Conference Peace with Justice funds available -- just ask


Claudia Roberts would love for people to ask her for money – Peace with Justice money, that is.

As the Peace with Justice coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, she said she’d like to see more people accessing this important resource when it comes to funding projects in churches and local communities that are working to bring about positive change and social justice.

“We’re trying to help people,” Roberts said. “It seems like one of the best-kept secrets not just in Oregon-Idaho, but the whole country.”

This Sunday, United Methodist Churches around the denomination will participate in a special Peace with Justice Sunday offering. While half of the funds raised go to support national and global peace and social justice issues – everything from famine in third-world countries to immigration support – the other half stays in local conferences.

Over the years, the Peace with Justice committee has provided funding for a variety of projects in the Oregon-Idaho Conference – everything from back-to-school kits in Payette, youth clergy conferences and a peace festival in Newport.

“People that work together and play together don’t fight each other,” Roberts said.

There’s a wide array of topics that qualify under the areas of peace and social justice and Roberts said all people need to do is get in touch with her and they can talk about whether a project qualifies or not.

Recently, Rev. Richenda Fairhurst of Ashland First United Methodist Church got in touch with Roberts about supporting a climate change conference she was hoping to host at the church.

“It’s deeply distressing to talk about (climate change),” Fairhurst said, but added that a church can and should be a place to address it.

New to Ashland, and after attending national conferences on the issue of climate change and global warming, Fairhurst wanted to see something happen on the west coast to discuss these issues. She and others in the church and community started putting together a robust program that drew in experts in the field as guest speakers to have a complete conversation about climate change.

“Climate change touches everything – theology, race, poverty,” Fairhurst said. “We don’t have to leave our faith behind when we talk about climate.”

Fairhurst knew this was going to be a big project to take on, but she also had a bit of an inside track on how to gain more support. Before coming to the Oregon-Idaho Conference, Fairhurst was the Peace with Justice coordinator for a brief time in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

She contacted Roberts and after applying for support, received $1,500 to put toward the cost of bringing in speakers from California to Alaska.

“It allowed us to take a deep breath and know that we’re getting some really great speakers,” Fairhurst said. “It is really wonderful that the Board of Church and Society provides these kinds of resources.”

Roberts said it wasn’t difficult to look at something like climate change and not see the connection between community, church and scripture.

“Care of the climate is part of our responsibility as Christians to care for the world,” Roberts said. “One of the first directions God gave us was to be good stewards of the planet.”

Though there are some parameters on what projects can be considered for Peace with Justice grants, Roberts wants more people to reach out, first, before giving them a green or red light.

“Anything that builds community and makes it a safer, better, more equitable place to live – I consider that Peace with Justice.”