Before Civil Disobedience: Engaging your congregation

One of the challenges and opportunities for clergy doing civil disobedience is that we are not acting as private citizens. Even though we are usually taking the action on behalf of ourselves and not speaking for our congregation, our actions nonetheless reflect on our institution. There is huge power here! But it is also wise to proceed strategically.

Here are a few best practices - if you have some you'd like to add, please email [email protected]!

1. Speak with your clergy colleagues at your congregation: Let them know why you care about climate change, how you plan to take action, and why the specific protest you are engaging in makes sense and matters. Invite them to take the pledge and join you, either in risking arrest or as support people.

2. Identify key congregants to speak to one on one beforehand: You are not asking for their permission, but you would like to keep them in the loop about something meaningful that you plan to do. This will help avoid potential political fallout for you within the congregation. Let them know why you care about climate change, how you plan to take peaceful action, and why the specific protest you are engaging in makes sense and matters to you and is part of your ministry. It's a good idea to talk to any board president, or other central players who have authority or social power in your congregation. If you are speaking to someone who is likely to be less than supportive, mix in other business or a personal check in to the meeting so the civil disobedience discussion is not the focus.

3. Involve your community: One of the powerful things about civil disobedience is that seeing you do it can deeply affect people who care about you. It will galvanize your friends, family, and congregants - but only if they know about it! Be sure your congregation knows about your action beforehand. You can send a message in a weekly bulletin inviting people to come be supportive witnesses; you can preach about it the week before; you can even ask your congregation to bless you and any others among you taking action. See the link below for an example. 

Message from Rabbi Shoshana to her congregation before engaging in civil disobedience

A Jewish blessing for one about to engage in Civil Disobedience 

4. Write and speak about the action afterwards: For your own processing and for your community's sake, consider writing a blog post, sermon, or article about your action and widely circulate it in your movement. Examples of clergy reflections are below.


Prayers & Songs: Resources for your action

Song and prayer distinguish our actions. We are acting as clergy, and we want to bring the full skill set of our craft to the streets. Here are some resources.

Prayers for Climate Justice (A 14 page word document of multifaith and multicultural prayers to be adapted for your action or service)

Songs for Climate Justice (Lyrics to over 20 songs relevant for the climate movement, to be adapted for your action or service)

June 29th Pipeline Funeral: Order of Service 


Reflections by Clergy on Engaging in Civil Disobedience for Climate Justice

Lead, Don't Follow on Climate Justice - Tim DeChristopher

Standing in Prayer with My Hands Behind My Back - Rev. Rob Mark

Sixteen Clergy Arrested, Singing for Our Lives - Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Bind Them As a Sign Upon Your Hand - Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman


How to Start an Affinity Group

Taking action with other clergy is key to taking care of your own heart, having a greater impact, and building a sustaining community. This website is meant to be a tool for finding and connecting with other like-minded colleagues in your area. Here are some tips to forming an affinity group of clergy and supporters with which to engage in civil disobedience for climate justice:

1. Talk to likeminded colleagues: Start with people you know. Explain why this is important to you and invite them to join you. Point these folks to to sign the pledge and get a sense of the way clergy are taking action. If you find 2-3 other people, that is enough to plan an action if you'd like!

2. Spread the link to to your movement and other networks so more people join here. The more people we have on this site, the more effective we will be at using the site to form affinity groups.

3. To invite others: If you have an action you'd like to invite people to, or you are having trouble finding people in your area, contact [email protected]. If there are people in the database that fit the bill, she can connect you to them. If there aren't, she is happy to brainstorm next steps with you!