Did you know that Unitarian Universalists have been active with the United Nations for 75 years now?
United Nations Sunday celebrates the work of the United Nations and your Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations (UU@UN). Each year we encourage congregations to have a service and/or event to celebrate! We create a collection of UN Sunday Resources (check them out below)which highlight our suggested theme and provide readings, an RE curriculum, planning timeline and checklist, order of service (including hymns), and more. Our UN Sunday theme is based on the April Intergenerational Spring Seminar topic. The 2020 theme is All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet.
As UN Day is October 24, we invite you to hold the 2020 service and/or event on Sunday, October 25. If this date in unavailable, try another weekend in October or another date that works for your congregation.
Additionally, we ask congregations to dedicate their UN Sunday offering to support the work of the UU Office at the United Nations. We depend on individual and congregational support to keep this work going.
We encourage Ministers, Lay Leaders, as well as Youth and Adult Envoys to use our prepared materials and/or develop your own ideas for a UN Sunday service. Click through to access the resources for UN Sunday 2020.
This section provides an overview of how to use the United Nations Sunday resources, what the United Nations is all about, and what to know before starting to plan your service.
Map of UN Sunday services: Seek inspiration from congregations that have held UN Sunday services in prior years.
This section provides information about this year's theme and can be used as inspiration when writing a sermon or reflection.
Climate Justice at the United Nations: Learn what the UU Office and others in the UN system are working on to further the cause of Climate Justice.
Climate Justice and Unitarian Universalism: A discussion of the theological grounding for UU climate justice work and organizations doing the work.
UU@UN Intergenerational Spring Seminar: Use resources from our 2020 Seminar on the same theme before, during, and after your UN Sunday service.
Local Action for UN Sunday: Concrete suggestions for congregational action to think globally and act locally to engage with the UN Sunday theme.
Part 3. Planning a UN Sunday Service
This section includes a checklist and other resources to guide clergy and laypeople in putting together a UN Sunday service.
Timeline for UN Sunday Service Planning: The suggested timeline is created for an October service; if your UN Sunday service falls at a different time of year, simply adjust accordingly.
Use our 4-minute Offering Invitation video during your virtual service and share our UN Sunday Giving site. UN Sunday donations can be made online https://giving.uua.org/uuatun or by texting UNSUNDAYto 51555.
Sample Order of Service: Suggested readings, hymns, and more for a UN Sunday service on this theme.
UN Sunday Religious Education: Suggested stories and activities. Please work with the religious educator in your congregation to craft a lesson that will work well.
Part 4. Beyond UN Sunday
Stay involved with the UU@UN beyond United Nations Sunday.
Sixth Principle Congregation Award: If you take a special collection during your UN Sunday service to support the UU@UN, you're close to becoming a Sixth Principle Congregation; take a few more actions and you're there!
Dana McLean Greeley Sermon Competition: Submit your UN Sunday Sermon or address that speaks to the work of the UN and/or UU@UN on climate justice.
About the UU@UN: Learn more about ongoing programs of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations.
These resources are created by the Unitarian Universalist Office at the UN to help UU congregations plan a worship service that honors the work of the United Nations, particularly addressing this year’s theme, All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet.
Find yourself in the Global U/U Story! With a UN Sunday Service, your congregation will learn about an important global issue and be inspired to take action in the name of justice. That’s what the global U/U story is all about: Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists around the world engaging in liberal spiritual worship and doing their part to bend the arc of history toward justice. This collection of resources will take you through the steps of learning about, planning, and executing a successful and inspirational UN Sunday.
Please be aware of the requirements and deadlines for:
We ask congregations to consider dedicating their UN Sunday offering or collection to the important work of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations and to inform members of the value of contributing to the UU@UN. The UU@UN exists to provide a Unitarian Universalist perspective and voice in the decision-making halls of the United Nations. We depend on individual and congregational support, and we need your involvement, engagement, and enthusiastic contributions to help us make UU values heard at the UN. Read more about the UU@UN here. You can help to change the world so that every person enjoys a safe and dignified life. Thank you for participating in UN Sunday! Sample language to introduce the offering can be found within the Sample Order of Service.
Lastly, please add a description of your UN Sunday service to the online map! You can find instructions on that page. Sharing about services on the map allows you to see what other congregations have done and gives congregations a chance to describe the events they put together.
Please contact the UU@UN at email@example.com or 617-948-4366, with any questions or concerns.
Good luck and have a fantastic UN Sunday celebration!
Below is a brief overview of the history of this international organization. You may choose to read the Purposes (below) or the Preamble (Singing the Living Tradition #475) as opening words or as a reflection.
With the scourge of war heavy on hearts and minds following World War II, 51 countries met in San Francisco to create the United Nations, where they drafted and signed its Charter. When these 51 countries signed the Charter on 24 October 1945, they became Member Statesof the United Nations and committed their governments and peoples to “maintain international peace and security” as well as to the Charter’s other purposes and principles. When statesbecome membersof the United Nations, they agreed to accept the many obligations of the UN Charter.
Much of the UN’s work sets normative frameworks that governments must take upon themselves to implement. The fourth purpose listed in the Charter is particularly illustrative of the UN’s mission: “To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”
A common misunderstanding is that the UN is a director of action or change, or that it has power over states. Much like how elected or appointed officials in a city or province draft legislation in the interest of their local constituents, UN delegates from different countries deliberate about law and legislation at the international level. Governments draft, debate, and vote for or against treaties, conventions, or action plans discussed at the UN. Then it is necessary for the individual countries that sign these conventions to ensure that they are followed through – and for civil society to hold our own countries accountable for the commitments they make.
There are 193 Member States in the United Nations (the newest Member State is the Republic of South Sudan, 14 July 2011). In addition, the Holy See and the State of Palestine have observer status, meaning that they have speaking rights, but no voting rights. Working with such a diversity of peoples requires a large full-time translation team; the UN works in six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, & Spanish.
Below are the four main purposes for which the UN was created and continues to work:
The United Nations was founded in 1945 as a global association of governments that facilitates cooperation in international law, security, economic development, and social equality. With aims to protect human rights and achieve world peace, it is a center for governments to communicate and develop strategies to reach these ends. Since 1947, October 24 has been called United Nations Day to commemorate the anniversary of the UN’s creation. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that the day be observed as a public holiday by member states. For a brief and insightful history of United Nations Day and the UU@UN, check out "They called it UN Day" (PDF) by Frank B. Frederick, a UU lawyer who was involved with starting UN Day and with the UU@UN.
The history of Unitarian Universalist involvement in the United Nations dates back to its very beginnings. Along with a number of other Unitarian volunteers, Elvira Fradkin was present in San Francisco at the founding of the United Nations on October 24, 1945. Fradkin went on to be a strong supporter active throughout the UN system, including serving as the UN representative for the American Unitarian Association.
The Unitarian Universalist Office at the UN was created in 1962 at the recommendation of the U.S. Ambassador to the UN at the time and a Unitarian, Adlai Stevenson. From leading the faith caucus to establish the International Criminal Court, to overcoming UN apathy about sexual orientation & gender identity issues, the UU@UN has a long history of providing strong leadership in all aspects of human rights at a policy level through UN consultative status. Read more about the history of the UU@UN and how the UU Office works at the UN.
In celebration of UN Day, the Unitarian Universalist Office at the UN invites congregations and individual UUs to engage with the story of our global Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist faith by deepening their understanding of the United Nations and devoting one service in October to reaffirming the connections between our UU principles and the vital issues dealt with at the UN. Usually, congregations organize a UN Sunday for the Sunday closest to UN Day, but any Sunday is better than no Sunday at all. The theme for the UN Sunday service follows the theme for that year’s UU@UN Intergenerational Spring Seminar; this year’s theme is All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet. In your service, we invite you to focus on centering the people most at risk, shifting power away from polluters and destroyers, and protecting the planet for a sustainable future, which is the focus of this packet.
UN Sunday is a unique opportunity to engage the congregation in action following the worship service. Beyond reflecting and talking about the issues at stake during worship, it’s valuable to harness that passion by organizing an action station or event for congregants to undertake that afternoon or week. We suggest collaborating with another faith or interfaith group as part of the action portion of your UN Sunday celebration. Suggestions for potential actions to take are in the “Local Action for UN Sunday” section.
We encourage ministers, lay leaders, and youth and adult Envoys to take advantage of our prepared materials and/or to develop their own ideas for a UN Sunday service. Consider enlisting a UU@UN Envoy or a special UN speaker to present the sermon. We especially encourage a multigenerational service, including children, youth, young adults, adults, and seniors working together in the preparation and execution of UN Sunday. Further, we urge congregations to organize related religious education sessions. Our UN Religious Education curriculum (UN Me) is available online.
In 2020 the United Nations is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Since the UN was created at the end of World War II, our planet has seen progress in development and in respect for human rights. Yet the world envisioned in the UN Charter – where all people of the world “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours” – is still far from being realized. The UN75 campaign to mark this anniversary and set the UN agenda for the coming years recognizes this unique moment:
The UN is inviting contributions to a global conversation about the future of the United Nations and the future of our world. Small discussions can be held in classrooms, boardrooms, and churches! The Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations urges UU congregations to use United Nations Sunday as an opportunity to hold such a discussion. Find the UN75 Global Dialogue Toolkit here.
We also encourage you to share the film "Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times" with your congregation. "Nations United" is a special, first of its kind film, created by the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary and to mark five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. In the midst of a pandemic radically transforming our world, Nations United tells the story of the world as it is, as it was, and as it could be. It focuses on the solutions and action we need to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change.
The 2020 UN Sunday theme is "All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet"—resources to plan a service are available on our main UN Sunday webpage. The recommended date for a UN Sunday service is the Sunday closest to UN Day on October 24, so the suggested date for UN Sunday in 2020 is October 25. Many congregations choose to have their service on a different day, which is also perfectly fine!
Read instructions to create an account on UUA.org and (once logged in) "Share Your Event" to tell about your congregation's UN Sunday service or event.
Use these resources to educate yourself on this year’s UN Sunday theme, All in for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet. Included in this section are details about Climate Justice at the UN, Climate Justice and Unitarian Universalism, and suggested congregational actions to further climate justice. It’s an enormous topic and cannot be covered entirely in this packet, so further research is encouraged if you are interested in learning more about any one particular aspect or angle.
The term “climate justice” invites us to consider the climate crisis from the perspective of politics, social justice, and human rights, rather than simply a scientific, physical phenomenon. The fact of climate change has far more than meteorological implications: It will change the way that most species on Earth live. We recognize this as a justice issue because of the possibilities to organize and respond to the climate crisis in a way that prioritizes the needs of those people and communities that are most vulnerable. Rather than examining the scientific causes, impacts, and solutions, this year’s United Nations Sunday theme invites us to explore the human causes, impacts, and solutions.
We all know that the climate crisis is the most significant existential threat to our planet and all its inhabitants. What we don’t talk about as often is how that destruction will play out in real life. As with all crises, those who are most vulnerable, those who already experience the most discrimination, will be –already are – the first and most severely harmed by the effects of climate change. When we talk about acting for climate justice, we must prioritize the needs and leadership of those communities – indigenous communities, Black communities, immigrant communities, people with disabilities, LGBTQI and especially trans and non-binary people, youth, those who are experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, and those who live in crowded, coastal, and/or low-lying areas.
The work of the United Nations on climate issues falls into several different categories. Because climate change is so pervasive, almost all UN Agencies and departments have elements of their work that address the climate crisis.
The UN as an organization, headed by Secretary-General António Guterres, sees the climate crisis as the existential issue of our time. He said at a high-level UN meeting on Sustainable Development in 2019, “Climate change is happening now and to all of us… No country or community is immune. And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.”
Addressing climate issues has been a component of the UU Office’s work at the UN since 2010, when congregations urged the office to do somethingabout climate change. Dr. Jan Dash, a climate scientist and member of the UU@UN Board at the time, was instrumental in getting these efforts started and leading the UU@UN Climate Task Force. The work of the UU@UN has evolved in recent years from a focus on the politics and science of mitigating climate change to a focus more on the climate justice side of things that emphasizes human rights and indigenous sovereignty – all with an understanding that none of these issues is separate. In recent years, the UU@UN has been extremely active with partners in and around the United Nations to uplift the following climate justice issues:
Several United Nations entities are responsible for tracking and coordinating scientific research to do with our changing climate.
According to their website, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established as a joint initiative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP or UN Environment) in order to “provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.” An important aspect of the IPCC’s work is its objectivity and transparency. In 2018, the IPCC put forth a report alerting the world that we had just 12 years (now 10 years before the 2030 deadline) to make massive changes in global energy systems and keep warming under 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. (see UNFCCC section for more on warming levels)
The WMO is a UN agency which provides the framework for international cooperation in all things pertaining to weather, climate, and water.
UN Environment is a UN agency whose mission is “to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”
A 2012 session of the UN Human Rights Council appointed Mr. John Knox to serve as an Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. After an initial three-year term, the UNHRC appointed him again to serve as Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. The Special Rapporteur, currently David Boyd of Canada, is charged with the following mandate:
The following are what the United Nations refers to as its “legal instruments” for the implementation of global climate change policy.
This body assembles annually for a Conference of Parties (COP) in which countries are charged with working together, alongside civil society participants, to create and implement climate change policy. The 21st COP – known as COP21 – was held in 2015 in Paris and resulted in the Paris Agreement.
The Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations has UNFCCC status, which authorizes the UU@UN to credential official observers to attend COPs on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Canadian Unitarian Council. A priority of the Unitarian Universalist climate justice movement is to mobilize in solidarity with Indigenous front-line communities. Because indigenous voices are so often missing from or ignored in international climate policy conversations, Unitarian Universalist activities at UNFCCC conferences center around amplifying Indigenous-led organizing. In 2019, Unitarian Universalist-credentialed representatives at COP25 in Madrid hosted an event featuring Indigenous leaders from front-line communities in Fiji and Tuvalu, who responded to the true impacts of some of the UN’s climate solutions. (Read from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s blog about the Indigenous movement’s presence at COP25 and about UUSC’s Indigenous partners who were part of COP25 action.)
Adopted by the United Nations in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol served as an instrument of the UNFCCC, consisting of formal commitments from industrialized countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The First Commitment Period was from 2008 (when the protocol entered into force) to 2012, during which time the 37 industrialized nations party to the convention had committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 5% below 1990 levels. The Second Commitment Period, from 2013 to 2020, calls for nations to reduce emissions to at least 18% below 1990 levels.
The UNFCCC Conference of Parties held in 2015 in Paris saw a huge amount of enthusiasm by world leaders for working together to combat global climate change. The Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 affirmed a collective goal of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement includes each country’s Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC) which lists that country’s specific commitments as far as climate change mitigation efforts.
While the Agreement was hailed at the time as a huge accomplishment (getting 195 parties to agree to anything at all was certainly something to be celebrated), there were and continue to be major concerns that the Paris Agreement did not go far enough. Although the Agreement set 1.5 degrees Celsius as the goal for limiting global warming, most of the NDCs submitted are wildly insufficient. If all the commitments were met perfectly, the planet would warm by at least 3, perhaps 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – warming that would be devastating for food and water systems, cause the extinction of millions of species, and disrupt human life irreparably. The Paris Agreement was an insufficient step to move the world towards climate change mitigation, and an even less significant step toward climate justice.
An article from Intercontinental Cry, a non-profit newsroom that produces public-interest journalism centered on Indigenous Peoples, climate change, and international human rights, points to the failure of the Paris Agreement to recognize Indigenous rights in any meaningful way: “Despite the vocal presence of Indigenous groups throughout COP21, pressure from the United States, the European Union, and Norwegian delegates caused reference to the ‘rights of Indigenous peoples’ to be cut from the binding portion of the Paris Agreement, relegating the only mention of Indigenous rights to the purely aspirational preamble.”
The Paris Agreement stipulates that every five years, countries must submit a plan for how they will contribute to achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit. COPs since Paris have been focused on implementation efforts. COP26 which was slated to take place in Glasgow in 2020, now rescheduled to November 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, was the next opportunity for countries to submit updated NDCs. Because of the postponement of the conference and the distractions caused by the pandemic, many fear that countries will neglect both urgently needed climate action along with their NDC contributions that are due this year.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by the target year of 2030. The Introduction to the 2030 Agenda includes the ambitious pledge “that no one will be left behind… And we will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.”
Although it has its own goal (SDG 13), climate action is integral to all dimensions of inclusive, sustainable development. In short, all the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 13, and vice-versa. It is our responsibility as Unitarian Universalists and global citizens to take action to ensure that climate change adaptation policies are responsive to ending poverty (SDG 1), ensuring good health (SDG 3) and decent work (SDG 8) for all, and increasing access to justice & accountable institutions (SDG 16). The following are the goals that relate most directly to climate justice (take a look at the full list of Sustainable Development Goals; you might disagree with these top three!):
So much of the conversation about climate justice has to do with water: Communities are facing too much water (flooding), others too little water (drought), and still others are finding their water sources are contaminated either by pollution, contaminated pipes, or salt from rising oceans. Climate justice demands equitable and sustainable management of water sources and systems. Indigenous communities’ rights to protect their territorial land and waterways must be respected and fulfilled.
One target of Goal 12 points to the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. Creating climate justice means reassessing who has access to and ownership over the natural resources that serve as the basis of global economies. Another target calls for sustainable management of chemical and other hazardous waste. Creating climate justice means responding to the needs of neighborhoods and communities whose air, water, and land have been contaminated with the improper disposal of chemical and other hazardous waste. Yet another target of this SDG calls for a substantial reduction in waste generation through prevention, reduction, reuse, and recycling. Creating climate justice requires systemic changes throughout supply and consumption chains to prevent waste generation, reduce it where prevention is not possible, reuse materials in creative ways, and recycle whatever cannot be repurposed.
It goes without saying that combatting climate change and its impacts is essential to creating climate justice. The first target of this goal calls on all countries to create and implement disaster risk reduction strategies. Although it is not part of the language in this specific Goal, here it is essential to remember the words from the Introduction to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which stresses that in working to achieve the SDGs, countries pledge to “leave no one behind” and to “reach the furthest behind first.” When nations and local communities are working to develop climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning systems, it is absolutely essential that all parts of the community be part of the process. Every group that is traditionally excluded from decision-making – indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, youth, people of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and all other marginalized groups – everyone must participate in order to create solutions that will be effective and will work for everyone.
* Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.
The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, articulating for the first time ever the human rights that every person on Earth possesses, no matter their place or status of birth. It is important to acknowledge the UDHR during a UN Sunday service on climate justice because many of the rights listed in the declaration are currently threatened by the climate crisis and must be respected, protected, and fulfilled in order for climate justice to be achieved. Read the full UDHR. Some articles that explicitly relate to this year’s theme are:
Further Reading on our blog: Human Rights Day in an unjust world (written Dec. 2016—but still extremely relevant) addresses the cognitive dissonance involved with marking a human rights holiday as the world draws further away from recognizing and honoring the human rights of all.
As the UUA’s webpage for Climate and Environmental Justice states, “All life is interconnected. From the forest to the sea to humanity itself, each thread of being is woven into a single fabric of existence. We embrace nature’s beauty and are in awe of its power. We care for our environment so that it may sustain life for generations to come. We do this in partnership with those most impacted by environmental destruction, who are often marginalized in the larger culture. Often these ‘frontline’ communities are impacted hardest and have fewest resources to recover. We collaborate because it is only with the knowledge and experience of these communities that equitable and sustainable change can happen.”
Since its first General Assembly in 1961, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has voted 39 times to adopt general resolutions, business resolutions, statements of conscience, and actions of immediate witness related to the environment and/or climate justice:
The UUA General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing concern about pollution and natural resources in 1966, and another resolution urging congregations to take action for environmental justice in 1994. In recent years, the urgency of climate justice action has become real to UUs, who adopted a 2015 Action of Immediate Witness in support of a strong, compassionate global climate agreement at COP21 (what ended up becoming the Paris Agreement), a 2018 Action of Immediate Witness about solidarity with indigenous water protectors, and a 2019 Action of Immediate Witness to build the movement for a Green New Deal.
Unitarian Universalist youth and adults have been extremely active in the youth-led Global Climate Strike movement, and much of the UUA’s current engagement on climate justice is done in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE).
UUMFE led the development, in collaboration with the UU@UN and the UUA’s Green Sanctuary Program, of an online campaign for Unitarian Universalist climate justice organizing called Create Climate Justice (CCJ). The priority focus areas for CCJ are:
Use the platform to network with fellow UU climate folx and to find and share resources and events. Get involved with Create Climate Justice!
Unitarian Universalist congregations can get involved with this program and take actions to become accredited as a “Green Sanctuary.” This means your congregations has ongoing activities and processes to reduce carbon emissions and make change for climate justice locally. Find out how your congregation can become a Green Sanctuary.
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth has ongoing programs to help Unitarian Universalist individuals, congregations, and our denomination as a whole, live more fully into practices that honor and protect our planet and all that live on it. UUMFE has a wealth of resources for engagement in this work, through CCJ and beyond!
Here is a brief breakdown of UU Principles and their connection to climate justice:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person:
We as a society are not recognizing every person’s inherent worth and dignity when we allow some people and communities to continue being neglected by policy-makers and have their lives and well-being destroyed by the changing climate. Every person has inherent worth and dignity. We must recognize the worth of people, not of companies and profits, in order to achieve climate justice for all.
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations:
Climate justice calls for equity. We must recognize those people and communities who are most at-risk, and focus our efforts on uplifting their struggles and their solutions. Shift the power away from polluters and destroyers and towards people and communities who are most at risk.
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations:
Encouraging one another to spiritual growth in our congregations means recognizing that not all people are starting from the same place in the climate justice struggle. Some have been working on this for generations. Others are brand new but all in. What we need is for everyone to be all in and to work together. We cannot do this if our movement is divided. Everyone has something they can contribute.
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning:
As humanity searches for meaningful solutions, we must heed the truths and expertise of those who are most impacted by the climate crisis. Accurate information and data, as well as the stories of how climate change is already impacting communities around the world, must be freely accessible to all.
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large:
Democratic institutions demand engagement from those who are part of them. If we want our governments, institutions, and leaders to work for climate justice, we must be active locally to make our voices heard.
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all:
The laudable goal of peace, liberty, and justice for all demands a recognition of the fact that like it or not, we are a world community. We cannot achieve this goal without true collaboration to create climate justice. Every part of our world community must work to further our common goals of peace, prosperity, and planet.
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part:
There is no way to truly work for climate justice without a deep understanding of our place in the interdependent web of all existence.
As part of the Global UU Story, Unitarian Universalists around the world work for social justice causes they care about. UN Sunday offers an opportunity to consider the theme during a worship service, but congregations must also take action in order to make change. Here are just a few examples of the many ways that you can incorporate action into your congregation’s celebration of UN Sunday to advance climate justice.
October 25 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Eastern
Join UU the Vote, UU Ministry for Earth, the UU@UN, and New Florida Majority for a webinar and phone-banking opportunity! In the afternoon on UN Sunday, October 25, hear from the climate justice organizing staff of New Florida Majority about how climate justice is on the ballot in Florida, and from the UU@UN about international climate justice issues at stake during this election. UUs committed to climate justice will then participate in two national UU the Vote phonebanks to Florida voters on October 27 and November 3. Event details
Unitarian Universalists are invited to participate in Harvest the Power this Fall through a sprint of collective action and faith formation weaving together all Unitarian Universalist justice ministries. This is a shared endeavor between UUA, Side with Love, UU the Vote, and UUMFE.
If your congregation is not already accredited, or wants to deepen the urgent commitment to climate justice, use UN Sunday as an opportunity to gather support and start working to become a Green Sanctuary. This is a key time as the UUA is launching the New Green Sanctuary Program: A Faithful Response to Climate Urgency. Learn more online about the new Green Sanctuary Program design and simplified accreditation process.
Watch the Green Sanctuary 2020 Introductory Webinar:
There are 800+ Unitarian Universalist congregations in communities where an official climate commitment has been made by local elected leadership! Join the Strengthen Local Climate Commitments (SLCC) campaign to seek action, accountability and justice in your local climate policy process.
Here’s where to start:
Bring activists in your congregation together for a screening of this training video on Direct Action for Climate Justice. After watching the video, discuss how your group will move ahead, who is interested in taking on different roles within the movement, and how you might partner with local organizations and existing campaigns for climate justice.
The following guide to planning a United Nations Sunday at your congregation is adapted from the work of Sylvia Heap (longtime Envoy at All Souls UU Church in Watertown, NY), who has been planning these services for over 40 years. The UN Sunday theme follows our Spring Seminar theme, which this year is climate justice.
UN Day every year is October 24. First, you’ll need to set a date for your service with the church, preferably around October 24. The 2020 suggested date is October 25. If you are unable to book this date for a service, consider having a post-service event in October and hosting the service on another date*. You may wish to choose an alternate UN international observance day that connects with this year’s theme for your UN Sunday Service or Event (bold dates fall on Sunday):
*If aiming to become a Sixth Principle Congregation, be sure to have your UN Sunday service prior to March 31, which is the deadline for meeting all the requirements to become a Sixth Principle Congregation.
What you’ll need to pull off your UN Sunday service with success! Keep track of this checklist throughout the planning process. Italics indicate these items are not applicable for a virtual service.
This is a general timeline to help you plan and prepare for your UN Sunday service. The guidelines are for an October service – if your service is at another time, just adjust the month! Italics indicate that these items are not applicable for a virtual service.
Celebrate! You did a wonderful job.
We recognize that each congregation has its own routine for Sunday morning gatherings - and that worship services tend to be shorter in a virtual setting. We encourage you to draw from these resources to fit your own congregation’s needs. Note: It is important, especially in worship services, to hear the words of people who are most impacted by the topics at hand. All readings in this sample order of service were written by those who are youth, Indigenous, Black, or people of color.
(The materials shared may be used in live-streamed worship but not necessarily recorded for later use. Please see notes under each for further details.)
Welcome, Introductions, Announcements:Use this time to introduce UN Sunday and the UU@UN. Possibly have an Envoy introduce the service.
Call to Worship:
Opening Words/Chalice Lighting:
Time for All Ages:
Joys and Concerns: (if your congregation normally has them)
Sermon/Homily: This is where to go into further detail about climate justice. Some congregations choose to invite a guest speaker from a local organization related to the theme or local United Nations Association (UNA) Chapter, invite UU@UN staff to speak or have an Envoy or the Minister deliver a sermon about the UN Sunday theme.
Offering: The UU@UN is supported financially by individual, family, and congregational contributions. We suggest holding the offering after the sermon so people will be excited about supporting the UU@UN. (see below for sample language or just use this Offering Invitation Video created by the UU@UN)
Use one of these stories as inspiration for the time for all ages. Draw issues of climate justice into the conversation and encourage all ages to think about their positive and negative impact on the planet, both personally and as part of larger systems.
Repairing Our Mistakes with Love by Jaelynn Pema-la Scott and Erika Hewitt
Microbes and Planets by Carolyn Fisher
The UU@UN is supported financially by individual, family, and congregational contributions. Some congregations choose to dedicate their offering on UN Sunday to support our vital mission, while others choose to contribute in their annual budget. We invite you to decide the best way for you congregation to support the UU@UN. See below for sample language to introduce a collection during virtual worship, or you're welcome to use the Offering Invitation video we created and have shared below. There is also an option for people to text “UNSunday” to 51555 to donate via mobile phone or give directly online at giving.uua.org/UUatUN.
“Today’s collection is for the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. The UU@UN has held a prominent place at the UN since 1962, advocating for UU values on the global stage. Within our lifelong quest for a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, the UU Office at the United Nations is one way that we are getting closer to that goal. By engaging every day with Member States and agencies and speaking out in defense of human rights for those who are oppressed, the UU Office at the United Nations’s advocacy made sexual orientation & gender identity human rights a priority throughout the United Nations system. The UU@UN uses its affiliation with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to bring representatives of Unitarian Universalism to speak for our values at UN climate conferences. This year, the office is focused on bringing the global community together to share solutions for demilitarizing local police forces and to amplify just and inclusive ways to keep communities safe.At a time when nationalism is so dominant around the world, having our UU voice represented at the UN is more critical than ever, and the UU@UN relies on congregational and individual donations to continue its work.
We are hoping to become [or “to retain our status as”] one of a few Sixth Principle Congregations (formerly Blue Ribbon Congregations) that help to sustain this crucial work into the future. There is information in the chat box [or “displayed on screen”] with details on Supporter levels. To qualify as a Sixth Principle Congregation, we need at least 15 individuals to become Supporters through a gift of $60 or more. Please consider a Supporter-level gift so that we can qualify ["again"] this year. You can also text UNSunday to 51555 to donate via mobile phone. I ask that you please be generous and consider the global impact your support of the UU@UN can have. Thank you so much.”
While reading the above aloud, paste the following in the chat or have it displayed on a screenshare:
Text UNSunday to 51555 to donate via mobile phone or give directly online at giving.uua.org/UUatUN.
Become a UU@UN Supporter at the following annual levels:
- $250.00 - Global Equality Supporter
- $150.00 - Family/Household Supporter
- $60.00 - Individual Supporter
- $30.00 - Retired/Student Supporter
To qualify for the Sixth Principle Award's supporter category, a congregation must have at least 5% of their members become Supporters (or 15 members for large congregations). Global Equality and Family/Household Supporters can qualify as two (2) people for award purposes.
Please work with the Religious Educator in your congregation to craft a lesson that will work well:
We encourage all congregations to fully engage all members in UN Sunday. Please refer to our Religious Education Packet, “UN Me” available on our website. Below, we have some suggestions specifically based around our 2020 theme of Climate Justice.
RE teachers should start by educating themselves through our resource section on current work of the UN on climate issues. Use some of the text or resources to draft a brief lesson that will work for your class. After the lesson, engage the children in an activity/ craft. A few activities to connect children with climate issues are suggested below. Possible craft suggestions are in the UU@UN RE packet, “UN Me”. Additionally, links to further lesson possibilities from the Tapestry of Faith program are listed below.
Following the craft, we suggest reading a book; please feel free to choose from the list below. (This is often a good time for a snack.) A powerful way to end the class is to prompt the young people to connect what they have learned to the seven UU Principles. Perhaps you can have guest speakers in October from the congregation (consider youth, young adults, adults, and seniors). See Part 2: 2020 Theme for more ideas about the topic.
A few children’s books related to the subject of climate justice. You can find them at your local bookstore by following the links provided after each book and entering your zip code on each page, or visit your local library (or its website) to rent a hard copy or e-book.
The Water Walker, written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, Second Story Press, 2017: This book shares the story of an Ojibwe grandmother who advocates for the protection of water.
Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet, by Valentina Camerini, published by Simon & Schuster UK, 2019. This book is based on the true story of Greta Thunberg, a young climate activist. This book shows how seemingly small steps can make a big difference, and that even young kids can participate in activism.
The Lonely Polar Bear,written and illustrated by Khoa Le, published by Fox Chapel Publishing, 2018: This book tells the story of a lonely polar bear and a young girl in the Arctic which is threatened by climate change.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and The Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, published by Millbrook Press, 2015: This book tells the story of how one woman began a recycling movement.
Kenya’s Art, by Linda Trice, Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, published by Charlesbridge, 2016: This book tells the story of a young girl learning how to reduce, reuse, and make art. She is inspired to make art with recycled materials.
We Are WaterProtectors,written by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade, published by Roaring Brook Press, 2020: Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. Available for purchase from inSpirit, the UUA bookstore and gift shop!
For other incredible children’s books, check out Flamingo Rampant, a micropress that produces “feminist, racially-diverse, LGBTQ positive children’s books in an effort to bring visibility and positivity to the reading landscape of children everywhere.” Their books, written and illustrated by people who are queer, trans, and/or people of color, address topics like racial justice, disability pride, LGBTQ+ families, and more through a lens of celebration, adventure, and love!
Kids Against Climate Change is a website with many lessons and games to teach kids about climate change. While it is not well suited for in class instruction, kids who are interested might be able to explore this website while at home.
For Grades K-1: “Caring for the Earth” from the Love Surrounds UsProgram. This lesson plan explores how children can help the environment and how Rachel Carson helped start the environmental movement.
For Grades 2-3: “Protect the Earth” from the Faithful Journeysprogram. This lesson plan engages children with the impacts of climate change and how they can help.
For grades 4-5: “The Power of Earth” from the Sing to Powerprogram. This lesson plan explores indigenous traditions around the earth, empowering to action, and the interconnectedness of people and planet.
For grades 6-8 (and older): “The Call for Abundance” from the Heeding the Callprogram. While it does not explicitly discuss the environment, the activities can readily be framed in terms of climate change.
For grades 8-9 (and older): “Indigenous Religions: The Earth Speaks” from the Building Bridgesprogram. This lesson explores the importance of Indigenous stories and traditions. Though it is only partly focused on environmental issues, participants can be guided to tell stories relating to the environment.