Congregational Discernment and Engagement

Caring for the Earth

We, the Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists, after engaging in a thoughtful and heart-ful discernment process with the UU Justice Ministry of California, have passionately and collaboratively chosen to focus on Environmental Justice. This beautifully aligns with our SFUU Mission-to build beloved community that respects diversities as we nourish the spirit, care for the Earth, and inspire faithful acts of peace and justice.

Our Unitarian Universalist principles guide us towards justice work when we covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part, calls us to care for one another and all life.

We live in a tumultuous time of climate chaos that is manifesting in extreme and dangerous conditions all over the globe. We are at the tipping point where individual effort is not enough to save the Earth and we must work on a larger scale. Focusing on acquiring individual possessions, increase in corporate greed, capitalist consumption or destruction of precious resources, and the misguided construct of individualism come at great cost to all species and to the Earth itself.

Many regional examples of great need exist. The drought conditions in California are wreaking havoc on healthy and sustainable living. With water levels so low, some of our communities are seriously threatened as we all need water to live. Increased fire danger and fire outbreaks are impacting air quality making it harder for so many species to breathe or even exist. Local First Nations Peoples like the Nisenan (sometimes known as the Maidu) and the Winnemem Wintu are losing water and therefore food sources, as salmon is such a sacred part of their lives. Big Agri-business farming techniques are

ruining soil, water tables, air, and contributing to dangerous living conditions for marginalized people, particularly throughout the Central Valley with pesticides and hormone-fed cows/pigs/chickens/etc. Farm workers are being exposed to harmful pesticides as they work to plant, grow, and harvest crops. Our national treasures, like Yosemite National Park, are being adversely impacted by environmental degradation. But we can make a difference by working together for social change, grounded in our

Unitarian Universalist values. Partnering in accountable relationships with other organizations, we can have an impact locally, legislatively, and even globally. Eco-Buddhist-Activist Joanna Macy reminds us that “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”   We need the Earth and the Earth needs us. The destruction and subsequent climate change can be overwhelming, even heart-breaking. Macy reminds us that “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.”

Our whole congregation has a role to play in the transformation of routines that harm to practices that heal; from behaviors that take to choices that give. Each member, friend, staff, clergy, visitor, youth, and child can contribute their time and passion in some way that honors and respects life.

The Core Team is leaning into our responsibility to provide various opportunities so that each participant of our congregation can find some way to enter into the shared ministry of Caring for the Earth. We are building a justice ministry at SFUU that is woven throughout our congregational life, which will include opportunities for education, service, advocacy, witness, community organizing, and leadership development.   

The scope of Environmental Justice is huge so the Core Team has narrowed our focus with hopes of being more efficacious, as well as taking into consideration the input from our members during the CDEP process, to concentrate on issues of water and food in relationship to water, animals, and people.

 The CDEP Team 

The CDEP Team 

We are committed to this focus through August of 2017, when we will assess and revisit this decision. Some of what we do together might fall into multiple categories. More specific opportunities will continue to be revealed as we develop accountable relationships with community partners. What follows is a possible guide for our journey

***Through out this plan, persons named next to specific events have already agreed to commit to being on a team gathered to create, support, or carry out said event. Additional people will be necessary and welcomed via a sign up process.



Education includes efforts to educate ourselves as well as the community on topics related to environmental justice. As we begin this effort it may also be useful to engage in general education on Beloved Community, UU social justice history, and how to build accountable relationships with community partners as a faith community. Some examples of education efforts include community forums, movie nights, discussion groups, Sunday worship based on Earth justice topics, book study groups, and more.

Between now and August 2017, these are the education opportunities we plan to achieve:

1. Film- sometime by July 2016 --Carol Arvay and Marsha von Dessonneck will choose a film other than Thirst for Justice.

2. Book Discussion (specifically with water/food)-2 between now and August 2017 Bonnie Dahl and Carol Arvay with MaryLou Bailey

3. Continue to develop a Resource List of films, books, magazines, articles, websites that we publish (brochure, webpage, bulletin board, newsletter, book display, etc). The initial version will be created by Carol Arvay by Jan. 24, 2015.

Other related events in the congregation already underway:

1. “A Call to Life:” Kathleen Dean Moore at State Theater took place  on March 2, 2016.

2. Adult R.E. -Thirst for Justice film showing was shown at an  April 2016 forum.


Many in our congregation are called to work for justice through direct service. These efforts connect us to frontline communities – those directly impacted by environmental changes. There are many opportunities to participate in service activities in conjunction There are personal commitments we can make as UUs engaged in Caring for the Earth such as: water conservation, fuel efficiency and carpooling, etc.

In a broader sense, congregational service could look like all SFUU members, turning out

in our SFUU t-shirts, for a “Clean the Canyon” event. Another example could be all of us committing to lower our water use by 35% and then being able to prove we’ve done it

1. Green Sanctuary Re-certification Process (including what folks can do in their individual lives).

Team members include Ronda Pate, Joan Lacktis and Lisa Boch .

2. Earth Day Activities-Chosen by many people during the CDEP forums. Team members as yet to be determined.

Other related events and planning in the congregation currently underway:

1. Identify ways for children/youth to participate in their areas of interest. Discussion has begun with a goal of completing one related event during the next 6 months.

2. Future-Increase Awareness of community partners offering service opportunities that align with our goals


Advocacy in this context is the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Advocating for people or other species, for practices, for laws, and for policies that create systemic change is a really important circle in a balanced social justice ministry. Working with our community partners can have a bigger impact on environmental justice, when we look at the causes of the injustice rather than only reacting to it.  

l. Drought response/research: Investigate PCWA drought policies and practices and advocate as needed. Team members include Lisa Boch and Meg Dorsey.

2. Organize a letter writing campaign to enlist stricter policies for factory farming and water use and pesticides, hormones, etc. Team member(s) include Millee Livingston.

3. Work with legislators for saner and healthy water policies, legislation, law, practices, etc. - may connect with next film in series to do advocacy.

4. Encourage and advocate for best practices when dealing with methane, manure, and agricultural chemicals that are polluting water sources.

5. Advocate for access to healthy food, water for those with economic limitations at the local, regional and state levels of government.

Other related events in the congregation:

1.  Add Advocacy piece such as some kind of petition drive as well as research findings related to our local communities’ access to clean, safe, affordable water to the Adult RE screening of Thirst for Justice. April 10, 2016.

2. Encourage and advocate for more humane practices for food production--animals, people, Earth-treated with respect.

3. Adult RE presents Kathleen Dean Moore Call to Life - March 2, 2016.


Witness in terms of social change means to publicly affirm, by word or event, and is central to our work as Unitarian Universalists. As people of faith, we bring a voice and – in many cases – a particular kind of credibility in terms of both the general public as well as public policy and decision-makers. Building on what individuals have already done,

SFUU will be involved in public witness on behalf of the Earth and all species impacted by climate change. Working with local organizations (Say them…) to be in right relationship as accountable partners is critical to the success of transformation.

Some ways we plan to do this are to show up for events that are connected with Caringfor the Earth, particularly related to water advocacy activities.

l. Develop a rapid response alert system via email.  A plan will be drafted to present to the Core Team for input and suggestions. Millee Livingston will contribute a resource from WILPF as a viable model.

Guidelines will include the vetting process for how to choose issues/events, as well as getting connected to sources/partners so that we can be informed. .Team members include Meg Dorsey and Janie Evans

2. Develop and stay in conversation to create guidelines to determine what wewill/won’t do with things unrelated to Caring for the Earth; and how we will publically interface i.e. who has authority to ‘speak on behalf of SFUU. Review of Bylaws Policies pertaining to this question will be to be completed by the Social Justice Committee.

3. Witness development and training-what is witness, how do we create a witness action, how do we translate witnessing into advocacy. Placer People and UUJMCA have resources for training, College of Social Justice possibly has training as well. Team members include Lisa Boch and Janie Evans, and will focus on: (a). Teaching how to craft 1-3 minute reflections/expressions, and (b). Creating or supporting Witness events as needed in the community.

Other related events in the congregation:

1. Non-violent communication workshop—Committee on Ministry.

Community Organizing

Community organizing is a process that faith-based organizations engage to bring about changes to policies, regulations, and laws to effect change and promote justice locally and globally. We engage in community organizing to develop grassroots leaders; build transformative one-to-one relationships to increase social capital and civic power; promote civic engagement; collaborate with a broad range of community stakeholders and organizations, grassroots leaders, public administrators, and elected officials; broaden public awareness about relevant issues; and bring about changes and solutions to address the underlying causes of injustice. Community organizing often overlaps with advocacy  and education for relevant legislation and initiatives. We are in the process of identifying partners with whom to work. Here are some possible organizations with whom to partner:

Nisenan Rancheria (if they do environmental work); UUJM-CA, UUSC, Food Full

Circle, Placer People of Faith Together; UU Ministry for the Earth; SARSAS; Protect American River Canyon (PARC); AIFC; Farmer’s Market-Placer Grown; UUCM; Sierra Club-Placer County Funding Sources: WILPF-Jane Addams Peace Assoc., Placer Land Trust; Placer

Leadership Development

There is so much to learn in the area of environmental justice. We will provide opportunities for many people to learn and develop skills in order to help our collective and collaborative work be more effective and transformative. This will also create more leadership opportunities for this shared ministry and expand our circle of influence. Here are some ways in which we hope to achieve this:

l. Training-on effective letters to editor, testimonials, structuring a legislative visit, development of publicity strategies when dealing with the press, elevator speeches,, clarity on who has the authority to speak ‘on behalf of…’, technology use-Zoom meetings, texting/tweeting;

2. Walking the Walk-at least 2 people attend UUJM-CA’s weekend retreat

3. Encourage attendance at district/regional/general assembly particularly whenthere is focus on water/food justice.

4. Intercultural competency training

5. Connecting across differences  

6. Explore College of Social Justice Curriculum.

Future Projects:

As we learn more about water-related justice, we imagine that new projects and leaders If you are interested in leading a new project not included in this implementation plan, please submit a project proposal form. Project proposals will be reviewed by the CDEP