one another but also from those we met during the Mission u training event. We are reminded that it is within these relationships with other women that support and build one another up in the light of God that we can then go out and continue our important work.

It is with this understanding that women of the New Generations program will continue in relationship with one another, intentionally checking in virtually as a group at least every six months. This will be a time of celebration and sharing struggle, prayer, frustration and encouragement. Knowing and actively being reminded that these women and so many others around the world are working for this common cause brings hope and power, even in difficult days when the empire feels invincible. But we can't do it alone.

Pat Watkins, Global Ministries missionary with God's Renewed Creation and editor and contributor to the climate justice mission study calls all Christians to action. He talks about the Christian necessity to not only be in right relationship with God and neighbor but with the land and all that springs up from it. This is not a choice or a niche ministry for only those who "like being outdoors." As lovers of God, we must take responsibility for how we interact with all life. United Methodist Women has amazing resources on ways to go about responsibly living within and among God's Creation as individuals and as a Church body, including a Bible study, climate justice interactive simulations, further reading suggestions and 13 Steps to Sustainability: A Practical Event Planning Guide.


Carmen Francesco was co-facilitator of the New Generations Pilot Program and interned at the United Methodist Women Office of Environmental and Economic Justice and the United Methodist Seminar Program. Kirsten Rumsey is a United Methodist Women member in Washington, D.C., and works at a solar power nonprofit. Kelly Schaefer is a missionary specialist for Creation Care at Camp Mokule'ia on Oahu in Hawaii. She previously served as a Global Ministries Mission Intern, partnering with the Asian Rural Institute in Tochigi, Japan, and farm and servant community in Wisconsin.

Posted or updated: 11/2/2016 11:00:00 PM
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