~ Jan von Lehe
A year ago I said, what next? as I faced my retirement from my 43 year nursing career. I looked, and by Fall accepted Elizabeth Dickinson’s call to join the UCC Justice Leadership Jubilee (JLJ) program. University Congregational UCC sponsored me to participate in this program, and I thank you! I wanted to give you this overview of what the program entails and what I’ve learned. Who would know what that journey would bring?!
My passion is trying to impact our climate crisis.
I love the wilderness and this beautiful world! It is my refuge and inspiration. My heart cries with woe when I see all the major changes and the whole earth being threatened by climate change. More fires with smoke filling our August skies, more floods destroying homes and interfering with planting new crops, more extreme storms with wild numbers of tornadoes and damage, more glaciers melting and snow levels erratic, our Arctic ice melting, our salmon and orcas dying. The impacts are multiplied all around the world, displacing people with rising sea levels and heat that is intolerable now. It is an over-arching ‘umbrella’ issue — and the dire predictions are unfortunately easier to see each year and easier to imagine how it could become much worse if we can’t change. And here’s the real social injustice: those who contributed the least to the rise in greenhouse gases are affected the most.
So as part of the JLJ program, I was eager to volunteer with 350 Seattle, focused on climate justice to make deep system change. Simply put by 350.org: It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s Bad. We can fix it. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and move quickly to 100% renewable energy. What an amazing organization well-grounded in social justice, partnering with indigenous people and those oppressed by our racism and other ‘isms’. Under the JLJ program I committed to 6-10 hours / week and my focus is twofold: to support some of the organizational operations and to coordinate some developing 350 Seattle advocacy and activist efforts.
I was also delighted to finally join our UCUCC Sacred Earth Matters as part of my JLJ commitment. I’m honestly very humbled by the visionary leadership in our UCUCC community to be good stewards as we live on this fragile earth. Sacred Earth Matters acts on many fronts: solar powered energy, reducing waste, political action, education and many sacred works!
Change doesn’t come without new ideas, education and training
The JLJ program provides 2-3 hours monthly with some longer workshops as well as readings. For me this included topics related to community organizing, undoing institutional racism, effective political advocacy, understanding biblical imperatives for justice, understanding homelessness and environmental justice, understanding the differences of our social location, and how to recognize and respond to micro-aggressions. Sobering again to go deep into these social justice issues and try to reckon with my complicity and find a way to live with greater integrity.
The final and key component of the JLJ program is to support each other, reflecting on our learning and service, by sojourning monthly with other Justice Leadership Jubilee volunteers and leaders. Chris Hansen and Elizabeth Dickinson provided a caring and clear support for our growth. We can change, we are adaptable, we need to listen with our quiet hearts and learn new ways. We need to be more aware of our impact on each other and the world.
So why does this matter?
Once again UCC and UCUCC leads the way to do what God requires of us: to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. I am deeply humbled by the injustices I know exist in our world, and so very aware of our white privilege that we honestly take for granted, and so very concerned that we have leaned hard on our earth for our own pleasures and fortunes. Now more than ever, we need to be kind to others and to this earth. This is a humbling walk for me and for us, and I hope I can be a good part of the energy and clarity that helps us as we seek to respond to God’s word and will, living responsibly within God’s creation and sharing with gratitude the gifts we are given. And remembering to whom much is given much shall be required. We can do this together.