Rev. Peg Chemberlin

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin is the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. She is the immediate past president of the National Council of Churches, an organization of 36 communions with 45 million constituents across the nation. Read more about Rev. Peg Chemberlin.

We Can Do Better, Minnesota

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin under Society, Government, Politics Updated: July 24, 2011 - 11:18 AM

When some Minnesotans said, “No new taxes.” What did they mean? 

“Take us into un-payable debt."

“Borrow from education in a way that we can never pay back.”

“Take action which will downgrade the state’s credit rating.

I don’t think so.

And when Minnesotans elected a governor who said, “I will increase taxes on those who make more than $2 million every year.” What did we mean?

“We really don’t want you to raise taxes on the wealthiest.”

“We really like the tax system in Minnesota where the higher your income the lower percentage of tax you pay.”

“We think that the tax cuts that Jesse Ventura gave to the richest Minnesotans should continue even though they are unfair to the rest of us and plunging us into debt.”

I don’t think so.

And yet the partisan politicians who vowed to keep the “no new taxes” pledge at any cost have kept this state from being the best we can be. Even worse, they are quicly tumbling us, at best, toward being a mediocre Minnesota.

Taxes themselves may be a subject that doesn’t often move the faith community but the way we tax as a state is certainly a moral concern. Is our tax policy fair?

It is not. We are not taxing fairly. Middle class households pay a little over 12 percent in state and local taxes. The wealthiest five percent of households pay 10.1 percent. The poorest families pay the highest rates of all.

We are not taxing fairly and because we do not, we are pushing off onto our children our unpaid bills.

I do not wish to leave a legacy of debt to our children, and I do not believe that a legacy of poverty and underinvestment is the Minnesota we want to be.

As the dust settles and the budget deal is signed we are still being asked to answer a central question about who will we be as a state. Let your legislative representative know how disappointed you are. Let them know that tax increases aren’t always bad. That taxes increases done to rebalance fairness is a good idea. Let them know that a tax system built on fairness and justice is a good Minnesota ideal.

Let them know that a few extreme politicians who have been hoodwinked by an invalid “no new taxes” ploy aimed at protecting the wealthiest - let them know- that those representatives do not represent the Minnesota we want to be.

Then go out and ask all your friends to join you. A message must be sent and must be sent now. And the people of Minnesota are the only ones who can turn this around. As a people, we have only pushed off our moment of crisis into our children’s future. Join me today in a belief that good stewardship is essential to the health of our communities and our state. It is time for people of faith to step up and say we as Minnesotans can do better.



Fifty Leaders of Different Religious Traditions Meet

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin under Society Updated: June 3, 2011 - 9:02 AM

Much is made in the media of the breakdown of civility, of lack of security and all the threats that cause us fear, especially from “other” people. Terrorism, by its nature senseless with random capacity to target any of us at any time, lays a cloud of fear and apprehension in our hearts and minds. Stereotypes of “others” compounds the alienation among our society. Fear breeds fear, and sometimes it evolves to hatred and violence.

Over fifty leaders of a wide range of religious traditions in Minnesota met this week for a three and a half hour session to counter such forces. It was a simple but carefully facilitated evening of getting acquainted and having purposeful conversations together in an effort to build relationships across lines of differences—differences of religion, tradition, ethnicity, and culture. The leaders shared hopes, concerns and ideas as well as deeply held values, texts and resources from their own traditions which speak to the value of knowing one another.

The social fabric of our community and state was strengthened that evening with new expressions of respect, and the value of knowing each other, as these religious leaders listened, shared and built new connections with one another. Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, American Indian, Bahai, Muslim, Jew, Christian, and various sub-divisions of some of these, were present and participating. In fact, the group saw value in those differences informing and enriching us, even helping us deepen our understanding and conviction in our own traditions. 

The participants did converge on the need to get positive symbols, images and messages into the media about standing together without giving up our differences. The “old media” wasn’t present--not invited to this fresh opening of new relationships. It was not about the press. Yet there is hope that the new media will carry many testimonials—like this one—of the new mutual respect. Who knows what ripple or what multiplier effect will emanate from this occasion. 

Look for these leaders to be standing together at 9-11-11 and other times as well, for the good of all people of Minnesota. All agreed there is no place for the hate that breeds terrorism and we must stand together against such hate. 

In a democracy, religious freedom must prevail and respect for such freedom must grow. May we all share in the blessings of standing together in new and enriching relationships with “other” people.

Stewarding Our Bodies and Our Land

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin under Society Updated: May 25, 2011 - 11:47 AM

God calls us to be good stewards of creation, to act for justice, to treat our bodies as temples, and to hold out hope for the future. (This is hard to accomplish in a world where you need to scan the fine print of grocery store ingredients lists for words like “methylparaben” and “phthalates.”). This summer many of us will have a chance to explore and enjoy the wonderful place called Minnesota. I invite us all to consider the health of our land and all its people, including yourself. Perhaps this summer we could renew our twin commitments to care for the land and to steward our own health and well-being.

Next month I will be a guest presenter at a wonderful spot, Rancho la Puerta which takes these commitments seriously. I will get a chance to eat organically, exercise well, and sleep a good night’s sleep - that is, to steward my own God-given body. As I get ready for some time off to focus on my own health and wellbeing, I am grateful for those who have come before me in this work. In particular, I want to lift up the instigator, creator, developer, and heart beat of Rancho La Puerta: Deborah Szekely. Deborah was concerned about toxic chemicals and health-food long before any of my generation even knew what those words meant. She made a pathway for many if us - even if we don’t know it. Thank you, Deborah.

In faithful response to the work of that generation, we have to each do our part. The Minnesota Council of Churches, with the National Council of Churches, is working on these issues from the federal level to local work. At the federal level we are trying to protect water, impact legislation that would keep toxic chemicals out of our everyday life and make sure the EPA has the authority it needs and with that authority does the right thing. If you are interested in the federal work try:>

Locally, through our “Healthy Homes, Healthy Congregations” set of presentations, Minnesota Council of Churches educates faith communities about the theological basis for caring about toxic chemicals, how to minimize individual and communal exposure to toxic chemicals, and how to advocate for a world where we are less exposed to toxic chemicals. Different presentations have different foci: chemicals in cleaning products, chemicals in cosmetic products, issues of active seniors, issues in general, congregations, and congregational leaders. Our presentations work as an adult education hour or as an interactive experience during worship. But you don’t need to wait to hear from us before acting on your own renewed commitments to the land and your health.

5 Tips on How to Green your Place of Worship:

People in a congregation seeking to be better stewards of creation, to act for environmental justice, to help their fellow worshippers treat their bodies as temples, and to believe in a better future have many tools available to them. In order to reduce the presence of toxic chemicals in the church building, please consider:

  1. Pray, preach, and teach about minimizing harm from toxic chemicals. Minnesota Council of Churches is happy to provide resources.
  2. Perform a toxic chemicals audit in your church to find out how many toxics people may currently be exposed to.
  3. Host a cleaning product-making party using homemade or all-natural cleaning products. Here are some recipes.
  4. Mow the lawn less, water it less, and, if you use fertilizer, make it all organic. The grass will grow deeper roots and be healthier in the long run.
  5. In the nursery use cloth, wood or vinyl toys. These are generally least toxic.

For connection on these matters contact

As summer approaches let’s help keep Minnesota green all year ‘round.

Well, I’m still here, how about you?

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin under Society Updated: May 21, 2011 - 10:08 AM

Well, I’m still here, how about you? Anybody missing?

How in the world does somebody think they know the day the world will end, seems a bit idolatrous to me, but here’s basically how this is all got calculated.

In Genesis 7:4, God said to Noah: "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." It is calculated that when God referred to seven days, God meant both seven days and seven thousand years. That calculation comes from the verse which says that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The flood occurred in 4990 BC, we are told. Seven thousand years later is 2011.

So there’s the year. Now how do we get the date? That is related to the number of days between the Crucifixion and May 21, 2011. There are 722,500 days between these dates. 722,500 is a significant number because it is composed of the significant numbers 5x10x17x5x10x17. Five signifies redemption; ten signifies completion; and 17 signifies heaven. The numbers represent the day of redemption (5) and the end of the Christian era (10) and the ascent to heaven (17) -- and these factors are doubled for added significance. According to pamphlet, I didnlt actually add it all up.

Theo Gill, senior editor at the World Council of Churches, says: You can see why people look for hidden messages in the Bible: The stuff that appears on the surface - like "Love one another", "Let justice roll down like a river" and "My peace I give you" - is so clearly outlandish.

Hmm, well, for me (while I am still here) I am goign to focus on: love your neighbor and the Good Samaritan, and feeding sheep, and welcoming lost sons and when you have done this to the least of them, and Luke 4. Not so difficule to understand if you just take Him at His word.

Accidents are accidents because they are unexpected.

Posted by: Rev. Peg Chemberlin Updated: April 21, 2011 - 12:11 PM

Accidents happen because they are accidents. That is to say, if we knew they were coming they wouldn’t be accidents. Here’s a couple of definitions. “An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm” (Merriam Webster). “An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” (Wikipedia).

Accidents are accidents because they are unexpected. One cannot predict that while driving, for instance, one can always be safe. Because there will be accidents and because they are accidents we don’t know when they will come. Are we on the same page here?

Some folks will tell you that they can drive and text and it is never a problem. But I have seen drivers not even realize that they had caused a problem because they are distracted. Think about it. You don't know what you didn't pay attention to. If you caused a problem because you weren't paying attention then you probably don't know even now that your inattention caused the problem. In fact, there may be hundreds of problems that you caused while you were texting that you don't even know you caused. Are you still with me? 

Accidents are accidents because they cannot be predicted. It is precisely that which is unexpected that jumps out in front of us, that veers in from the side - something we didn’t expect - that will cause the accident. And we can’t predict when those will come so we need to be fully alert and ready for them anytime.

Accidents are accidents because they cannot be predicted but there are some behaviors that can predict that accidents are more likely to happen. "Those who engage in text messaging while driving are eight times more likely to be in a crash than drivers who don't.” (

Today, law enforcement is promoting a one-day crackdown on distracted drivers in a statewide campaign to stress the dangers and reduce crashes. Hooray, I say, as I put away my cell phone. It’s a risk to drive while talking, even more so while texting. I am pledging today that I will never text and that I will try to cut down my driving while talking to a minimum. I hear my mother in the back of my head saying, “You better cut it out altogether”. She won’t let me talk to her while driving. Once I was talking to her on my cell when I was caught in a fender bender. She heard me yell, then heard the crash and then we lost contact. I didn’t get back to her for thirty minutes. So don’t do this to your mom, okay? Or yourself, or the somebody’s kids.


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