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 out the 2021 resources 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 2021 theme is All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability.
As UN Day is October 24, we invite you to hold the 2021 service and/or event on Sunday, October 24. If this date in unavailable, try another weekend in October or another date that works for your congregation.
Additionally, we ask congregations to dedicate the 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.
United Nations Sunday resources for 2021 are now available! Additional content will be added throughout the summer. Scroll below to see resources from prior year themes.
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 2021.
Climate & Food 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 & Food Justice.
Climate & Food 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 2021 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.
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 2-minute Offering Invitation video (coming soon!) 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 UNSUNDAY to 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.
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!
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.
2020 UN Sunday resources (Google Doc) "All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet"
2019 UN Sunday resources (pdf) "Equity in Action: Gender in an Intersecting World"
2018 UN Sunday resources (pdf) "When Crisis Calls: Advancing Just Migration for All"
2017 UN Sunday resources (pdf) "Arm in Arm: Interfaith Action to Disarm Our Planet"
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: Food Equity and Sustainability.
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. 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 October 24, 1945, they became Member States of 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 states become members of 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, July 14, 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 Association 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: Food Equity and Sustainability. In your service, we invite you to focus on how working for equitable and sustainable food systems can bring us closer to climate justice, 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 activities. Our UN Religious Education curriculum, "UN Me," is available online.
The 2021 UN Sunday theme is "All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability"—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. In 2021, United Nations Day falls on a Sunday! Many congregations choose to have their service on a different day, which is also perfectly fine!
Read instructions (pdf) 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: Food Equity and Sustainability. Included in this section are details about Climate and Food Justice at the UN, Climate and Food Justice and Unitarian Universalism, and suggested congregational actions to further climate and food 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 of these causes.
Agriculture, out of any industry, covers the largest amount of our planet's land surface area. A primary way that we as a species interact with the physical land of our planet is through our agricultural practices and through our food distribution and consumption systems.
Food systems and the Earth's climate are deeply intertwined. The changing climate is negatively affecting farmlands through unpredictable weather patterns that can cause floods, drought, contamination, and unseasonable temperatures. Meanwhile, unsustainable food systems are accelerating the rate of climate destruction through methane emissions from cows and other livestock, deforestation to expand grazing and croplands, and polluting distribution channels. The solutions that lead us to sustainable farmland—land that is healthier and more biodiverse—are also healing for our planet and building resilience for our food crops and our communities.
Critical in all of this is the role that systems of oppression have historically played and continue to play in how food is grown and distributed. Capitalism has created a system that prioritizes profit, leading to the exploitation of land and farm workers. In a similar strain, this obsession with profit has made it so that the food that’s easiest and cheapest to get is ultra-processed and low in nutrients. Lack of access to fresh and nutritious foods is especially prominent in Black, Indigenous, and other people of color communities, where centuries of oppression have created environmental and economic harm.
It is important to educate communities about the ways in which our food is grown and the impact those farming practices have on our planet. We must ensure that all people have access to delicious, nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods. On a larger scale, food systems must be informed by traditional farming techniques that honor the sacredness of the land itself and that center the interdependent web of all existence.
Here we define some terms that will help in understanding the complexities of food equity and sustainability.
Agroecology: A sustainable approach to farming that emphasizes working with nature. Agroecology Fund describes: “Farming thrives when it works with local ecosystems, for example, improving soil and plant quality through available biomass and biodiversity, rather than battling nature with chemical inputs. Agroecological farmers seek to improve food yields for balanced nutrition, strengthen fair markets for their produce, enhance healthy ecosystems, and build on ancestral knowledge and customs.”
Food Apartheid: Describes a system in which, due to historic and current policies of systemic racism and oppression, neighborhoods disproportionately inhabited by people of color do not have access to nutritious, healthy food that is affordable and culturally appropriate.
Food Sovereignty: Communities have the right to agency over what food they eat, where that food comes from, and how it is grown and prepared. La Via Campesina defines food sovereignty as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”
Drawdown: Project Drawdown defines drawdown as “the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. This is the point when we begin the process of stopping further climate change and averting potentially catastrophic warming.” Reforming food systems and land use is a huge way to move toward drawdown by both reducing emissions sources and supporting carbon sinks.
Changing food systems can be a solution to climate change and can bring us closer to social justice and prosperity for all people.
Globally, there is a disconnect between those who own the land and those who work the land. In the United States, more than 98% of privately-owned farmland is white-owned, meanwhile a National Agriculture Workers Survey (pdf) in 2015-16 reported that 83% of farm workers identified as Hispanic. A 2020 report from the International Land Coalition called “Uneven Ground” highlights global concerns about land inequality:
“Smallholders and family farms, indigenous peoples, rural women, youth, and landless rural communities are being squeezed into smaller parcels of land or forced off the land altogether, while more and more land is concentrated in fewer hands, mainly serving the interests of corporate agribusiness and distant investors, utilising industrial models of production that employ fewer and fewer people.
That report notes that more than two-thirds of the world’s fields, ranches, and orchards are owned by one percent of its farmers. Agriculture globally is dominated by large-scale monocropping that is industrialized and environmentally damaging, meanwhile small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples that practice more sustainable land use are threatened by deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and encroachment on their land by settlements and industry.
From Soul Fire Farm, an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm in Grafton, NY who gave the keynote address at the UU@UN’s 2021 Seminar:
“Racism and injustice are built into the DNA of the U.S. food system. Beginning with the genocidal land theft from indigenous people, continuing with the kidnapping of Black people from the shores of West Africa for forced agricultural labor, morphing into convict leasing, expanding to the migrant guestworker program, and maturing into its current state where farm management is among the whitest professions, farm labor is predominantly brown and exploited, and people of color disproportionately live in “food apartheid” neighborhoods and suffer from diet-related illnesses – the system is built on stolen land and stolen labor. It is working as designed.”
Food systems need a revolution towards food sovereignty, to put control of the land and what and how food is grown on that land back in the hands of people and communities with connection to the land and deep knowledge about how to grow food, rather than the hands of corporations. Appreciation for biodiversity and caring for the whole food cycle, not just singular cops, is critical in the move toward equity and sustainability.
Small-scale, biodynamic, sustainable farming is highly preferable to the prevalent industrial monocropping approaches that are depleting soil and biodiversity around the world. Project Drawdown has a series of proposed food, agriculture, and land use solutions for addressing climate change that include addressing waste and diets, protecting ecosystems, and shifting agriculture practices. They note that “Solutions in this sector are significant for improving food security and agricultural resilience as well, because many of them contribute to a more robust food system, better able to withstand climate impacts.”
It is important to clarify that not everyone can or should adopt an entirely plant-based diet. Many cultures around the world, notably indigenous communities, do have ways of sustainably raising livestock for food and should not be forced to give up those cultural traditions and heritages. Rather, the rest of the world should learn from them. Individuals may have dietary restrictions, sensitivities, or eating disorders that would make a plant-based diet inadvisable for maintaining their health. Lack of access to nutritious plant-based options is yet another barrier faced by many.
And yet, for those who can, decreasing regular consumption of meat, dairy, and other animal products is one essential move towards ensuring a sustainable future for the planet. A special report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2019 points to reduced meat consumption and increased plant-based diets as a solution to mitigate climate change. According to Project Drawdown: “business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.”
In many places, forests are burned down to make way for cattle and other livestock to graze. This practice is enormously harmful for the planet both a) because it destroys the lush carbon-capturing forests and their essential biodiversity and b) because cows emit methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Project Drawdown notes: “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”
Because of the carbon emissions caused by animal agriculture, it is clear that transitioning to more plant-rich diets is essential in the fight against climate change.
From Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist and member of the IPCC who contributed to the 2019 report:
“We don’t want to tell people what to eat… But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.”
The second half of that point is critical. Systemic change (which requires political action) is needed to make transitions to a more plant-rich food system possible on a large scale. Governments must create incentives for businesses and consumers so that plant-based options are healthy, affordable, easily accessible, and delicious.
To quote from a Yes! Magazine guide on How to Get Rid of Throwaway Culture:
“We need equitable policies and systems change. But everyone is a consumer, and taking steps to consume wisely is still very important: Individual actions empower us to demand more from corporations and governments and ultimately change social norms.”
This is true for consumption of food, as well as plastics, clothing, and so much more that makes capitalist society unsustainable.
Because climate change is so pervasive, almost all UN Agencies and departments have elements of their work that address the climate crisis. The relation to food systems is at the top of the UN’s agenda in 2021 because of the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit in September.
Political and economic influence can go a long way at the United Nations. A need to get consensus means that the final result of UN negotiations – such as the Paris Agreement – tends to be significantly less ambitious than is actually needed.
It is important for organizations like the UUA Office at the United Nations (UU@UN) to be engaged as members of civil society, putting pressure on the United Nations Member States to uphold principles that we believe in and that the UN is committed to, such as inclusion, justice, and human rights. The influence of activist groups, grassroots and frontline communities, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions are critical in these processes where corporate lobbying of diplomats is often prevalent.
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 something about 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 greater focus on climate justice, emphasizing human rights and indigenous sovereignty – all with an understanding that none of these issues is separate.
Our aim is to protect the lives and rights of those most at risk from the environmental hazards that have caused and are caused by climate change. We strongly advocate against government subsidies for the production of fossil fuels and favor swift support for sustainable forms of energy, as well as supporting other initiatives that further climate change mitigation and adaptation.
As a member of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UU@UN is proud to send delegate observers to UN climate conferences. Our delegates advocate on behalf of Unitarian Universalists for global climate policies that affirm indigenous sovereignty and that hold polluters accountable for the destruction they cause to people and planet.
The UU@UN’s climate justice initiative is in close partnership with the UU Ministry for Earth and the UUA Green Sanctuary program—including the joint campaign Create Climate Justice, a hub for Unitarian Universalist climate activism.
In recent years, the UU@UN has been active with partners in and around the United Nations to address the following climate justice issues:
These are some of the UN organizations or entities are engaged in addressing the intersection of climate and food issues:
The 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 2019, the IPCC put forth a special report about Climate Change and Land that recommended transitioning to more plant-rich food systems globally and increasing forest cover.
The current Special Rapporteur is Michael Fakhri who was appointed to the position by the UN Human Rights Council in 2020. In his December 2020 report submitted to the HRC, he outlines the priorities he will focus on during his tenure. Of particular note, he emphasizes that “Experiential/traditional knowledge and agroecology are core elements of international food policy today,” urging the United Nations to make ample space for indigenous communities and small-scale producers in their forums pertaining to food systems.
In September 2021, the UN is hosting a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This summit intends to launch global action on the 17 SDGs, acknowledging that each of these Goals “relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems.” A Pre-Summit will take place in Rome in July 2021; it is described as a “People’s Summit” that “will bring together youth, farmers, indigenous peoples, civil society, researchers, private sector, policy leaders and ministers of agriculture, environment, health, nutrition and finance, among other participants.” The UU@UN will be monitoring both the Pre-Summit and Summit; this portion of the UN Sunday resources will be updated!
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. This will continue for the upcoming COP26 taking place virtually and in Glasgow in November 2021. It will be important to make sure the principles of agroecology, drawdown, and food sovereignty are at the forefront as nations present their revised Nationally Determined Contributions (each country’s commitment to how they will mitigate climate change) during COP26.
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.” Currently, efforts are doubling down for a Decade of Action, driven by the need for rapid progress on many of the goals to meet the 2030 deadline. This will require many systemic changes, across the entire world community, including to our food systems.
The United States and Canada both signed on to achieve these 17 Goals in 2015, committing to work towards achieving them by 2030. You may have noticed that the U.S. and Canadian governments don’t seem to be implementing these goals and their targets as part of national policy, as some countries have done. United Nations Sunday is an opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to engage with some of the Sustainable Development Goals, to pressure our governments to implement some of the policy changes that these Goals and our values call for – and that the governments have themselves committed to by adopting the 2030 Agenda several years ago! Action is happening in some nations and cities as part of a global movement to achieve these goals. Let’s make sure similar action happens in our local communities!
Although it has its own goal (Goal 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 (Goal 1), ensuring good health (Goal 3) and decent work (Goal 8) for all, and increasing access to justice & accountable institutions (Goal 16). The following are the goals that relate most directly to climate and food justice (take a look at the full list of Sustainable Development Goals; you might disagree with these top three!):
"End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition and Promote Sustainable Agriculture"
Making large-scale changes to our food and agricultural systems is necessary if we want to finally tackle world hunger and food insecurity once and for all. Current agribusiness-centric approaches have proven insufficient for ensuring consistent and sustainable access to healthy, nutritious food. This is a problem that will only continue over time, unless we radically alter systems of food production and distribution. Target 3 of this goal highlights the need to support the “agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists, and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources, and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.” Addressing harmful food systems cannot just be about the environment and the people eating food; it also must be about equity and justice for those who grow food. We have seen (see the Delving Deeper section in 2021 UN Sunday Theme) the harm caused by exploitation of the small-scale food producers named in this target – to which we add Black farmers in the U.S. and Canada. Working towards this target means implementing policies that actively provide equity for these farmers.
In the United States, a bill is in the works called the Justice for Black Farmers Act, calling for reforms in the Department of Agriculture to address the history of discrimination against Black farmers and ranchers. UUs for Social Justice has led UU legislative action on this. Follow their organizing to see how you can get involved.
*Additional recommendations (including for Canada) coming soon!*
"Reduce Inequality Within and Among Countries"
Reducing inequality of access to healthy and nutritious food within and among countries is a prime component to achieving food justice. The current status-quo leaves too many living in famine or food apartheid, while other communities have more good food than they know what to do with – food that ends up being dumped into carbon-gushing landfills. Target 6 of this goal is to “ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making” on the global stage. Unfortunately, many of the countries and communities most negatively impacted by current food systems have minimal power to influence international policies. We lift up the more local extension of Target 6 in a call to empower disenfranchised communities so they have influence within their own countries’ policy- and decision-making. Target 6 acknowledges that reducing these political inequalities will increase not only legitimacy and accountability, but also the efficacy of these institutions and decision-making processes. In taking on food justice, we must use collective power to amplify the voices of those most affected, producing results that are both more fair and more effective.
In the U.S. there is a movement to get the U.S. to pay its fair share to the Green Climate Fund, a part of the Paris Agreement stipulating that wealthy nations provide funding to developing nations for implementation of sustainability measures. Send letters to policymakers on this issue.
*Additional recommendations (including for Canada) coming soon!*
"Protect, Restore and Promote Sustainable Use of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Sustainably Manage Forests, Combat Desertification, and Halt and Reverse Land Degradation and Halt Biodiversity Loss"
As discussed in the introduction to this year’s UN Sunday Theme, sustainable use of land and ecosystems is a crucial element to drawdown, or reversing the course of climate change, by supporting techniques where carbon is captured from the atmosphere and trapped in plants, soil, or the sea. In order to do this, we must take all measures possible to stop deforestation and seek wisdom from communities whose traditional practices halt desertification and land degradation. In all of this, biodiversity is key to planetary health and resilience. Natural ecosystems – not just specific plant and animal life, but the global climate as a whole – are in peril due to unsustainable practices and relationships most humans have with the natural world around us. This is to our own detriment, since declining ecosystems pose enormous threats to humans’ health, well-being, and way of life.
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 and food justice because many of the rights listed in the declaration are threatened by the current crisis and must be respected, protected, and fulfilled in order for justice to be achieved. Read the full UDHR. Some articles that explicitly relate to this year’s theme are: (edited for gender-inclusive language)
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of [siblinghood]."
Article 1 violated: The right to equal dignity and rights belongs to all human beings, and yet this right is violated when extractive industries are given priority over human life and well-being, and when companies have more sway over governments’ environmental and food policies than do the people who are most affected.
"(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of [their] property."
Article 17 violated: In many places around the world, Indigenous communities on the frontlines to protect their land or water have had this right violated by governments allied with extractive industries that seek to exploit those natural resources, in violation of treaty agreements and human rights. Treaties recognize the Indigenous sovereignty over certain lands and waters which must be respected by governments. However, we also acknowledge that this capitalist mindset of land or water as property is both misguided (no one can own pieces of the planet that is our collective home) and extremely harmful (resulting in pollution and destruction).
"(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themself] and of [their] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [their] control."
Article 25 violated: Food apartheid and the climate crisis prevent many communities’ access to adequate food that promotes health and well-being. Pollution, contamination, and natural disasters have rendered land, water, and air unsafe for living and for farming. Yet authorities often neglect the needs of these communities, thus violating their right to health and well-being.
Further Reading on our blog: Human Rights Day in an unjust world (written Dec. 2016—but still 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.
Unitarian Universalism’s 7th Principle commitment to “respecting the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” has clear implications for how we are to respond to issues of climate and food justice. Humans must understand our own dependence on stable ecosystems and biodiversity, and we must take care to honor the impact that our choices have on all life around us. As noted above in the introduction to the 2021 UN Sunday Theme, human-made food systems have had a harmful impact on the environment and it is up to us to protect the planet for a sustainable future.
Unitarian Universalists are extremely active on climate and food justice issues. Of particular note is the Statement of Conscience adopted by the UUA General Assembly in 2011 entitled “Ethical Eating: Food & Environmental Justice.” Some important excerpts:
Aware of our interdependence, we acknowledge that eating ethically requires us to be mindful of the miracle of life we share with all beings. With gratitude for the food we have received, we strive to choose foods that minimize harm and are protective of the environment, consumers, farmers, and all those involved in food production and distribution.
… Ethical eating is the application of our Principles to our food choices. What and how we eat has broad implications for our planet and society. Our values, Principles, and integrity call us to seek compassion, health, and sustainability in the production of food we raise or purchase.
… Unitarian Universalists aspire to radical hospitality and developing the beloved community. Therefore, we affirm that the natural world exists not for the sole benefit of one nation, one race, one gender, one religion, or even one species, but for all.
… As individuals and as congregations, we recognize the need to examine the impact of our food choices and our practices and make changes that will lighten the burden we place on the world. We also recognize that many food decisions will require us to make trade-offs between competing priorities. These priorities include: taste, selection, price, human health, environmental protection, sustainability, adequate food supply, humane treatment of animals used for food, and fair treatment of farm and food workers.
For Unitarian Universalists, food justice and ethical eating are not simply about choosing what foods to eat as individuals. That is certainly part of it, with a recognition of the classism, racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of oppression that affect economic inequality and access to food. But more important than individual food choice is the need for wide-ranging reform of how food is grown, distributed, prepared, and consumed so that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious, and delicious ethically- and sustainably-produced food.
This year’s UN Sunday theme calls for an acknowledgement of grief and overwhelm, but also enormous hope and possibility. We witness the horror of the climate crisis, the injustice of food inequity, the exploitation of people and planet in service of profit. But we also must recognize that the solutions exist. And the solutions to one of these issues makes a difference for the others as well. This is a core concept in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well: We have these 17 Goals that, if you look at them all, can seem overwhelming; yet beginning to address one of them, we find we’re addressing many others simultaneously. (See the page about this year’s theme and the SDGs for more info and how to take action!) We can have food justice and climate justice. In fact, in order to achieve true food justice, it must include climate justice. It must include food systems that prioritize traditional practices aligned with the earth’s natural processes.
Here is a brief breakdown of UU Principles and their connection to climate and food justice:
"The inherent worth and dignity of every person"
All people deserve access to food that is healthy and culturally appropriate (see Food Sovereignty, one of the Key Concepts for this year’s UN Sunday theme). Depriving people and communities of agency in making their own food choices – through industrialized food systems, economic oppression, and food apartheid – is an affront to this Principle.
"Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations"
Working towards climate and food justice demands equity (and is helped along by compassion). Solutions must follow the leadership and needs of those people and communities who are most affected by food apartheid, exploitation, and climate calamity. Power must be shifted away from industries and towards communities. This includes reparations to return lands that have been forcefully taken from Indigenous and Black farmers and communities over the course of centuries.
"Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations"
Though individuals and congregations want to work toward climate and food justice, we are also dealing with our own issues and concerns. We accept that it’s up to the individual to determine how much they can change their life for justice, and we encourage one another to act boldly however possible. Meanwhile, we must work collectively towards large-scale systemic changes that address root causes of inequity and exploitation in food systems.
"A free and responsible search for truth and meaning"
Unitarian Universalist congregations can be a place of learning and discussion about the history and current realities of the climate crisis and food injustice. We must share honestly about the role that humans generally and specific ancestors have played—and continue to play—in causing injustice, as well as the role we can play in creating a new way forward. Doing so will let individuals in the congregation wrestle openly with their role on a personal level and identify how they are called to adapt.
"The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large"
Key to the democratic process is allowing everyone a chance to have input into decisions that affect them. Industry and economic inequality prevent people from having much control over how ethically and sustainably their food is produced, the amount of plastic they use, where they get nutrients, etc. Food systems must be democratized, wresting power from industry and empowering small-scale producers and communities.
"The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all"
A world community whose goal is peace, liberty, and justice for all is important in order to achieve food equity and sustainability. Through forums such as the UN, countries can share resources, knowledge, and solutions that empower their local communities to achieve common goals, with the recognition that none of us is free until we are all free.
"Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part"
We are part of an interdependent web of all existence. We don’t necessarily see soil, water, or air as being alive, though they certainly contain and sustain life. When we see ourselves as part of an interdependent web, not as owners of particular sections of it, we can create food systems and other infrastructures that are sustainable and that allow all humans to lead safe, healthy lives. This means caring for our whole environment – not just our individual needs and desires – and understanding that we are not separate.
(*Adopted individually by some UU congregations)
"Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions"
Dismantling all forms of oppression in ourselves and our institutions includes addressing food apartheid and other oppressive structures in society that prevent food sovereignty. A diverse multicultural Beloved Community will thrive only when people and planet are no longer exploited.
These are some of the Unitarian Universalist organizations and initiatives addressing climate and food justice:
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) 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 upon it. UUMFE has a wealth of resources for engagement in climate and food justice work, through Create Climate Justice and beyond! Learn more about UUMFE.
Every Unitarian Universalist congregation can get involved with this program and take actions to become accredited as a “Green Sanctuary.” This means your congregation has ongoing activities and processes to reduce carbon emissions and make change for climate justice locally. The current iteration of the Green Sanctuary Program is called “Green Sanctuary 2030: Mobilizing for Climate Justice,” and it is described as “a roadmap for congregations to rise to the crisis.” With the recognition that food equity and sustainability are key ways to mitigate climate change and advance climate justice (see Food Systems and Climate Change for more), UN Sunday is a prime opportunity to involve your congregation in Green Sanctuary 2030. Find out how your congregation can become a Green Sanctuary.
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:
The Create Climate Justice Network (CCJnet) exists as a platform to network with fellow UUs who are involved in climate justice action and to find and share resources and events. Get involved with Create Climate Justice!
Join the “All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability” Group in CCJnet to connect and share resources and opportunities with others who are passionate about this topic. Join the Group today! (You must be logged in to CCJnet for that link to work.)
Unitarian Universalist Young Adults for Climate Justice (UUYACJ) is a network of UU activists aged 18-35 who are involved in climate justice organizing and who support one another through worship services, workshops, and activities in the wider world. If you’re a young adult, join the network.
As part of The Mountain Learning and Retreat Center, a UU camp in North Carolina, the Many Hands Peace Farm helps guests learn about regenerative agriculture. This is one example of a UU community using food as a way to advance environmental sustainability and support their community. They grow food for use in their kitchen and to sell at local farmers’ markets. Learn more about the Many Hands Peace Farm.
This page is from the 2020 UN Sunday resources on the theme "All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet." The 2021 information will be added soon on the theme "All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability."
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.
United Nations Day every year is October 24. First, you’ll need to set a date for your service with the church, preferably around October 24. In 2021, October 24 falls on a Sunday! 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. Most of the 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. This page will be updated shortly with further details for each.)
Each has a time estimate so you can plan how to fit it into your service.
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, right now the UU Office at the United Nations’s advocacy 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. 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. As nationalism, climate injustice, and racism continue to threaten our world community, having our UU voice represented at the UN is critical, 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 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 food justice 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 these issues are suggested in the next section (Activities and Curricula). 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 in the next section.
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: Seminar Theme for more ideas about the topic.
A few children’s books related to the subject of climate and food 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 borrow a hard copy or e-book.
A Day with Yayah, Words by Nicola Campbell, Illustrated by Julie Lett, published by Crocodile Books, 2018. Set in the Nicola Valley, British Columbia, in Canada's westernmost province, a First Nations family goes on an outing to forage for herbs and mushrooms. A grandmother passes down her knowledge of plant life and the natural world to her young grandchildren.
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.
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.
We Are Water Protectors, 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!
This page is from the 2020 UN Sunday resources on the theme "All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet." The 2021 information will be added soon on the theme "All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability."
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 Us Program. 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 Journeys program. 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 Power program. 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 Call program. 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 Bridges program. 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.