Though members of our group offered a great deal of experience with environmental, ecumenical, and activist organizations, and a range of professional skills, including governance, finance, and media savvy, we all had a great deal to learn about divestment and about supporting change. In addition to sharing leadership internally, we also drew on leadership and resources offered by those external to our congregation.
These are some of the steps we took to identify and integrate external experience with the divestment process:
Who else is working on this? How might we benefit from their resources and save us time and energy? We immediately identified 350.org and a few other NGOs who were doing work on this. A couple of people offered to contact them. Suddenly we found key resources to lighten our work.
Why this worked: In addition to benefitting from information about divestment and advice on process, we found that we were not alone. Our partner organizations became a support network and source of ongoing motivation. Our CJG began to share our resources with other congregations who wished to take this on. In return we learned from them as they undertook the work!
We found that many people from outside were willing to help us at no cost, and we made good use of their expertise. However, the Church Board’s decision to hire Greg Powell, a social justice and environmental activist (now a minister at Castlegar United Church) to work with TSP four hours per week for nine months on the congregation’s priority of Climate Justice was very key to getting us started and focussed.
Why this worked: Greg brought continuity and expertise to our activities. He took the initiative in getting us going, in leading us to a focus, and in developing the first draft of a Divestment Primer for the congregation. His presence made us accountable – to him and to our congregation, who invested in his position – to make the most of his time with us. A number of other external resource people have complimented his work. Now we ourselves have gained confidence and have become resources to others.
Whenever we identified a gap in our individual or collective knowledge, we looked for sources of wisdom:
- Within the congregation, on issues including the moral and economic imperatives of divestment, and on internal governance processes, including how the United Church “works” and what that meant for the divestment motions we were developing, and how pension boards understand/exercise fiduciary responsibility.
- From external networks and organizations, by attending numerous educational events, participating in meetings and seminars on the financial aspects of divestment, and by sharing our learning and actions with others.
- Formal education and training opportunities. For example, two members attended training from StepUp Canada on how to make presentations on climate change
Why this worked: In addition to filling gaps in our knowledge necessary to meet our goals, each member benefitted from building individual knowledge and skills in a range of areas, which led to a collective sense of empowerment – an unexpected reward of participating in this work.
|We’re a small congregation. Can we do this?
Learn how TSP’s Climate Justice Group spread tasks among ourselves to ease the load.
|We’re committed to helping our congregation take a stand, but we’re not experts in divestment. How do we build the knowledge we need?
We share how we drew on numerous external resources to build our knowledge.
|How can we help our congregation understand the faith and justice rationales for divestment?
Explore TSP’s engagement of our broader congregational community to address climate justice.
|What is a realistic timeline for the divestment process? What do our Board and financial officers need to know?
Learn more about the key stages in TSP’s divestment and reinvestment process.
|The church across town has asked us for advice. How should we respond?
What is our role in the global climate movement?
|What are some other climate actions we can take as individuals? As a congregation?
Learn about other green initiatives at TSP.