By Rev. Robert F. Murphy, UU Fellowship of Falmouth
Brace yourself for another long, hot summer. At the end of May 2013, the Oklahoma tornado was a recent memory. Thunderstorms were firing up over the Middle West. Major storms were reported from New York and Pennsylvania to New England. Community leaders were studying the hurricane forecast developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A very difficult season is anticipated and the NOAA people usually get things right.
In past years, many congregations have waited for natural disasters to happen. This year, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, Massachusetts, decided to take the initiative. The Falmouth fellowship is located on Cape Cod and coastal residents know that they live in harm’s way. Cape Cod has a large population of senior citizens. Instead of waiting for tragedies to occur, why not encourage emergency preparations?
The Falmouth fellowship organized several events for the end of May and the start of June.
On May 24th, the congregation presented a community program on climate change and emergency preparations, with special attention given to congregations. All religious organizations in the area were invited to send representatives to a strategy session. The interfaith Falmouth Clergy Association and the Cape Cod Council of Churches provided support. More than forty people participated in the May 24th program. Special attention was given to pastoral care, emergency communications, environmental justice concerns, and cooperation with community agencies like the Red Cross.
On May 25th, the Falmouth fellowship hosted an emergency services training program for volunteers. The county health department provided the trainers and the local Sierra Club group provided refreshments and additional support. At the beginning of June, the Falmouth fellowship worked with the Cape Cod Council of Churches and other religious organizations to encourage all religious organizations to pause for a time of reflection at the start of hurricane season. The Unitarian Universalists emphasized the importance of “deeds not creeds.” All religious organizations, in all religious traditions, have opportunities to support emergency services and reconstruction activities.
In an era of climate change, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth is developing new strategies for consciousness raising and community organizing. By responding to immediate problems, the Falmouth fellowship hopes to involve more people in long-term work for managing climate change. Congregation leaders say that they’re working with the basics of Community Organizing 101.
Listen to people, build some trust, and try to be useful in the here and now. If climate change activists can’t save their neighbors from today’s storms – well, why and how will the activists be helpful during future emergencies?