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Two Environmental Justice Retreats planned for fall to train trainers

Retreats address environmental despair to build communities based on hope.

By Meighan Pritchard

The United Church of Christ launched a new Environmental Justice Center last fall at Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center near Port Orchard to help people of faith explore how they can work for environmental justice.

environmental justice center
Genevieve Aguilar of Puget Sound Sage leads retreat participants through a community garden during the April training. Photos by Meighan Pritchard

Two environmental justice retreats are coming up this fall.

The first will be held midweek, from noon on Tuesday, Oct. 16 through noon on Thursday, Oct. 18, so clergy can attend.

The second, on the weekend of Nov. 16 to 18, is intended specifically for young adults.

In initial sessions at both retreats, participants will explore five themes of a faith-based approach to environmental justice: gratitude, humility, responsibility, justice, and community.

Each theme is anchored with biblical readings, selections from the video, “Renewal,” insights from leaders in environmental and social justice, and additional resources.

Participants receive a binder of materials to take home and share with their own congregations.

retreat participants
Participants in the April 2012 retreat tour Pilgrim Firs.

On the second afternoon of the retreats, participants will tour the lower Duwamish River and nearby neighborhoods with a guide from Puget Sound Sage, a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations to build an economy based on shared prosperity, to observe and experience how environmental destruction and environmental restoration impact communities and individuals in the region.

Air and water quality in the lower Duwamish and vicinity are of particular concern because of industry and exhaust from diesel trucks.

Remaining time at the retreats will focus on responses to environmental challenges:

• working through issues of environmental despair to build communities based on hope;

• developing strategies and activities for participants’ local communities;

• creating a plan for participants’ own workshops in their home communities.

Each participant will be given tools to carry out these activities in their own communities.

After an environmental justice retreat in April 2012, one participant wrote, “The weaving of facts/education, faith-based questions, and anecdotes works so well.  I am so grateful my church finds this a priority. The scripture portion will be so important for me to go forward. Well, well done curriculum. Powerful visuals on the DVD.”

Another participant wrote, “The truth is, I arrived feeling discouraged and more than a little cynical, but I am leaving feeling called, renewed and curious to see where this will lead. I especially like the suggestion that we broadcast this material through covenant groups. This makes the path part of the solution by building relationships.”

A UCC minister who participated noted, “When Jesus preached, he preached the kingdom.  When we talk about transformation to a different kind of system, aren’t we preaching the kingdom?”

The fall workshop is co-sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and UCC Justice and Witness Ministries.

A five-minute video from the first environmental justice retreat can be viewed online at

For information, call 206-370-4142 or email  The cost is $175.

More information on the center is available from Jim Deming, national UCC minister for environmental justice, at 216-736-3722 or at


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September 2012




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