KEENE VALLEY – The Keene Valley Congregational Church (KVCC) is now a “Creation Justice Church,” the third UCC Church in New York State so designated.
The Reverend John Sampson, pastor of the church, and Lorraine Duvall, leader of the Church’s Creative Justice Task Force, recently received a note from Reverend Brooks Berndt, United Church Minister of Environmental Justice of Christ, that the KVCC’s request to become a creation Justice Church had been approved.
“Creation Justice is the result of the work of previous generations,” said Berndt.
“It’s a way to transform the lives of the larger denomination and communities of faith to refine and recognize the importance of caring for God’s creation as central to who we are as people of faith. . It is living our first call in the first pages of Genesis to take care of God’s creation. So that should be at the core of our DNA as Christians. “
In May 2020, members and friends of KVCC appointed a task force to continue a process of discernment towards becoming a Church of Creation Justice.
At the time, Reverend Sampson tasked the task force by saying, “… today is the day we command our Church of Creation Justice Task Force. Today is the day when the Spirit of God invites us to come together and open to the possibility of embracing God’s original purpose for mankind: to care for all of Creation more deeply – to both human and non-human.
Over the next 18 months, led by Lorraine Duval, Pam Gothner and Katharine Preston, the task force worked with the church board and all of its committees to examine how all aspects of the life and work of the church could embody a spiritual commitment to care for all the diversity of creation.
Activities ranged from performing an energy audit to approving the installation of a solar panel on one of the church buildings, to switching to environmentally friendly cleaning and office products. .
They also included securing a grant to plant a native pollinator garden, working with the finance committee to encourage environmental and social governance (ESG) investment options for endowment funds, sponsorship of seven spiritual explorations in the woods and waters of the Adirondacks, and more fully reflecting the righteousness of creation through worship.
Throughout the discernment process, members of the clergy, community leaders and environmental activists were invited to share their perspectives on honoring God’s creation. Quarterly vespers services have been established to reflect on the sacred flow of seasons and life.
The task force reached out to the community through a wide range of presentations which included co-sponsoring a tour with the Ausable River Association to learn more about flood mediation efforts along the river banks. .
Reflecting on the learning that the church’s discernment process resulted in its recognition as the Church of Creation Righteousness, Reverend Sampson said, “On a deeper level it means that we are living in idea and believe that we and creation are not separate things. We are all one thing and that creation has a deep spiritual value in itself. By becoming a creation righteous church, we affirm this. In the very title, Creation Justice, there is this aspect of justice. He calls us to respond in a moral and ethical manner.
As a next step, KVCC will join an interfaith effort to tackle climate change initiated by several Plattsburgh-based institutions, as well as with the Wild Center’s Youth Climate program.