Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Necessary Work in the Church
distributed 2/2/01 - ©2001

Greetings to you from Eco-Justice Ministries!

If you want to bake a loaf of bread, there are some ingredients that you must have: flour, water, yeast and sugar.

In sociological language, those four ingredients are considered "necessary and sufficient;" they all need to be there (necessary), and the bread will work with just those four (sufficient). You can add raisins or herbs, but those aren't necessary.

It is considerably harder to figure out the things that are necessary and sufficient when it comes to working for eco-justice and sustainability.

  • Political activism is part of the mix but not enough on its own.
  • Personal choices about lifestyle are important but not sufficient.
  • A fresh understanding of humanity's place and purpose in creation is essential but inadequate without practical consequences.
  • A deep and pervasive sense of hope is needed to sustain us but hope must be combined with worldly engagement.

Our work for eco-justice won't accomplish what we want if all of the necessary elements aren't included. It is like making bread without the flour the yeast, water and sugar generate froth, but there's no substance to bake.

At Eco-Justice Ministries, it is our conviction that the religious and spiritual dimensions of the Earth's distress are necessary components of the struggle for eco-justice. Churches have a critical role to play in looking at our values (both personal and social), guiding and supporting choices for sustainability and justice, modeling responsible stewardship, and providing healing ministries (building hope, and addressing grief and guilt).

What churches can do is necessary, but not sufficient. We also need to affirm political action and scientific research, new economic structures and efficient technologies. Frequently, we will want to call on the members of our churches to connect with secular agencies for activism and issue work, or for education.

Eco-Justice Ministries is here to encourage churches in their necessary work for eco-justice and caring for all of God's creation!

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This week, I corresponded with the staff of the Environmental Film Festival (an annual event in Washington, DC). I was delighted to discover the amazing variety of films that can enrich our understanding, and touch our hearts and spirits. These films, of course, are now usually distributed on video.

Some of these videos are at least moderately well-know in church circles (the superb Affluenza show from PBS, and Keeping the Earth: Religious and scientific perspectives on the environment from the Union of Concerned Scientists). There are many other "educational" films available through specialized distributors. Eco-Justice Ministries plans to build a list of recommended films, and looking into study guides that will increase their value for church groups.

The folk at the Environmental Film Festival reminded me that public libraries often have these types of films, and at a price that can't be beat! Asking your librarian about such videos will encourage the library to keep adding to their collection, as well as helping you sort through the long racks of videos.

Outside of the "educational" niche, some full-length films also can open us to fresh understandings, both in our heads and our guts. For example, A Civil Action deals with the impact of pollution of the water supply in a Massachusetts community.

If you know of videos that can make a difference, we want to hear from you! We're counting on the wisdom and experience of our many friends to help us build our listings.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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