TSP made its commitment to divestment public through sharing our story in the print and social media, participating in demonstrations of solidarity, and by sharing our own developing expertise. These actions connected our activities with broader environmental and fossil fuel divestment movements, and contributed to ethical and faith-based perspectives on climate justice. It’s energizing and validating to see that others share your goals and value your work!
We also benefitted directly from public engagement and outreach because it connected us with people and organizations who helped us on our journey. These strategic alliances included other local congregations and church governing bodies, scientists, artists, theologians, and activists. Our allies served many roles: providing moral support; complementing the expertise available within our own group; providing advice on strategy and process; and building links between our group and other organizations.
We took our work public using the strategies below.
Members of the CJG made our activities visible in the community and participated in solidarity actions locally and internationally by:
- Hosting information tables and participating in neighbourhood events
- Participating in marches, protests, and other solidarity activities
Why this worked: Through these activities we added our voice to the growing and diverse climate justice movement and demonstrated our congregation’s commitment to climate justice in a public forum. Participating in events in other cities helped us build our network further – it’s fun to see some of the same people at climate events across North America! – and energized us by reminding us that we are part of a big movement.
Another way we engaged with the public was through media. Sharing our story in newspapers and magazines made our commitment to climate justice visible and potentially inspired others to act.
Some strategies that we found useful in attracting media attention:
- We wrote our own press release on our church’s divestment motion and, immediately following our AGM, distributed it widely to a broad number of journalists and social media outlets.
- We followed up, whenever possible with people we knew in media, asking them to consider writing a story about our action. It worked! Our first message from social media came the next day: “Congratulations on your leadership! You are the first faith community in the country to take this action!” Our first article in the Toronto Star came a month later, entitled “Wrecking the Climate is bad business.”
Other articles followed.
Why this worked: To quote CJG member Jeanne Moffat from a UC Observer article:
“What seems to be missing in the discussion around ways to address climate change is moral leadership. It’s time for courageous moral leadership. It’s time to send a signal to the fossil fuel industry that they’ve lost their social licence to operate in the way that they’ve been operating. Not doing anything is a violation of our call to justice as Christians.”
Sharing our work and commitment with the media was a way to send this message to the fossil fuel industry, and hopefully to inspire others to make the same commitment. It sends the message that it can be done, that it is being done, and invites others to join the movement.
Our public outreach and engagement with other groups meant that we were often asked to share our experience with other congregations and organizations interested in divestment. We eagerly volunteered to meet with these groups, eventually referring to our visits within and outside of Toronto as our “travelling roadshow.”
Typically, these visits would consist of sharing details of how we had built support for our work and had accomplished our divestment actions, responding to requests on how to work with the trustees of our congregational funds, and how to answer tough financial questions that always emerge.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, we took our roadshow to over a dozen groups, including churches from multiple denominations, church governing bodies, and university and community groups.
We also contributed to national online resources, including webinars on Building Support for Action and Addressing Trustee Concerns, and our own Climate Justice page on the TSP website.
Why this worked: Sharing our work with others was a great way to consolidate our learning and experiences, requiring us to reflect on what we’d done and what we’d recommend to others. The places we visited on our travelling roadshow became some of our closest strategic allies, and we were thrilled to watch congregations and organizations we’d visited divest!
|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.