Awakening to Environmental Injustice

Reconciling with the earth | Reconciling with each other | Reconciling with God

“The Lord God took Adam—made from the ground—and put him in the Garden of Eden to serve, work, and worship the earth.” Genesis 2:15 (NRSV adapted) 

We are a faith community that stretches beyond these walls—beyond the lush campus grounds and the oak trees of all heights and girth that so graciously remind us of the diversity of God’s creativity. We are a people on a journey, and this fall, I eagerly invite you to join me on a voyage through an exploration of environmental injustices in our city, state, country, and beyond. 

We have come to know, through our previous series’, that many of the injustices we’ve been awakening to are not merely tangentially related, but so interwoven—so interconnected—that to view them as separate issues is to do a disservice to the inherent nature of injustice, keeping disparity alive. From disappearing coastlines to the lethal and on-going presence of contaminants in the water systems servicing communities from Flint, Michigan to eastern Carolina, we have been witnesses to the assault on the earth and how that subsequent devastation has and continues to negatively affect us and our neighbors across the globe. 

From August 2019 to May 2020, we aim to explore how the mismanagement of natural and human-made resources are in direct relation to racism, classism, and disembodiment—how the misuse of our planet stems from a lack of seeing ourselves, our neighbors, and the earth as divine—sacred—holy. From examining the deadly health issues that accompany illegal waste dumping on land and at sea, to probing the heightening pollution of the air through CO2 emissions, we will begin to dream up a more sustainable world for generations to come. Throughout our journey, I hope we can come to a point of collective reckoning as we reimagine our role as keepers of the earth while reconciling our relationship with all of the inhabitants thereof. I look forward to the voyage and trust that the still-speaking God will reveal fresh insight along the way. 

I look forward to the voyage and trust that the still-speaking God will reveal fresh insight along the way. 

Mia M. McClain, Associate Minister of Faith Formation and Community Outreach 


Awakening to Environmental Injustice: Genesis and the Garden of Eden 
Sunday, September 22, 2019
| Forum | 9:45a | Heaton Hall

Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The Lord God took Adam—made from the ground—and put him in the Garden of Eden to serve, work, and worship the earth.” Genesis 2:9/2:15 (NRSV adapted)

Join us as we kick off our 2019-2020 Awakening series that will focus on creation care, climate change and environmental justice. At this forum, we will root ourselves in the book of Genesis as we explore the gift of the Garden of Eden and our growing separation from that gift. Led by Rev. Benjamin Boswell, Senior Minister and Mia McClain, Associate Minister. Free and open to the public.

Catherine Keller, PhD – in Conjunction with Jesus in the 21st Century Program
Friday, October 11, 2019 | Location TBA 

Join us for an exciting evening with Dr. Keller as she shares with us excerpts from her forthcoming publication, Apocalypse Afterall. Dr. Keller is the Professor of Constructive Theology at the Theological School of Drew University, with concentrations in ecological justice and feminist thought. She is author of On the Mystery: Discerning God in Process and Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public—just to name a few. Bring a friend, grab a libation, and join the conversation as we bring together ecology and theology.

Awakening Now!
Featuring “Little Miss Flint” 
November 2, 2019 | Forum | Noon – 2:00p | Heaton Hall

Join us this fall for our first ever intergenerational Awakening forum, featuring Amariyanna ‘Mari’ Copeny, popularly known as ‘Little Miss Flint.’ In early 2016, then 8-year-old from Flint, Michigan wrote a letter to President Obama, describing the unending plight of her community, who had been living with lead-contaminated water since 2014. Since then, Mari has fundraised over $500,000 with the nonprofit organization Pack Your Back that have impacted over 25,000 children in Flint and beyond. Come and engage with local environmental justice organizations and initiatives, and hear what ‘Little Miss Flint’ has to say about the ongoing crisis and how young people can get involved in justice movements around the country. There will be musical performances by children’s choirs across the city, food vendors, and activities to get the youth engaged. This event is free and open to the public. All ages are encouraged to attend.

John Akin and The Climate Reality Project
– sponsored by the LIFE Class 
November 10, 2019 | Forum | 9:45a | Heaton Hall 

The Climate Reality Project’s mission is to catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. Led by former US Vice President Al Gore and CEO and President Ken Berlin, Climate Reality empowers everyday people to become activists, equipping them with the tools, training, and network to fight for solutions and drive change planet-wide. Together, they add up to a powerful movement growing by the day. Join John Akin, a Climate Reality Leader based in North Carolina, as he guides us through taking positive action to avoid the Earth from becoming unlivable. Free and open to the public. 

‘Tis the Season: Advent and Environmental Justice 

December 8, 2019 | Forum | 9:45a | Heaton Hall 

Hope—Peace—Joy—Love. One might ask, “What do we have to hope for during this time of ecological crisis?” “How can we help restore peace and joy in communities most affected by the climate crisis?” “Are we really loving our neighbors if we’re turning our heads away from their plight?” “What do the cherry blossoms and fig trees have to do with Christ—or with God?” Join us for a discussion on the ecological motifs that run through the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Led by Mia McClain, Associate Minister, and Rev. Ben Boswell, Senior Minister.

Awakening to the Revelation, Featuring Dr. Amy Meverden 

January 26, 2020 | Forum at 9:45a in Heaton Hall | Worship at 11:00a in the Sanctuary 

Dr. Amy Meverden is a professor of biblical Hebrew and Greek, and New Testament studies at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Dr. Meverden completed her Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Fuller Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts at New York University—focusing on critical theory, postcolonial/feminist studies, and Hebrew Bible—and a Doctor of Philosophy at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Dr. Meverden’s dissertation looks at the intersection of the biblical text with imperial iconography, along with themes regarding power and ecological considerations. Join us for a dynamic forum and worship service as she walks us through the Revelation to John as it relates to environmental injustice. Free and open to the public.

Awakening to Green Faith 
February 12, 2020 | Forum | 6:30-8:00p | Heaton Hall

Want to know how you can get involved in faith-based earth justice work in the community? Join us for a conversation with Charlotte-based leaders and activists who are doing the work and need our help! Facilitated by Mia McClain.

Lent and Environmental Justice: A Call to Action 

February 23, 2020 | Forum at 9:45am in Heaton Hall

As we prepare to begin the Lenten season on February 26, you may be asking yourself, “What am I giving up this year?” or “What sacrifice will I make in order to go deeper in this faith journey?” Join Rev. Ben Boswell and Mia McClain for a conversation about reimagining our Lenten call to action in the age of ecological crisis. Free and open to the public. 

Worship Around The Table, with Common Life Church & Farm 
March 4, 2020 | 6:00-8:00pm | Heaton Hall

Join us for an evening of worship around the table led by Rev. Sarah Horton-Campbell, Senior Minister of Common Life Church & Farm. At Common Life, they cultivate loving and just relationships with humanity and the earth. Located at Sprout Farm in Saxapahaw, NC, this United Church of Christ congregation professes that, “Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We will enjoy a sustainably-sourced meal enriched with beautiful liturgy that centers our relationship with God, with each other, and with the earth. RSVP required – a registration link will be provided closer to the event. 

An evening with Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Author of As Long As the Grass Grows 
April 1, 2020 | Forum | 6:30-8:30p | Heaton Hall

Join us for a conversation with Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes), an award-winning journalist and columnist. Dina is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and independent consultant and educator on environmental justice and other Indigenous policy-related issues. She is the author of “As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock”—released in April of 2019—and co-author with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz of “‘All the Real Indians Died Off’ and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans.” A book signing will follow the conversation.

EARTH SUNDAY with Dr. Norman Wirzba

April 19, 2020 | Forum at 9:45a in Heaton Hall | Worship at 11:00a in the Sanctuary

Dr. Norman Wirzba is the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology, and Senior Associate Dean for Institutional and Faculty Advancement at Duke Divinity School. He pursues research and teaching interests at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies. His current research is centered on a recovery of the doctrine of creation and a restatement of humanity in terms of its creaturely life. Professor Wirzba has published The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age and Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight. His most recent books are Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of ChristianityFrom Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, and (with Fred Bahnson) Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation 

Green New Deal: Live Awakening Shalom Podcast Recording
May 6, 2020 | 6:30-8:00p | Heaton Hall

What is a ‘Green New Deal?’ Is climate change our fault? Are we too far gone?

A Green New Deal is the first step of a multi-process plan to tackle the twin crises of inequality and climate change. Constructed by earth justice activists, the Green New Deal evolved into a congressional resolution pushed forward by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. Recently endorsed by the United Church of Christ, the Green New Deal would mobilize vast public resources to help us transition from an economy built on exploitation and fossil fuels to one driven by dignified work and clean energy. Join us for a conversation about this first step and how it relates to our call to reconcile with the earth and with each other.  

Get Reading

Book Clubs: 

As Long As The Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight For Environmental Justice 
by Dina Gilio-Whitaker 

Coming Winter 2020

If you’d like to start a book club using one of the other recommended readings listed below, email Mia McClain at

Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, & Environmental Quality
by Robert Bullard, “Father of Environmental Justice Movement”

As Long As The Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight For Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
by Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Indigenous scholar and activist

From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World,
by Norman Wirzba

Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril,
by Catherine A Johnson, PhD

Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth-Honoring Faiths,
by Melanie L. Harris, PhD

Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,
by Pope Francis

The Body of God: An Ecological Theology,
by Sallie McFague, PHD

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World,
by Michael Abbate

African American Environmental Thought: Foundations,
by Kimberly K. Smith

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,
by Naomi Klein

Get Involved

Local, State, and National Organizations: 

Sierra Club

Climate Reality Project

Green Faith

Emerging Ecology

Interfaith Power and Light

Green the Church

Clean Air Carolina

Mia M. McClain 
Associate Minister 
(704) 334-7232 x 123 

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