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New group aims to coordinate Earth care between Latinx congregations

Red Latina co-founder set to preach at Presbyterians for Earth Care conference Sunday

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — As Latinx communities in the United States and abroad experienced the surging impacts of climate change, particularly Hurricane Maria’s devastating blow to Puerto Rico in 2017, Presbyterian churches in those communities began to explore how they could address the growing crisis.

The Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, a Presbyterian pastor and Latinx and Latin America Organizing and Training Coordinator for GreenFaith, says that those efforts had urgency and focus. But they lacked unity, and most resources they found from the church were geared toward white, English-speaking people.

“Most of what has been created has not necessarily come out of Latino congregations or Latinx, Black, people of color focus,” Astudillo says. “So, we realize, you know what, we’re doing this work on our own. Why don’t we just come together, support our own denomination, do this work. We’re Presbyterians. We’re passionate about this, and let’s create this network and see who else joins. Let’s create space for this type of conversation and work. We’re here. And so we started putting those things together.”

In May, Astudillo and Gloria Lozada, coordinator of the Ecological Ministry of the Presbytery of San Juan, co-founded Red Latina, a group of lay and ordained leaders and allies working to create holistic environmental ministries throughout Latinx churches. The aim is to create a network of Latinx churches to provide tools and a voice in combating the climate crisis.

Astudillo says the primary basis of the group are policy from the 222nd (2016) and 223rd (2018) General Assemblies calling for the PC(USA) to act boldly on behalf of people who are poor and marginalized, as those communities have suffered a disproportionate impact from climate change, and the like-minded Matthew 25 invitation.

“Our congregations are joining the Matthew 25 initiative, and we want to make sure that they consider Creation care as part of it, that they see it clearly, and they can have resources to work on that,” Astudillo says. “Also, there will be a space where Latino congregations can go off to continue finding more training and resources, share experiences, tell their stories.”

Astudillo is set to tell the story of Latinx churches and Creation care and Red Latina on the third and final day of the 2021 Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) Conference, Sunday, Aug. 15. Astudillo will be delivering the sermon, following the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Aug. 8 and the Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes, Associate Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary, Aug. 1. This Sunday’s session will include music from jazz artist the Rev. Bill Carter.

Click here to register for the final day of the Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference

“Dr. Astudillo’s work as a gifted preacher, teacher, organizer and activist for God’s Creation is already known by the PEC community,” Conference Chair the Rev. Bruce Gillette says. “We recognized her amazing ministry by giving her the PEC’s 2020 William Gibson Eco-Justice Award during our 25th anniversary celebration.

“PEC, like the whole church, is enriched as it becomes more representative of the people who make up our country.  We are very grateful for Neddy’s outreach work through GreenFaith.  All of humanity needs to be united in working together to counter the climate crisis.  The 2021 PEC conference is offering two workshops in Spanish and a third one with translation, 25% of the total number of workshops. Neddy has helped make this possible.”

In addition to Presbyterians for Earth Care, Red Latina also enjoys collaboration with the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) in its efforts to address climate change.

“The Presbyterian Hunger Program is thankful for the opportunity to work collaboratively with Red Latina as they inspire and resource the holistic ministries already happening throughout Latinx congregations,” says Jessica Maudlin Phelps, PHP Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns. “We know that while too often the Latinx voice is missing from the climate change conversation, they are among those already experiencing the deeper impacts of the climate crisis in their communities.

“We are grateful to stand in solidarity with Red Latina and will continue to work together to lift up Latinx voices as an important piece of the conversation around climate change.”

Astudillo notes that this is just the beginning of work that is years, if not decades overdue. But she welcomes it and collaborations with PHP and others.

“With God’s help, we’re engaged,” she says. “We have a group of passionate folks and we have the connection. It’s a matter of us setting up all the calendar of work ahead of us. So that’s why we’re excited that we can begin this also in connection with PEC and learn from this.”

To learn more about Red Latina, email redecopcusa@gmail.com.


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