Thank you for joining us today. We are here to bless these bicycle riders and wish them Godspeed for their journey. And, in a moment, we will ask every one of you to help give them our send-off. But first, we want to share the news about what we are doing.
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL), like other IPLs across the country, is a community of individuals and institutions of faith joining together in response to climate pollution and climate disruption as people of faith. Different faith traditions disagree on a lot, but we share a calling to care for creation and to care for our most vulnerable people. By responding to climate change in our daily lives, within our congregations, and through our conversations and prayers, we can do both. In fact, when we act together in hope, our responses allow us to exercise our faith muscles — blurring the lines between worship and secular life and growing the expression of our faiths in action.
People of faith in the United States have a long history of responding to need and reacting to disaster. And we do it well. These skills, these responses are increasingly important as our rampant emissions fuel the difficult changes we are already seeing in the climate on which we all depend. When we make commitments to reducing climate pollution at its source — to becoming better stewards and more caring neighbors — we are responding at the source.
Whether we are replacing door sweeps and blocking drafts in a low-income home, hanging our laundry to dry, or eating more locally-grown meals, when we rise to the occasion, when we draw on the very same compassion that leads us to drop a check in the hat for hurricane response or famine relief, when we draw on that compassion to also act ourselves — intentionally and in fellowship with others — we nurture hope in powerful ways. Goodness knows, we need hope in abundance.
Hope is balm. Hope is fuel.
At PA IPL, we know that our actions, while so important for us, and certainly critical for those we serve, are simply not enough on their own. Just as we take responsibility in our own spheres, we also need our public leaders to act in theirs. At the end of this bike ride, these cyclists will walk with me through the halls of Congress. We will tell our Pennsylvania legislators about our work, about our contributions. And, then we will ask those elected officials —our elected officials —to step forward with courage and conviction to join us – to work toward solutions only they can achieve on our behalf. We will ask them to reach across partisan divides. We will tell them that we are praying for their creative and courageous leadership.
Many people don’t know that there are serious ideas about climate solutions from respected voices, many from people who prefer to depend on the free market to accomplish the work of change, and many from those who believe that a smaller government may not always be the best government. Yet there are. Such policy proposals don’t make good entertainment; so these ideas are often hidden behind the flaming rhetoric of the public sphere. But, viable ideas exist, many based on concepts that have been tried —successfully — here and elsewhere.
The fact that talking heads have complicated this moral challenge with a loud, partisan quagmire does not give us a pass to walk away in disgust. On the contrary, shouldn’t their shameful behavior provide us with greater reason to engage as people of faith? Not in the bickering (please, not in the bickering!), but rather, shouldn’t we intentionally till the ground —create space for substantive and values-rooted explorations, and engage in the search for solutions from all sides of the political arena? Mightn’t we have some of those conversations while we continue to do the work we know how to do? And when we are having these conversations, shouldn’t we invite our leaders to engage with us? Some of them might even join in the tangible work of caulking and walking, choosing to do more with less. After all, whatever we may think of Washington, our public servants got into their work out of a desire to make a positive difference.
When it comes to responding to climate disruption, faith communities have important tools to offer. We know how to have values-based conversations. We know how to nurture hope in dark times. We even know how to speak Truth to Power. We have rich histories and practical skills that help us care for our communities through good times and hard seasons. Whether we work within our own congregations, or join together to listen for deep echoes of our traditions in the words and practices of others, we can draw strength from knowing we are facing this challenge together. Faith communities are doing what we do best: stepping up together to care for those in need right now, and joining together both to grieve the shared hurt and to rise up again in hope.
This trip connects congregations: it connects the people of St. James Lutheran Church and Stone Church of the Brethren and so many others with the people from four different congregations in State College. It connects the work to make Huntingdon a community where biking-for-transportation can become easier and easier with the work of Weatherization First* here in Centre County. Through hospitality, this trip and these cyclists connect all those people with the people (and the homeless ministry) of the United Methodist Church of Orbisonia, PA, and the students of Mercersburg Academy, who are speeding to the end of the school year at their residential school.
Where these cyclists connect by their presence, they also lead by example: they are people from different faith traditions, of many ages. They are on a multi-day trip, traveling on two wheels, fueling their own pedals, and carrying their own belongings — a 200-mile trip that most people make in a car, and some in an airplane. They are putting a lot more into the trip than most, and (as those who have been on this journey before can tell you) they are getting a lot more out of it. And we thank them.
Remarks for the Bike Blessing and Sendoff
University Mennonite Church, State College, PA
May 1, 2015
*Weatherization First is a project of PA IPL. Tagline: Reducing carbon pollution for all of Creation; Lowering bills for neighbors in need. [back]