On Being Green

Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, MACUCC president
Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, MACUCC president

On Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m., the Canaan Congregational Church UCC will offer a special service celebrating its stewardship of the Earth. The featured speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ (MACUCC) since 2006. The MACUCC includes 365 UCC churches, along with more than 800 authorized UCC ministers throughout Massachusetts, and Canaan Congregational is the lone New York State member of the conference.

Antal’s topic will be “Shaped by Hope—In a Climate Crisis World.” Recognizing climate work as the new abolition movement, the sermon will offer examples of how the UCC and other activists are engaged in faithfully offering hope in the face of climate change. “Today, people realize that climate change is happening now; it’s gotten worse in the past few years and it’s going to keep getting worse; and humanity is doing too little in response. To address this—the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced—we need a much larger hope than we have settled for,” says Antal.

After teaching and leading two national peace organizations, Rev. Antal spent 20 years leading churches of all sizes in Massachusetts and Ohio and providing a public voice on peace and justice issues. His mentors have included Henri Nouwen and William Sloan Coffin, Jr. A national leader in the area of climate change, Antal speaks frequently, regionally and nationally, on the essential role people of faith must play to counter climate change. His leadership in the areas of the environment and climate change is noteworthy, from having engaged in civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL pipeline to drafting a resolution for the MACUCC to divest from fossil fuels.

Because today’s environmental realities call us to examine how we live, members of the Canaan Congregational Church have been working to expand environmental activities in the church and develop sustainability in church life by increasing energy efficiency and conservation, decreasing consumption and waste, and engaging in issues of public policy to advocate for ecological and climate justice.

To this end, the church is a member of New York Interfaith Power & Light, an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to “help diverse faith communities in the state of New York actively respond to global warming [by helping congregations] . . . reduce their carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, use renewable energy, and educate their members on climate change” (www.newyorkipl.org). And Canaan church members work closely with a loosely knit interfaith group of several local congregations (Roman Catholic, Quaker, and Presbyterian), who joined in the 3-year-old grassroots action of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org) on a “Republican climate resolution.” The resolution was introduced to Congress by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19) and 10 other Republicans and “called upon Congress to commit to act to address changes in the climate, including efforts to balance the human impacts of climate change (http://fcnl.org/issues/energy/FCNL_praises_house_climate_change_resolution/).

In addition to publishing regular articles on environmental issues and climate change in its newsletter, the church hosted a public forum with speakers from the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline on the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company pipeline through the local area—Canaan, New Lebanon, and North Chatham.

At its June Annual Meeting, the MACUCC will recognize and certify Canaan Congregational Church as a “Green Congregation.”