Young church members share why climate change matters to them
More than 240 people joined the Why does the Uniting Church support the School Strike 4 Climate movement webinar to witness MC, Julie McCrossin, weave in and out of short interviewees with our guests. The stand-out for many was calm, thoughtful and passionate eloquence of young people from our church and UCA schools on why the issue of climate change matters to them from a personal and faith perspective.
Georgia Stewart, a Year 10 student at PLC gave the Acknowledgement of Country and provided a graphic summary of the impacts of climate change on the landscape. Ella Andrews, in her final year at Kinross Wolaroi, spoke about the impacts of drought on their family farm and the whole Orange region compelling her to join the SS4C movement. Michael Ramaidama Utoni of Christian Students Uniting told of his faith in a loving and just God who cares deeply for all creation. He spoke movingly of the impacts of sea level rise on land, livelihood and identity for his Fijian homeland. He spontaneously shared a poem he had written very early that morning- it is reproduced below.
Although still in Year 10 at Rose Bay Secondary College, Isaac Hemsworth Smith has been part of the main organising group for the SS4C since 2019. Isaac recounted how the failure of adult leaders to take the scientific evidence for climate change sufficiently seriously, has forced young people to take this stand. Responding to a question as to whether the SS4C movement has added to their anxiety, each of these young people responded that it is the failure to address climate change which makes them anxious. Involvement in the movement empowers them and gives them hope. They also each appealed for adult supports to continue to stand and speak with them in the quest for a safer climate future for all.
Our other speakers affirmed the commitment of young people to act on climate and that such action flows from the deepest convictions of our church. Dr Miriam Pepper shared about the Uniting Church tradition of creation care and concern for the whole environment. She noted that how ‘disruptive action’ is part of our church tradition of prophetic action. It is an act of discipleship that is rooted in the example of Jesus (think of the cleansing of the Temple) and the teaching of the Old Testament prophets.
Alison Overeem, Palawa woman and member of the UAICC Executive, spoke of the heritage of First Nations peoples’ care for country, and affirmed strongly that only by all of us working together can we heal our land. Giving a Pasifika person’s perspective and drawing from themes in her PhD studies, Lilliani Tahaafe-Williams highlighted the sacred interconnection of all life that must shape care for creation and our human response to climate change. Rev. Dr Jason John brought one of his slam poems, encouraging us to use our ‘C word’, boldly whether that be about climate, Christ, compassion or community. Finally, the Headmaster of Newington College, Michael Parker told of his support of the right of young people to express their strong views on climate, as they will be the ones most profoundly affected by the choices made in this point of history.
Drawing things to a close The Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford underscored the importance of young people in the church speaking up about climate change. He told those on the webinar that it is not something about the future, “this is now” and it is a central concern for who we are as the Uniting Church.
You can find a recording of the webinar here. The material will be edited and used for education and further discussion with UCA Schools, and the wider church. Congregations may like to use it as a basis of discussion and exploring the issues within their own communities.
Our sincere thanks to all those spoke or otherwise contributed to the webinar. We are especially grateful for all the skilled work of our MC, Julie McCrossin.
Miriam Pepper, Punam Bent, Stuart Bollom, Alice Salomon, and Jon O’Brien
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