Author Archives: Cricket Hunter

One thousand teachings. Join us.

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light invites faith communities from every tradition to join us in support of an effort to preach 1000 sermons, teach 1000 teachings, or ponder and pray on 1000 studies — all focused on the enormous impacts our climate choices will have on the rising generation.

Will your faith community contribute a sermon, study, or teaching?  With 67 counties in Pennsylvania, it would take just over three sermons, teachings, or studies per county would allow us to contribute 210 to the 1000, in honor of the 21 young people. Will you help?

Learn more, including supports and a one-pager to share.


Reflection on Hope

Offered by Harrisburg PA IPL chair, Rachel Mark, and member congregation Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 12/31/17

On the subject of hope, I pondered what I thought about it and how I personally relate to it. If you know me, then you would assume I was going to make a climate change connection. But everyone has heard that before. So I thought about how hope ties in to world peace, how hope relates to equality, and how it relates to any number of social justice issues. However, for me hope is deeply connected, not just with aspiration, but with action. So yes I did indeed come back to climate change.

On October 16, when I traveled to the small Susquehanna River town of Columbia in Lancaster County, with intrepid UCH member Barbara Van Horn [photo and article], I did not have a preconceived notion of what I intended to do that day. I only knew I wanted to be present with a group of people who over the course of several weeks, had inspired me with their stories, their vision and their determination. As we gathered that morning and listened to instructions, options, and possible consequences of civil disobedience, it became clear to me that I needed to stand with those in the “no trespass zone”, in the way of pipeline construction, and to risk arrest.

I felt a deep resolve to stand in support of new and old friends, who were committed to taking action against an injustice to their land and neighbors, an injustice to their children, an injustice to the climate. With this community, I have now shared a prison cell, sang songs, stood in the rain, and froze our butts, all of which has restored my energy and hope. I have discovered that where there is resolve, where there are still options and choices to be made, there is hope.

Active hope, in community with others, seems to me the healthiest and perhaps only sane way to live in the face of an uncertain and daunting future. Daunting, not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of our democracy and civilization.

Several days ago in my email box, there was a short message written by a writer familiar to many UU’s. Rebecca Solnit is an American writer whose book A Paradise Built in Hell was read by many UU circles. The email message read:

Dear Rachel,

It’s a race. And you’re in it; it’s your race too, to win or lose.

A race between the increasingly ominous news about how the climate is changing and the extraordinary measures being taken to slow that change and transform our society. That’s one of the challenges of this moment: to feel the despair and the hope, both, together. And then to choose hope.

Hope doesn’t mean pretending that climate change doesn’t exist or that we can erase it. It means we can fight for the best outcome instead of settle for the worst.

Leonard Higgins, a Unitarian Universalist from Oregon, has been convicted and faces sentencing for his involvement in pipeline action. Leonard was one of five activists, so-called Valve Turners, who turned the valves on pipelines in four northwestern states, and halted the flow of petroleum for one day. Leonard faces a prison term of up to ten years.

About hope, I think I most resonate with Emily, another one of the five valve turners. She says, “to be honest, I’m not sure what I hope for, except that humans can be as loving and sane and brave as possible in the coming decades—to each other, to the world. I look into the future, sometimes to think about how life might start to reestablish something like the abundance and magic that’s here now. “

Hope is the opposite of resignation, of giving up. It is about resolve, about looking for those actions that work to bring about our vision.

To further quote Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark:

“Hope means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action. To hope is to give yourself to the future. Anything could happen and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. I want to start over, with an imagination adequate to the possibilities, the strangeness and the dangers on this earth in this moment.”

As long as there are visions, options, and further actions to be done, there is room for action—and hope.

—Rachel Mark

More about the site and history of the pipeline protests in rural Lancaster County here. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have been leaders, as have Lancaster Against Pipelines, which is led by a Mennonite clergyperson.

Rachel appears in a photo at the Day 5 verse (that’s the Golden Rings one) of a fun 12 Days of Christmas rewrite by Lancaster Against Pipelines.

A Solstice Story

Whenever we feel pessimistic
concerning the future of humanity
upon this troubled planet,
we can always remember this:
that with all their fears and failings,
human beings have yet somehow managed
to put the brightest of their festivals
in the darkest part of the year.

When it is darkest, we celebrate the light.   [A. Powell Davies, adapted]

Rev. Alison Cornish writes:
In my years as a parish minister, I was struck by the longing that arises in so many people during this time of long shadows, short days, cold winds and bare trees.  A yearning for connection to the rhythms of nature, the simplicity of timeless stories, and a word of hope.  I searched long and hard for a solstice story to offer them – and finally wrote one myself.

And now I’m giving it to you.   I’m giving it in honor of all you’ve given to PA IPL across the years; in honor of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren; in honor of the other-than-human creatures amongst whom we live; I’m giving it to you for telling today and tomorrow; for honoring the mystery of the Earth which we share as our Common Home.  

Here is the story of Solstice Black Cat.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a black cat.  He was a black as the bottom of a coal bin, blacker than a starless sky, a jar of India ink.  Even his eyes were black.  His name? BLACK CAT!

Black Cat lived with his People in a cottage on the edge of the forest.  It was OK, but his People were old, and they worried a lot, and they didn’t play enough for Black Cat’s taste.  They fed him, and let him sleep in all the warmest and softest places in the house.  But they didn’t venture far from home.  They didn’t explore, and they didn’t seem to be very curious about the world around them.  But Black Cat was.

Sometimes Black Cat explored far from home, following his nose, and his ears, and his very sharp eyes.  But Black Cat always made it home before the darkness of night folded itself around the little cottage.  He may have been adventurous, but he still liked to be safe and warm come nighttime.

One winter’s day, Black Cat was exploring in the woods.  It was a gray day, just right for a snowfall, and he kept moving to stay warm.  One thing led to another – chasing a squirrel led to a stream, where he found icy water to drink.  Climbing a tree led his eyes to wonder what would be over that next hill, and through that grove of trees.  On and on Black Cat explored, not noticing how early the dark came in the woods.  And then, quite suddenly, he found himself in darkness, and quite a ways from home.  Black Cat began to be a little nervous.  Thoughts of dinner flashed through his growling belly, and the cold night crept into his thick fur.  Black Cat was feeling a little scared, and alone. 

Then he saw something up ahead – a light inthe dark.  He decided to investigate, very cautiously.  As he drew closer, he saw the light came from a window in a stone cottage.  It wasn’t a steady light, but the flickering light of a fire.  As he crept up onto the windowsill to peer through the glass, he saw the most amazing sight!  The room was filled with animals, all kinds and all sizes, and they were dancing together!  The flickering light came from a great stone fireplace in the middle of the room, and around and around the animals danced, Bear with Wolf, and Squirrel with Chickadee.  “How extraordinary” thought Black Cat.  And as he thought, his tail swished from side to side.  Bear, who seemed to be in charge of things at the dance, saw the movement outside the window, and went to the door to see who was there.  Black Cat shrank into the shadows, afraid of Bear’s great size, but Bear could see him even in the dark.  “Come in,” he said, “you are welcome to join us.”  Shyly, Black Cat tiptoed into the warm, bright room, and sat in the corner to watch.  He was still in awe of what was happening – all these animals?  Together?  Dancing?  It seemed too incredible!

Bear lumbered up to Black Cat, to ask him of his origins, his home, his People.  Black Cat told about himself, and then ventured a question.  “What is all this?  Why are you all here?  Why are you dancing?”  Bear solemnly replied, “Tonight is the Winter Solstice.  It is the darkest and longest night of the year, and it is the one night when all animals come together in peace to celebrate our kinship with one another.”  Black Cat was puzzled – “Why have my people never told me of this?”  His people, he thought, knew everything.  “Well,” Bear sighed, “many people have forgotten about the celebrations of the natural world.  They are so busy in their lives with other people, that they forget the ancient rhythms of the earth and the planets.  They mean no harm, but they are forgetful.”  Black Cat felt a little sad.  This seemed such a wonderful celebration, and after a while, he joined in, dancing with Mouse and Dog, as if they had been friends for life.

As the night wore into morning, and light began to appear on the horizon, the animals started back to their homes in the forest and cottages in villages.  Black Cat didn’t want to leave – he wanted to stay with his new friends.  But Bear came to him and said, “No, you must go back to your people.  They will be worried about you by now, and they need you.  You can come again next year.” “But how will I remember,” Black Cat moaned.  “I never knew about this, and you already said people forget.  How will I know?”  Bear smiled, and told Black Cat to look in the window to see his reflection.  “Do you see something different about yourself?”  Black Cat did, for where his eyes were once as black as his coat, they now glowed as yellow as the fire in the center of the cottage.  “All you will need to do,” said Bear, “is take a look at yourself, and you will remember this night.”

And off Bear went, back to his cave to sleep off the rest of the winter.  And off trotted Black Cat, back to his people.

Some people say when we look into each other’s eyes, we see windows to the soul – perhaps, just perhaps – when we look into the eyes of animals, we see the memory of the world around us, its rhythms, darks, and lights. [Cat image credit: Jirmut Center Papyrus, Egypt]

On this, the longest night and shortest day of 2017, we wish for you the remembrance of kinship with all creatures, and the possibility of peace and joy embedded in the promise of a new day.  With you, we celebrate the returning of the light, and the persistence of hope even in the darkest season.  And we thank you for your generous support of our work through all the seasons of the year.

DONATE               To support the “persistence of hope” persistently, you might consider an automatic recurring donation.  They can be made to recur monthly or quarterly, and they provide financial stability which is vital to our planning.


Republished email, sent Nov. 21, 2017.  Get added to our mailing list!  

Thanksgiving is our shared national holy day.  It is fitting that it is rooted in gratitude —a practice that grounds all of our faith traditions.  Refocusing ourselves there can help us drink in all that is good about this time of gathering, even as we hold and seek healing for the close-in aches of illness, loneliness, or challenging relationships and wider-circle aches of wounded communities and ecosystems that can can be especially visible in contrast.  Thanksgiving is a day when these things are juxtaposed: the bounty of the harvest, the voice of an old friend or beloved, the holes where things are not whole, and the spaces where the commercial world is banging at the door to chase us from gratitude and to acquisition.*

We invite you to join PA IPL around the table this week, too.  Enjoy your food.  Eat all the leftovers.  Then also hold a few moments or hours to get out into the slanting light of November. Go slowly.  Breathe deeply — we’re breathing with you.  Feel the solid ground holding you up.  Savor one small specific moment and share it with us, via email or on our Facebook page.  Perhaps you will make something beautiful.  Perhaps you will clear a little space for a native plant to breathe.  Perhaps you will heal a small corner of a place.  Or bless the grass.  Or laugh at an active squirrel.  When you come back indoors, share the moment, however you wish to do so — a photo, a sketch, songs or poems that you sing, or read, or write, or maybe even a 6-word story.

(The photo we’ve shared here is a grand sweep rather than a small moment.  It was taken just a few weeks ago by the Rev. John Creasy, a member of our Board, on the farm he manages on a hillside directly below a water tower right in Pittsburgh —  a gift as he was working on the harvest.)

For those of you looking for prayers of harvest or thanksgiving, in a past year we gathered a good group still collected here.  Extend the season of gratitude by printing or forwarding them, and reach for a new one each day before a meal, or as you return home.  Looking for tools for conversations instead?  We collected a few of those in a previous year, too, and just today ran into this piece about a longtime skeptic changing his mind.

*Those who were able to attend our 2017 Annual Conference got a beautiful glimpse of shared practices in the work of Joanna Macy, who always begins with gratitude. A conference statement from the program book introduces one part of her work.  More is available at The Work that Reconnects and we’d be happy to connect you with one of the many talented folks in our networks who has studied with Joanna Macy to help design a workshop in your neck of the woods.  Just ask!

2017 Conference fliers are BEAUTIES! Share widely!

The 2017 Annual Conference fliers, posters and bulletin inserts are here.

Get your flier (8.5×11 poster)
Get your 1/2 page bulletin insert to distribute in your congregation the sooner the better!


Does your congregation publish an e-newsletter, calendar or blog?  Grab this language…or use our Conference page to customize for your own community:

This year Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light’s statewide annual conference is in State College.  The conference will feature faith resources (and national-level speakers) from a variety of faith traditions, and will lift up themes we find in many traditions.  Gratitude, Lament & Renewal: Walking Faithfully in a Time of Climate Disruption, will be held on Sunday, October 29th, from 1:30 – 5:30 pm at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Gray’s Woods.  Registration and more information about the conference is available at

If you add this QR code to printed announcements, folks can use their phones to get directly to the conference page on our website.   (The QR code will still work if you shrink it or resize it, just be sure to keep it square.)

Were you looking for that Walking Stick project flier?  Here it is again, now with conference info on the reverse.

Use the “invite” feature of the conference Facebook event page to spread the word, too.