Star Gathering UCC 1 Family Conference – Live Green, Love Green: Ecology, Faith and Justice

July 28, 2018 to August 4, 2018

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
—Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

In his encyclical on climate change and justice, Pope Francis called for a holistic vision that recognized the interrelatedness of the critical issues faced by humanity today. One way to develop such a holistic vision is to think in terms of the ecosystems of which we are each a part. When we become aware of our place and role within these larger ecosystems, we become aware of not simply a biological reality but a moral and spiritual reality in which our actions have a profound influence.

In this week long program, we will unpack our place and role within our ecosystems in terms of justice—what we call creation justice. In doing this, we will look not only at current injustices but also what Pope Francis calls “strategies for a solution.” In this regard, ecosystems serve as helpful metaphor for thinking about how we can affect change in our world through the different webs of influence in which we find ourselves.

Programming for Children

Star Gathering One Family Conference features daily thematic, structured programming for children and youth ages 6 months to entering 8th grade. Three hours of structured programming is offered every morning. A wide variety of less structured activities are offered through the day. See SG1 Youth Conference description for youth entering 9th grade to high school graduates.

Theme Speakers

The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt, UCC Minister for Environmental Justice

Before becoming the UCC Minister for Environmental Justice in 2015, Berndt served for eight years as the pastor of First Congregational UCC in Vancouver, Washington. While there, he became active in various environmental campaigns including a successful effort to transition the state of Washington away from its only coal plant as well as an ongoing campaign to prevent the establishment of the largest oil terminal in the country in Vancouver.

During his time as pastor, Berndt published his first book Sounding the Trumpet: How Churches Can Answer God’s Call to Justice. It was co-authored with the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., a prophetic pastor at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California. Scholar Cornel West described the book as “a masterpiece…full of deep spiritual truths.”

Berndt is now working on his second book which is tentatively entitled Dear Parents, Grandparents, and Anyone Who Has a Heart for Children: It’s Time for Climate Action. The inspiration for the book arose from Berndt’s observations of what fundamentally motivates people to address the climate. Berndt noticed that the people with whom he works on climate issues are consistently compelled to act by what he calls the Three Great Loves: love of neighbor, love of children, and love of creation.

Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries

Shantha did her undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame, where she developed a strong interest in the role of faith communities in creating social change. She studied in Chile and led fellow students in learning about Latin American theologies through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns and a partnership with Maryknoll Missionaries. After college, she did congregation-based community organizing with PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) in Southern California, Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis, and the Gamaliel Foundation.

Shantha has a passion for working ecumenically. She worked for the National Council of Churches from 2008-2013 doing young adult, anti-poverty, and eco-justice ministries. She also served as vice chair of the World Student Christian Federation from 2008-2015. Shantha is a contributing author to For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church and editor of the anthology: Towards a Global Christian Movement for Eco-Justice: Young Voices from North America. Most recently, Shantha led the community mobilization efforts of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the organization that created Nuns on the Bus. Shantha holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Pastoral Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and Eden Theological Seminary.

Minister of the Week

Rev. Shayna Appel, Co-Pastor, First Church Jaffrey, NH
Rev. Shayna Appel is an ordained minister who holds standing in both the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC). Raised Jewish, and in preparation for ministry in the UUA, Shayna chose to attend a Christian seminary to overcome her “Christophobia”, (fear of all things Christian). Suffice it to say she overshot the mark a bit (!) and found herself called to ministry at the intersection of both Judaism and Christianity.

Shayna has served churches in Hamden, Connecticut, Brattleboro, Vermont, Hanover, New Hampshire, Townsend, Massachusetts, and Peterborough, New Hampshire. She currently serves as co-pastor with her wife Robin at First Church in Jaffrey. She is also the minister at All Souls Church Unitarian Universalist in West Brattleboro, Vermont.

In addition to her work in Parish Ministry, Shayna serves as Chaplain to Townsend and Peterborough Fire Departments, the MA Corps of Fire Chaplains, the Granite State Critical Incident Stress Management Team, and the UU Trauma Response Ministry team.

Shayna lives in Milford, NH with her wife of 15 years, Rev. Robin Lunn, Arlo the dog, and two cats (Murphy and Hidee). In her spare time she can usually be found working out a stable faith with her beloved horse Sunflower (Sunny).

Description of Chapel Program:
In a 2013 article from Waking Times, Adam Lanka notes that, “The term grounding means connected to the Earth, and it is one that spans numerous different cultures, traditions, and spiritual practices”. Because it is so deeply and directly connected to feelings of balance, connection, centeredness, being anchored and in the flow, or “at-one-ness,” our services of worship for the week will encourage the experience “grounding” and explore what is happening every time we go outside and truly connect with nature.

Program Fee

$115/adult or youth $90/child entering 8th grade and lower


Contact Conference Registrar Dawn Grobe at

Room & Board Rates

These rates include lodging, meals, and ferry transportation.

UCC1 Family Standard Shared Standard Single Motel Shared Motel Single
Adult 18+ $967 $1,315 $1,191 $1,747

Youth rates are determined by age on the first day of the program, regardless of room type.

UCC1 Family Under 6 6-11 Yrs 12-17 Yrs
Youths Free $448 $640


Ferry Schedule

Saturday, July 28
Departure: Portsmouth 2:25 p.m.
Arrival: Star Island 3:25 p.m
Saturday, August 4
Departure: Star Island 8:20 a.m.
Arrival: Portsmouth 9:45 a.m.


Contact Christopher and Susan Gray – SG1 Conference Co-Chairs: Dawn Grobe – Registrar: