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Environmental Justice Center events begin

More than 100 people shared in a worship service Sept. 24 at Plymouth UCC in Seattle to launch the Environmental Justice Center at Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center in Port Orchard.  At the service, Linda Jarimillo, executive minister for the national UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, said, “It’s our responsibility to God to care for creation.”

Training events for the center have been set for February, April and October.

Jim Deming
Jim Deming, minister for environmental justice with the UCC Justice Witness Ministries

Jim Deming, who began in May 2010 as minister for environmental justice with the national UCC Justice Witness Ministries, is developing a 16-hour curriculum for an immersion in biblical and theological core values, in current local-to-national environmental issues, in a hands-on restoration projects and in advocacy to influence public policy.

Environmental justice moves us beyond being ‘green’ by changing light bulbs, installing solar panels or driving a hybrid car,” he said.  “It’s about transforming ourselves and our communities to a new reality of care and justice.”

He explained that in the 1980s, the UCC focus was on environmental racism.  The UCC wrote the 1987 report, “Toxic Waste and Race,” identifyingthe disproportionate environmental burden on poor and minority communities.  In 2007, an update showed that the situation was worse.

The UCC has been a voice challenging locating toxic waste near people with no voice,” Deming said.

After 2000, General Synods expanded environmental justice beyond environmental racism to include climate justice, “because poor people are the first to be affected by climate changes.”

The Pilgrim Firs center will train lay and clergy leaders in the UCC and other faiths to train individuals, churches and communities to change their environmental impact and learn ways to advocate for public policies on local, state and national levels.  The curriculum will not be limited to Pilgrim Firs, but that site will serve “as the epicenter for empowering people to train others in environmental justice.”

Deming wants people to leave the workshops saying, “Get out of my way, I’m going to change the world.”

Three workshops are set in 2012 for 12 to 15 participants each.  The first training will be held Feb. 10 to 12 UCC members from different conferences.  The second, April 20 to 22, will be for leaders in Northwest UCC conferences.  The third will be for Northwest pastors, Oct. 16 to 18.

Participants will sign a covenant to hold two workshops in their communities in a year, so that in two years more than 1,000 will have been trained

We need to address environmental despair so people will keep going in face of opposition and the sense that there efforts may make no difference,” Deming said.  “We need to discuss what makes us live in hope rather than despair.”

The center at Pilgrim Firs will also develop other curricula to take to the whole church.

It’s not good use of carbon for everyone to fly to Pilgrim Firs for training, so we will take the training where people are,” said Deming, who has worked in publishing, interim ministry, a rails-to-trails conservation effort, in poverty law and in nonprofit issues.  He and his wife Lynne, who met at Emory University, live in Nashville, Tenn.

In 2006, he began working with individuals, congregations and church leaders on how faith and justice can transform values related to sustainability and global warming, working with Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, Tennessee Environmental Council and the National Wildlife Federation.

For information on attending a workshop, email, call 360-876-2013 or visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © October 2011





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