Climate Justice Movement Chaplaincy

Climate Justice Movement Chaplaincy
The Unitarian Universalist Movement for Earth has created one program for Climate Justice Movement Chaplaincy. This article gives strategies for Climate Movement Chaplains.

Climate Justice Movement Chaplaincy

Simply put, Justice Movement Chaplaincy provides spiritual and emotional support to people who are engaged in justice work.  UU Ministry for Earth movement chaplains help you:

articulate your faith reasons for acting for climate justice,

prepare for the action with tools to harmonize your bodies and spirits (when we are tense, our effectiveness is diminished), and

sustain your advocacy and activism by providing support and care for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – during and after the action or meeting.

One goal of movement chaplaincy is to ground activism in faith. In Justice on Earth Pamela Sparr makes a good case for why we should talk “religiously” when advocating for justice. She says, “… As Paul Rasor notes, by not claiming our religious identity and speaking from that place within ourselves, we undermine our convictions and leave a vacuum, a gap, in the public square. In the current political and cultural context, that gap can get filled with hate speech, negativity, and narrow visions. We cede territory unnecessarily.”

It is increasingly clear that there is an emotional and spiritual cost of participating in the enduring work for justice. The climate crisis, in particular, creates grief, fear and anxiety. Movement chaplaincy offers the opportunity to debrief, process and restore after an event.

UU Ministry for Earth’s Program Director, Rev. Kelly Dignan, is an ordained UU minister and certified movement chaplain. She has built a team of other movement chaplains to offer this support for UU climate justice activists.

If you are planning a UU climate justice action or event (advocacy meeting, rally, protest, vigil, etc.), here is a high level description of what UU Ministry for Earth can provide:

Before an action or event

  • One hour meeting between your leaders and UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE), by Zoom, to clarify the participants and community partners involved and the goals for creating systemic change through this event
  • One hour meeting with UUMFE Movement Chaplain and your full group, by Zoom to do some or all of the following
    • Chalice lighting
    • Accessible and embodied practice of grounding and stress release
    • Contemplative practice to silently name the systems of oppression and privilege that may show up in you and/or at the action
      • Commitment to following the communities impacted most by the issue
    • Small group sharing: What do you cherish most about this world? Why are you doing this work for climate justice? What about Unitarian Universalism leads you to do this work? Is there anything that prevents you from acting as courageously as needed?
    • Decide on a UU text, song, spiritual phrase to carry into the action 
    • Agree on an embodied practice to use during the action itself
    • Choose a “spiritual anchor” – a person who can lead the practices
    • Receive a blessing for the group and the action

After the action or event 

  • One hour Zoom gathering with UUMFE and your group
    • Debrief and reflect using a model of deep listening and speaking in rounds
    • What happened? What goals were accomplished? 
    • What feelings came up for you? 
    • What is one way you stretched yourself? What did you learn about yourself? 
    • What do you want to do more of?
    • Accessible, embodied practice to release stress and re-harmonize. If there is trauma or secondary trauma, this is tailored too address it.
    • What is your spiritual next-step or sense of call, both personally and in your community context?
    • Commit to each other and the ongoing work – including any pauses, rest or care needed
    • Learn at least one spiritual practice for ongoing use to stay connected to something larger than yourself
    • Invitation to an ongoing Action-Reflection Circle. We can also tailor one for your group specifically (some participation requirements do apply and donations requested). 

If you are planning a very large, national event, UUMFE movement chaplains may be able to be there with you in person. Reach out at least three months in advance so we can talk about what could be possible and who might be able to join you. In addition to the before and after care, onsite movement chaplaincy usually involves a team of chaplains and could include:  

  • Opening which could include ritual, singing, chanting, prayer, mantra to keep in mind throughout the time 
  • A designated sacred place with altar where people can visit for moral and spiritual support
    • This could include essential oils, chair massage, energy work
  • A “ministry of presence” – calm, centering pastoral presence
  • Checking in with how people are doing emotionally, offering to listen, offering words of care or prayer
  • Support for anyone who is experiencing trauma
  • Offering a safe haven in case of physical violence or mental health emergencies
  • A healing place for “aftercare” when the action is over

Contact Rev. Kelly Dignan at UU Ministry for Earth about how we can support you. (

Interested in serving as a Movement Chaplain? Read the role description here. Apply here.


Climate Justice Movement Chaplaincy


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