Faith organizations from the US and Australia join together to share a new course on the mental health and spiritual impacts of the climate crisis with an international launch event.
RUMSON, N.J. — The climate crisis is creating a worldwide emergency that impacts communities mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Climate emotions (like climate grief and climate anxiety) are increasingly impacting young people in particular. A recent study in The Lancet found that 84% of the 10,000 global youth surveyed are worried about their future in a climate-changed world. These feelings are widespread. Faith communities are equipped with their own traditions and tools that can help their members face the climate emergency, but pastoral caregivers must first develop a deep understanding of the issues involved.
International collaborators, Waterspirit (USA) and Jessica Morthorpe (Australia), have created a new 13-module course that teaches pastoral care for the climate crisis. This online course intends to equip church leaders and communities with the tools they need to understand eco-anxiety, climate grief, and other climate emotions in order to become more effective caregivers. This comprehensive course takes a deep dive into culturally-sensitive pastoral care, explores what it means to be a good pastor to climate-anxious people, and makes recommendations for particular groups, including activists, scientists, and children. It also makes recommendations for how to address congregational conflict and ecophobic theologies.
“The climate crisis is already impacting our faith communities. Young people in particular are suffering from the loss of their imagined futures. We have a responsibility to create safe, supportive spaces for processing these feelings using our faith tools, and this course helps people learn how to do that,” said Blair Nelsen, Executive Director of Waterspirit and course co-author.
Australian co-author Jessica Morthorpe added, “We train our church leaders for pastoral care situations like funerals, generalized anxiety, and illness. We don’t train them in how to help their communities face their grief over climate change and the destruction of the planet, their anxiety about a climate-changed future, and the ways in which climate change is and will impact both their physical and mental health. This course aims to fill that gap.”
Gershon Nimbalker, National Director of the event host Common Grace, said, “The impacts of the climate crisis are being felt across the globe. This course provides churches and Christian leaders with much-needed resources to care pastorally for those in their faith communities who are struggling with climate anxiety and grief. Common Grace is thrilled to be able to share this online resource with our church partners and wider Australian Christian community.”
This new course will be launched with an informative webinar featuring several experts in the field: Dr. Sally Gillespie, Rev. James Bhagwan, Rev. Talitha Amadea Aho, and Rev. Douglas Kaufman. This launch event will be co-sponsored by Waterspirit and Common Grace, an Australian nonprofit. It will take place on Friday, October 28 at 8 p.m. EDT (US)/Saturday, October 29 at 11 a.m. AEDT (AUS). Interested participants can register at waterspirit.kindful.com/e/climate-pastoral-care-course-launch.
Waterspirit is a nonprofit center for spirituality and ecology sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, headquartered in Rumson, NJ, USA. Common Grace is an Australian Christian grassroots movement of people responding to Jesus’ call to love our neighbor. More information is available at: waterspirit.org and commongrace.org.au
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