ARTICLE Faith in Action: Opposition to Fracking —and other new fossil fuel infrastructure— Is a Moral Imperative

Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein and the Rev. Cheryl Pyrch, co-chairs of Philadelphia PA IPL, wrote the guest editorial for the June 2016 GRID Philadelphia Magazine.   

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (Nevei’im) (Old Testament)

Cheryl.MalkahBinahA low-level but corrosive despair and cynicism pervades our common life. We see it across the political spectrum, from politicians and CEOs who deny climate change, to ordinary folks who acknowledge the science but who feel too overwhelmed to do more than change lightbulbs. This despair is understandable. Predictions of ecological collapse are frightening. Moving to a new energy future is daunting, and it seems to move further out of reach with each presidential campaign speech. It’s tempting to believe half-measures and incremental change will be enough.

It’s tempting to believe the claims that hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—offers us a “bridge fuel,” that industry estimates of methane leakage are correct, that taxes on fracking are the answer to the public school funding crisis. It’s tempting to believe that jobs and income from fracking will revive the rural economy, that water contamination is a minor problem that can be solved, that carbon sequestration or some new technological breakthrough will be the “answer” so we can continue with business as usual.

But these claims are false, as most readers of Grid know. The evidence becomes stronger by the day: Methane leakage makes natural gas nearly as dangerous as coal. Building new wells—and continued use of old ones—will lock us into a future of ecological and economic chaos where those who have contributed the least to climate change—the poor, the young and future generations— will suffer the most.

This injustice, along with the wanton destruction of plant and animal life, makes climate change a moral issue.

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) opposes fracking because we are people of faith and hope. We are individuals and communities of many faiths, drawing from the deep wellsprings of our traditions, inspired to work together for the sake of our collective future. We are strengthened by multiple ways of understanding hope: We may point to the divine light within, to the words of the biblical prophets, to the promises of Allah in the Quran, or to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

GRID Philly coverAs people strengthened by faith and hope, as people of many backgrounds who are learning to pray and work together, we believe that a clean energy economy is within reach. We believe that we can build a world where all people have enough to eat and clean air to breathe. We believe that we can live on this earth in a way that allows all creatures to thrive. We believe that we can make the transition in a way that is just, that provides jobs and guards the welfare of all people in the state of Pennsylvania. We believe in a future with hope, and we know that future cannot include fracking—or fossil fuels of any kind. We are therefore focusing our efforts on preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure, including—but not limited to—that for natural gas.

We are a founding organization of Green Justice Philly, a growing and diverse coalition committed to building a healthy, sustainable and economically just Philadelphia region that opposes the development of Philly as a fossil fuel hub. In our resolution, “Covenant with the Future,” we ask the commonwealth to halt the march toward new fossil fuel infrastructure.

We call for…[finish reading at Grid Philly]

REFLECTION: How Getting to Zero as a congregation changed me personally

T2016 05 iphone 196his essay is a (slightly) longer version of the back-page GRID Magazine article (June 2016) entitled Web of Life, and is reprinted here with permission of the author, Jane Dugdale. Our thanks to Jane, and to GRID for reaching out!

I think of myself as a pretty savvy environmentalist.  After I read Paul Ehrlich’s  Population Bomb in the 1970s I volunteered with Planned Parenthood. My Sierra Club card says I’ve been a member since 1976. But when the Ecology Mission Group at my congregation, Central Baptist Church in Wayne, decided to focus on climate change as a moral and spiritual issue, including a campaign for “Getting to Zero” emissions, I was in for a pretty steep learning curve. My participation in that effort connected me to efforts going on nearby and far away, made me aware how differently people of good will think about what can be done, and led to some happy realizations.

Nearby, in my own congregation, we have people like Andy Smith and Chuck Marshall, Continue reading

SERMON: Love God with All Your Heart

This sermon was given by John Dernbach at the Church of the Nativity & St. Stephen in Newport, PA on April 17, 2016.  It is reprinted here with permission.

john-c-dernbach[1]          Good morning.  I have known your rector, Rebecca Myers, for many years.  She has honored me, with her invitation to speak today, in ways I cannot express.

This coming Friday is Earth Day.  Every year since 1970, people in the U.S. and around the world have set aside April 22 to celebrate our environment, to learn about it, and to discuss how to protect and restore it.

I am going to respond to your Rector’s invitation by venturing an answer to a question that has concerned me for my entire adult life–What does our faith have to do with the environment?   This is a huge question, and one the churches have not—until recently—done a particularly effective job in answering.

I am from St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Harrisburg.  About fifteen years ago, at Stephen’s, we were planning to convert an old parking garage—one that used an elevator to move cars to Continue reading

Sermon: The Passing of New Things

The Rev. Alison Cornish delivered this sermon, entitled The Passing of First Things, on April 24, 2016, at PA IPL member congregation Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia.

Good morning, and thank you so very much for the invitation to be with you here this morning.  Having an opportunity to participate in worship of many different faith communities is one of delights I cherish as Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.

Vincent Van Gogh Ravine

I sincerely doubt that the common lectionary that lays out the cycle of scripture readings for so many Christian communities intentionally aligns itself with the relatively new, and entirely secular, holiday of Earth Day – officially 3 days ago – but what a gift they have given us this morning!  First, those beautiful images from Psalm 148 that Susan read earlier – words, in fact, that are the basis of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun – words that one author describes as ‘a symbiosis of praise involving humans and nature.’  And then, the vision from Revelation of a new earth, a new creation, of almost Edenic quality, coming to pass at the end times.  I’ll dig deeper into each of these in a few moments, but for now, let us savor these images, connecting perhaps to moments in our own lives when the qualities of our environs have elevated us, inspired us, nurtured Continue reading

Bike Blog 2016.7: Hill Visits

IMG_897612The 2016 bike trip blogs are written by riders and posted daily as Internet access allows.  Follow here, on Facebook (and a bit of Twitter and possibly Instagram) with #paiplonbikes.  Learn more about the ride and the riders.   Today’s guest blogger: Joyce Evelyth.

The big day had finally arrived: the culmination of our trip to Washington D.C to meet with our Pennsylvania delegation. Riding on the Crescent Trail into the Capital the day before, felt exciting and patriotic. Perhaps it was just after spending time in more rural areas of PA and Maryland, but the buildings and city blocks felt gigantic, with bright stone walls, and wide sidewalks, full of tourists, school groups, and driven individuals. The symbolism and grand architecture of the city compounded feelings of importance and urgency in our purpose to discuss climate change with our leaders.IMG_89891

The 7 riders that finished the trip were split into three different groups, led by our PA-IPL staff Cricket and Rev. Alison, and our fearless trip leader Jon, to meet with 15 different Representative’s offices, including our two Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey.  Pennsylvania, of course, is a large state with many different types of populations and a history of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure in coal and natural gas. But the fact that we were able to spend at least 30 minutes in each office (with congress out of session—it felt much more relaxed!) to discuss climate change was incredibly uplifting in a harrowing election year. Continue reading

Bike Blog 2016.6: ARRIVED!

IMG_89711The 2016 bike trip blogs are written by riders and posted daily as Internet access allows.  Follow here, on Facebook (and a bit of Twitter and possibly Instagram) with #paiplonbikes.  Learn more about the ride and the riders.   Today’s guest blogger: Jon Brockopp.

WE MADE IT! We arrived in Washington, D.C. on time, dry, safe, and in great spirits. As you know, this is my fifth time organizing this trip and there is still nothing like the thrill of coming in to our nation’s capitol on a bicycle. It is a beautiful city and we happily joined the throngs of tourists in the Lincoln Memorial… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our day started with a gourmet breakfast of poached eggs, bacon, asparagus, and potatoes, all prepared by Joyce and Dave as the cyclists all arrived from their host homes. We all slept in beds – actual beds – and felt well-rested and ready for the final leg of our journey.

IMG_89391Before hitting the road, however, we had a meeting scheduled with Pastor Bill Maisch at Memorial United Methodist Church in Poolesville. Pastor Maisch is actually a retired Air Force pilot who saw action in the Persian Gulf wars – it was in part his military experience that caused him to be more concerned about the environment and seek a second career as a minister. He and Joyce Breiner (a retired air traffic controller) bonded over the wonders of B-52s while we discussed ways to motivate our congregations to become more involved in issues of social justice.

Our conversation was wide-ranging and deeply meaningful to all of us, and we left feeling that Continue reading