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‘Study & Devotional Guide’ on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals expanded


Second edition includes biblical reflections from mission co-workers, worldwide partners

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

A revised and expanded study on the United Nations’ sustainable development goals is available for download.

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations has expanded its Study & Devotional Guide on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to snapshots into each of the goals through the lens of Matthew 25, the second edition of the guide also includes biblical reflections from mission co-workers and global partners serving around the world.

The guide highlights the mission and ministry of Presbyterian World Mission co-workers and global partners to meet the SDGs, according to Ryan D. Smith, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN and representative to the UN. “Hearing the voices of our colleagues and mission partners reflecting on sustainable development shows us the depth of spirit and heart that the church brings to this work,” Smith said.

“For example,” Smith said, “to address the goal of ‘no poverty,’ the West Africa Initiative has worked through three PC(USA) agencies to train more than 10,000 people in 45 communities of Sierra Leone and Liberia to be self-reliant in food production, micro-credit management and disaster preparedness and mitigation. And, in Florida, 90% of the state’s tomato growers are ensuring humane wages and working conditions for their employees as part of the Fair Food Program of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a PC(USA) partner.”

Jo Ella Holman, World Mission’s regional liaison for the Caribbean, begins her reflection on poverty by describing a small town in the Dominican Republic where she watched a woman buy two sticks of celery, one tablespoon of butter and one egg to make a meal for her family. She writes, “No wonder Jesus taught the disciples to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ when so many do not have that daily sustenance.”

Each of the 17 SDG’s and several of their 169 specific targets are included in the guide, along with relevant work completed so far and reflections written or translated by PC(USA) global partners, mission co-workers or staff colleagues from the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

A “Get Involved!” section and prayers related to each SDG provide simple, practical ways that individuals, congregations and communities can take action to meet the agenda for sustainable development by 2030, an ambitious agenda meant to preserve people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

“I think it is an important tool for informing congregations about the SDGs,” said the Rev. Douglas Leonard, executive of the Ecumenical United Nations Office and World Council of Churches’ representative to the United Nations.

In March, P. Kay Woods, a member of Three Rivers Community Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of San Joaquin, served as a delegate of the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women at the UN.

“The devotional study guide is the perfect tool to relate the SDGs to Presbyterian women and others who may be interested in a particular issue and how Jesus connects,” Woods said. Since she returned from the CSW63 gathering, she has formed an ecumenical, faith-based group to study positive ways to discuss and advocate for climate justice.

During their year of service as Young Adult Volunteers at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Simon Doong and Carson Smith collected the information and reflections for the Study & Devotional Guide on the SDGs. In compiling the information, Doong, now mission specialist for the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, learned how the church engages the SDGs and individual Presbyterians can engage the SDGs in their own communities or connect to the larger church’s efforts.

Like the first edition, the second edition of the guide was printed in partnership with the PC(USA)’s ecumenical colleague, the Salvation Army, which supported the efforts to disseminate this resource to the greater church, said Sue Rheem, mission specialist for international advocacy with the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN. The first edition has been downloaded more than 500 times and 200 hard copies have been distributed since its debut a year ago.

“We do this to help our colleagues who work with us on the Ecumenical Women Committee,” said Major Victoria Edmonds, senior UN representative and intern trainer on the International Social Justice Commission of the Salvation Army.

“When we started examining the SDGs, we realized that this is work that the church has been engaging for centuries,” Smith said. “From eradication of hunger and poverty to treating the Earth with respect, the church has been working to achieve these goals since before their existence. We are excited to be highlighting the work our church partners and mission co-workers are doing around the world, and we continue to work with our ecumenical partners here at the United Nations toward a just and sustainable world. We invite you to study and pray with us to engage with your local communities to focus on achieving these goals.”

This entire resource can be downloaded at

The work of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is made possible by your generous contributions to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.

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