Bob Hampton is the building superintendent at our church. He sees to just about everything. When our old heater was in danger of giving up the ghost, Bob started sleeping at the church on alternate nights. For the past twenty years, he’s been quietly changing the light bulbs to CFLs and putting in energy-efficient windows.
When we started our Green Team about five years ago, I thought it’d be smart to replace all our exit signs with LEDs that use 1/10 the electricity… but Bob had already done that. I’ve come to really admire Bob’s quiet competence over the years, and as we talked, I discovered that his ability to make things work extended to people as well.
Our Green Team got a bit of opposition at first – folks worried we were worshipping nature instead of God. Bob suggested we just wait a while and let people get used to the idea. “See that Christmas tree there, with all the mittens on it?” (it is set up every year in the narthex for Operation Christmas Child), he said: “When they first put that up, people objected to that, too!”
What Bob was teaching me was that communities are slow to grow, slow to change, but given enough patience, they do. When we first started PA Interfaith Power & Light, we wanted it to become a community, and so the word ‘community’ first appeared in our tagline as an aspiration: communities of faith responding to climate change.
For me, though, the bike trip is proof that this community has come to life. What started off as a fairly insane venture with two friends has now become a kind of institution. This is what we do, every year: ride our bicycles to DC.
As a response to climate change, it is woefully inadequate. How can one person on a bike make a difference? But it’s not just one person, it’s twelve riders. And it’s not just twelve riders, it’s nearly 100 people who have donated in support of the trip. And it’s not just 100 donors, it’s the thousands (really!) who follow our progress on social media, newsletters and more.
And, of course, there are IPLs in nearly every state, engaging well over 10,000 congregations. So, while I as an individual am weak, we as a community are powerful – so powerful that the fossil fuel industry is already mobilizing against Pope Francis, even before his encyclical on climate change has been released. Here’s just one sentence from the advanced version: “Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.”
I believe that Interfaith Power & Light, along with our many allies, has helped to build a community that is ready to hear Pope Francis’ words. And this is important, because he is issuing a clarion call for religious people everywhere to step up to the plate: “Religious institutions can and should take the lead in bringing about that change in attitude towards Creation.”
So, for me, being on the trip is being part of that change, because in my heart of hearts, I believe we were put on this earth to tend and sustain this marvelous garden that God planted. Sure, we need big changes in industry and government, but we also need, each one of us, to learn from Bob Hampton about tending and sustaining the buildings, grounds, and people right in front of us.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2016 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801)
MANY THANKS to our 2015 silver sponsors Sun Directed and Beth Richards, KBB Realtor,
and bronze sponsors Freeze Thaw Cycles and the Rock Ethics Institute for their support!
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