Spiritual Wholeness and Climate Justice

Part of being whole persons in Jesus Christ includes a just relationship with earth and all its communities.

Spiritual Wholeness and Climate Justice
The United Methodist Women Be Just. Be Green team joins local activists on a tour of Pennsylvania’s fracking sites in December 2017.

Several years ago I was fortunate to be invited as a guest representing United Methodist Women at a National Farm Worker Ministry board meeting. The meeting that year was held in California, with a focus on a campaign in support of farmworkers holding elections to organize a union. The NFWM board members and guests took a trip to the San Joaquin Valley to meet with farmworkers and hold a prayer vigil by a field where a worker picking grapes died in the heat. We met workers in a park by the store where they cashed their checks. Dolores Huerta, cofounder of National Farm Workers Association, now United Farm Workers, was at the park to lend support to the gathering. She spoke about the plight of farmworkers and the work she was doing to train community organizers. We later met with a group of farmworkers at a nearby church to share a meal and listen to their concerns.

They spoke about changes they would like to see. This experience inspired a new energy to stand up for just treatment of farmworkers and others caught in similar situations. It also created a different awareness of the bounty of the earth and my responsibility to be intentional in choices around food justice each day. My time in community with farmworkers helped me develop a closer connection to God and God’s children living in circumstances different from my own.

Be Just. Be Green.

A few years later I applied for the position of jurisdiction guide as part of a United Methodist Women’s climate justice initiative that was scheduled to launch at Assembly 2014. In this role I would support and lead United Methodist Women members in the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church on climate justice goals. Climate justice was not a new concern for United Methodist Women. In this new initiative, resources were organized to draw attention to the way the many meetings of our organization were planned and to ensure they were organized following principles of sustainability and justice.

Guides were identified and trained — me included — and we began building awareness of the new Be Just. Be Green program by providing tools, education, coaching and support for advocacy to conferences, districts and local organizations of United Methodist Women. In 2016, the Mission u study on climate justice engaged participants in deliberate action to consider our roles in creation care. Supporting conferences as a jurisdiction guide and facilitating that study created the same sense of connection and solidarity that I felt with the farmworkers.

Embracing wholeness

In 2016 I was asked to partner with Faye Wilson in writing the leader’s guide for the second part of the study series on covenantal living. Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective for Covenantal Living is the 2018 United Methodist Women’s spiritual growth study. This book, written by Jessica Stonecypher, challenges the reader to develop a covenant relationship with all creation.

For me, the two words that first caught my attention were embracing and earth. The song “Put Your Arms Around the World” immediately came to mind. The words of the song, from the Global Praise songbook for children (published by United Methodist Global Ministries), suggest that by embracing earth we may feel the beating heart of God, that the people, the creatures and all of creation are a special part of God. This is the foundation of spiritual wholeness to me. Wholeness is the harmony of body, soul and spirit. Part of being whole relates to our place in the world and how we connect to earth and all its communities. Encounters with creation encourage a deep commitment to God, and attention to the details and wonder of the natural world supports a constant awareness of the presence of Christ in our lives.

Wholeness includes living with purpose. It requires being out in the world. Relationship building is hard to do inside comfortable spaces. To be whole requires we seek wholeness for everyone and everything around us. I suggest answering the call to care for creation by not just watering the plants or providing for pets but by also moving forward to change systems and structures that marginalize whole communities of earth. This is essential to one’s integrity. Climate justice is a natural link.

One current area of focus for advocacy relating to United Methodist Women’s climate justice priority is methane and the effort to reduce carbon emissions, especially in energy and transportation. Methane is a deadly greenhouse gas released in the process of natural gas extraction commonly known as fracking. At a recent gathering of United Methodist Women’s jurisdiction guides in Pittsburgh we participated in a tour of several Pennsylvania communities suffering the impacts of natural gas production. The devastation of land, water and air were apparent in the places we visited and in the stories we heard from families and activists in the area. The promise of jobs unrealized and the dangerous risks to health and home were part of the narrative. We listened to a mother who daily monitors the air quality in her home and the poisoned soil and water around her house. We heard from a father and son facing serious health concerns related to the fracking well just outside their back door and learned the roadblocks to justice they meet at every turn because of the power of the natural gas industry and the willingness of companies to put profit ahead of people.

Take action

The work for climate justice often seems overwhelming and global in scale, but as United Methodist Women members we have opportunities to be in community with others in our places. Making climate justice part of our daily consideration provides a space to draw closer to Christ. Be informed: Learn what is happening in your neighborhood, listen to the stories of those most affected, identify partners already engaged in the effort, and attend Mission u to participate in transformative education. Be engaged: Write letters to the editor, encourage others to join the effort, contact elected officials on local, state and national levels, run for office, and join in protests and marches to challenge those with power to make just decisions. Embrace wholeness and find purpose!

Ellen Lipsey is an educator and advocate for children from Van Horn, Texas, and currently serves as part of the team of jurisdiction guides for United Methodist Women’s Be Just. Be Green program promoting wholeness and justice in the way meetings and events are planned.

Posted or updated: 4/11/2018 12:00:00 AM