PA IPL director Rev. Alison Cornish offered this prayer this morning, in an email preparing for our next board meeting.
“Spirit of life, and spirit of love – God of many names, and no name – be with us now. Strengthen our resolve, even in the face of hearts that are aching. Accept our tears of grief, signs of our care for all that is broken. Help us to see the beauty of Creation, in the trees touched by golden sun, the rivers washed to the sea, the rain falling on the fields, the eyes of our neighbors, the faces of strangers. Renew in us a love of life, this very life we are living. Remind us that we are never alone, but always companioned.”
Let us remember that on the global stage this morning, leaders from nearly 200 countries are in the midst of Day 3 of their meetings working to turn from the climate pollution we have wrought toward a cleaner-energy, more just future (COP22 — the first world climate meetings in which the Paris Agreements are in force). We took extraordinary steps in 2015 and 2016 toward further success at these meetings. Let us hold those active leaders and their work in our hearts and prayers today: may the Spirit move that our leaders may find creative and courageous success, beyond what they hoped even yesterday.
We Americans like to think of ourselves as an ethical people. For generations, our presidents have referred to America as the “shining city on a hill” and “the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” We pledge allegiance to a flag that stands for “liberty and justice for all.”
That word “all” is key. If our lofty declarations are to have any meaning, then justice must be available for everyone, including the vulnerable and the oppressed.
The difficulty is not with the principle of the thing – pretty much everyone I know would move quickly to correct an injustice if, say, they accidentally mowed over a neighbor’s prized peonies. The difficulty is in the fact that acts of injustice often happen out of sight.
Whatever else the Black Lives Matter movement has accomplished, it has clearly shown how hard it is to see injustice happening in our own country.
For example, in almost 30 years of driving, I’ve hardly ever been pulled over by a police officer, and I’ve certainly never had one pull a gun on me. That’s why I found the video of Walter Scott being shot in the back while running away from officer Michael Slager so shocking. As a middle-aged white man, I’ve never seen anything like this. I could hardly believe it was real.
Black Lives Matter helps us to see systemic racism, discriminatory actions that are simply built into the system. Now that I know, I must respond, because I’m willing to work hard to ensure that ours is a moral society. But other forms of injustice are just as hard to see.
Like most Americans, I am an energy hog. Just in living out my normal life of heating my house, driving my car, and flying out to visit my elderly parents, I pollute the atmosphere. No big deal, right? Everyone does it, right?
Collaboratively written as the Heap completed its first year, by PA IPL members, Barbara Granger of Tikkun Olam Chavurah, Northeast Philadelphia, and Greg Williams, PA IPL board member, formerly of St. Martin’s, now finding a new church home in Central PA.
VIDEO at the end of this post!
While one parishioner was the spark at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, located in the Chestnut Hill NW section of Philadelphia; there was significant tinder within the church community to help composting become an everyday part of church life. After exploration and planning for a compost heap, the combined efforts of the Wednesday Community Supper volunteers, the enthusiastic support of the Treble Choir and their choirmaster, the Church’s Climate Action Team, and the Rector, who was already composting for his garden, initiated an experience of direct action building a compost pile as one part of the church’s efforts to “go green.”
The first step was to make use of the Wednesday night Community Supper (open to the community) near Earth Day (2015) where attendees learned of a new plan — to use the materials and left overs of the evening supper for composting as a celebration of Earth Day. The compost materials from that night would be brought to a local farm used to educate school students. Children from the “Treble Choir” sang at an Evensong before this dinner calling for donations which they determined would go to help an environmental concern about elephants in Africa. Attendees wondered why Supper was using paper plates. Learning that the dishwasher was out of commission, a volunteer from the parish stepped forward to fix it so that dishes could be used (less trash), thus more “green.” It was a great start.
Over the next several months there was planning among the parties of interest considering the many ways that ongoing composting could work at St. Martins and how to put it into action. A machinist from the community volunteered to design and build a compost container made up of 3 bins. That is, composting materials are collected, then turned every 3 months – bin 1-1st collection; bin 2 first turnover; bin 3 second turnover; next 3 months take compost from bin 3 and make use in gardens and all that grows around your area.
In October at the equinox, the first bin was initiated. A celebration, playfully called The Blessing of the Heap, took place. It included the Treble Choir, special prayers, and incense and holy water. This celebration was videotaped and can be viewed here. The initiation of these compost bins on church grounds began to have an effect on other aspects of the church’s everyday life. For example, the church staff collected their lunch scraps the valuable coffee grounds, and the sextant, who was initially skeptical, contributed grass cuttings and leaves providing critical nitrogen sources.
People had to learn the practicalities of maintaining the “heap” which meant learning what was in and what was out. The Wednesday night community supper attendees had to learn how to scrape their plates – that is, left over veggies yes, left over chicken no. There was greater interest in the community suppers where initially there were more women involved in “cooking for the community,” now there were some men stepping up after experiencing the larger mission of these community events.
In March, there was the next turning, and then this past summer (2016) the first batch of fully matured compost materials went into the rector’s corn and pumpkin garden outside the rectory. Some found their way to the street trees planted the previous Spring as part of Earth Day Fortnight 2016 celebrations. The practical implications of this one decision to have a compost heap has generated creative spiritual and broad educational experiences concerning “going green” and the personal responsibility we can do to take care of our Earth.
Postscript – Fall of 2016 – As happens in churches, time has passed, the leader who provided the spark that began the composting program has moved, but the heap remains. Composting is still a part of the staff’s every day life. Composting still happens at Supper. New leadership will hopefully emerge to keep the composting fire going and vibrant while they also move on to considering solar panels, weatherizing the church, etc.
Learn more about the impact of composting over landfill disposal.
Sunday, October 30th
1:30 PM-5:30 PM
(Green Fair Reception and registration begin at 1:00) at the Church of the Good Shepherd
867 Grays Woods Blvd, State College, PA 16870
PRE-registration is now closed, but you can REGISTER AT THE DOOR ($20)
WATCH — it’ll take you 78 seconds. Share the link to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SjEOe-48aY
This Board member profile is one of a series that will roll out from now through the early fall. Board members are active PA IPL volunteers who live and serve across Pennsylvania. Chuck Marshall is a charter board member who was re-elected in 2015.
Chuck writes: My entrance of faith to Central Baptist Church was through the secular portal of environmental injustice for all environmental pollution, whether it be a local waste processing facility in Chester, PA or a global buildup of greenhouse gases. Along the way I have adopted creation care as a theological framework for climate change work. Our church’s Ecology Mission Group has fostered climate disruption efforts for at least 10 years since we first purchased wind energy for our church and our mission house. Our mission group, which guides our church’s beliefs and energy conservation practices, believes in stewardship and not domination. We installed solar panels in 2009 and as of August 2017 have generated 80,000 kwh of electricity. This work with solar panels brought us in touch with PA IPL and a continuing relationship among CBC, me and PA IPL.
I joined the board of PA IPL because I believed that PA IPL had the potential to be the most effective interfaith organization in Pennsylvania. I felt that the programs implemented by CBC over the years would give be experience and knowledge to contribute to PA IPL. I believe that the thousands of buildings operated by faith groups represent a substantial portion of energy consumption in PA and represent millions of people that can be reached to effect energy conservation and efficiency in their own lives.
Personally, I have been involved in implementing the installation of solar panels at CBC and reducing CBC’s carbon footprint to zero. I use LED lights at home. We are a one car family by choice, and we have increased our efficiency to the point that we only consume 4,854 kwh of electricity per year at our residence.
When I’m not working on climate change, I enjoy singing (not as a soloist) in CBC’s choir and a community choir called the Norristown Chorale. I raise funds for the chorale by recycling small electronic gadgets and sending to eScrip for recycling.
Want more inspiration? How about a personal reflection from another CBC member about the impact of their Getting To Zero — published in GRID Magazine.
Muslims involved in the environmental “green” movement often cite two of Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) hadiths: “Indeed the world is green and sweet, and indeed God has left you to remain to see how you behave. So beware of the world, beware of the world” and “People have common share in three (things): Grass (herbage/vegetation for humanity and animals), water and fire (light, heat and power, which includes the electrical power derived from burning fossil fuels and other sources of energy).”
Most conflicts throughout history, regardless of their size, can be tied, in one way or another, to one side’s access and/or control over these finite life-sustaining resources. Currently, these resources are not being shared equitably, in terms of the present members of creation and those yet to come. Just as the global faith communities and their leaders have declared their intent to battle climate change by releasing statements and declarations (e.g., the Papal Encyclical on the Environment and Climate Change and Laudato Si), local faith leaders must continue to mobilize their congregations to pursue this cause.
Meeting in Istanbul on Aug. 17-18, 2015, over 60 Muslim scholars, academics, and environmental activists from around the world adopted an Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. This bold grassroots initiative was driven by various NGOs, including…
The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change that was released in the space between the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, and the COP21 talks in Paris. You can find links to the encyclical, the Islamic Declaration, and many other multifaith resources published in that time period on our website here.