You are PA IPL

Dear Friends,

     “Hope.  It’s like a drop of honey, a field of tulips blooming in the springtime. It’s a fresh rain, a whispered promise, a cloudless sky, the perfect punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. And it’s the only thing in the world keeping me afloat.”   This quote from Iranian-American author Tahereh Mafi resonates with me, especially after the challenges we’ve all faced in 2020.

      When I retired as an elementary teacher a few years ago, I was looking for a community where I could put my energy into action, to help future generations.  I’m grateful to have found Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light because I’ve been able to do just that and remain hopeful. 

As this difficult year ends, help us continue to be a faith based voice for climate justice so we can provide community and hope for so many across Pennsylvania. We need your financial support in these uncertain times now more than ever to advocate and care for our environment, especially those most vulnerable frontline communities. With new leadership at PA IPL and nationally, we hope to have a greater impact than ever before, but we need sponsors like you to continue to support our shared mission.


I’m proud and excited to be a member of an organization that has accomplished so many worthwhile things despite all the challenges of 2020.  These include:

Creation Care: We connected people to hands on opportunities to safely connect with each other and restore their environment. Through our tree planting efforts — and collaborations with the Keystone 10 Million Trees project, and scores of local groups across PA —  we have planted over 3,000 trees in the last four years and removed invasive species. These efforts made measurable progress against climate change. We increased the biodiversity of our environment, we cooled our rivers and streams, we slowed down pollution and erosion, and we enhanced our environment’s ability to sequester CO2. Help us reach another 1,000 in 2021!

Engaging Active Hope: Around the Spiral & The Work That Reconnects: During the pandemic, we offered a welcoming space on Zoom for an on-line community to meet several times a month. Inspired by Eco-philosopher and teacher Joanna Macy, this community of practice helped individuals express Gratitude, Honor Pain for Our World, See with New Eyes, and Go Forth to act on behalf of life. Programs such as this helped us to come together, reconnect, and seek hope as an interfaith community during trying times. PA IPL’s Sips of Sustenance emails connected to this work. These uplifting emails offer messages of hope and moments of reflection during the pandemic. The responses have been full of enthusiasm and appreciation across our community.

Stories from the Road: Due to COVID-19,  we reimagined a safe way to hold our annual relationship-building-fundraising-advocacy bike trip.  It became The Stories from the Road campaign and featured stories, songs, and video from past participants.  We reflected and celebrated the work we’d accomplished, and invited financial support for future work to come. We hope to give new life to this annual event and continue to advocate in Harrisburg and Washington DC.

Beat the Heat:  Since 2018, PA IPL has partnered with Esperanza, the City of Philadelphia, and the neighborhood of Hunting Park in Philadelphia to address a dangerous combination of heat island temperature spikes and the lack of public spaces for cooling off in the summer. Hunting Park can be 20 degrees hotter than adjacent neighborhoods. Before the quarantine, we were identifying and preparing local houses of worship to be summer cooling centers.  The impossibility of gathering this summer shifted efforts to focus on creating toolkits for households. The groundwork we laid is already leading to further intentional environmental justice collaborations in the community. These efforts continue our commitment to frontline communities across the state. 

Our First Distributed Annual Conference: Our conference, The Long Journey: From Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future, was held simultaneously in three physical locations across the state (Scranton, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) with a shared keynote speaker and in person workshops.  This format connected us across the state, and helped us stay rooted firmly in local experience and wisdom.

Sustained Advocacy Calls: These calls informed, empowered, and equipped members with information about PA and national news and legislation affecting the environment.  More than 114 individuals have engaged through these calls!

Webinars: These included a “how-to” guide on hosting a book study of Joanna Macy’s Engaging Active Hope, as well as workshops such as Power from Above- Choosing Your Electricity with PA PowerSwitch. In addition to offering educational presentations and sermons, we continue to develop our Climate Justice Toolkit to serve as a guide for future congregations as they join us in this critical work.

      In closing, I would like to ask for your continued support of our important work at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.  Please consider making a generous year-end donation to help us go forth.  Your gift is tax-deductible.  PA IPL uniquely helps make connections between issues, faith, and our common call to action across traditions. We continue to be a force for change capable of connecting diverse communities in a divided world. As the tumultuous year comes to a close, now more than ever, this common call — unity —  is so important. You lent your muscles, you shared your prayers and stories, you embraced us as we pivoted, to quote Wendell Berry, “The earth is what we all have in common.”



November 2020 Newsletter-An Extraordinary Decade & Stepping Away

Dear Friends,
I am writing this letter on the eve of our election.  It is a day when I am working hard (as so many of you are) to set the national drumbeat of focus on The Moment aside to hold space for a parallel focus on the whole arc of work (which started before any of us did, and which will surely continue beyond the times any of us can even imagine).

You already know that I will step away from Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light on the 15th of this month, after an extraordinary decade of working with you all.  While this is the right thing at the right time for me and for my family, it is still hard, and a little scary.  But here is the thing:  I believe in the possibilities that you embody, and in my faithful moments, I trust each of us to keep craving justice, to lean into our shared work with personal commitment, and —supported by our faiths— to nurture the hope that, together, we can be much more than the sum of our parts. 

One of the things PA IPL has done well from the start is to make sure that this organization is not about a single person — we have created spaces for many gifts, and avoided that all-too-common organizational affliction of Founders Syndrome.  Jon Brockopp gathered folks following a Climate Ethics conference at Penn State in 2009, to form a steering committee that led to the start of PA IPL in 2010, then he stepped back to support the work as Treasurer, rather than President, before cycling off the Board to continue as an active and inventive volunteer.  The Religion and Society Center in Harrisburg provided shelter for PA IPL in those first couple of years until we stepped out on our own, and then celebrated with us as we did.  Charter Board members intentionally structured the Board so that there were rotating terms, and term limits, inviting new leaders to step in regularly with fresh perspectives, and new ideas.  Of course, our staffing evolved over that time, too. 

It is the right time for me to step down, and for PA IPL to continue forward, boldly.  I look forward to seeing new growth, new flourishing, and I look forward to being able to look to my left, and look to my right, and draw inspiration and warmth from all that you are doing.  Continue doing the work with heart.  Share your stories generously, with courage, and in celebration.  Those stories will lift someone else who will, in turn, inspire you again.  Sometimes it is the smallest story that serves as the seed of something big and beautiful.  

The moment feels big; the work is beautiful; the way you show up matters.

Yours with gratitude, and in faith,

November 2020 Newsletter-Thank You

As the year and the semester wind down, we can begin to move past the election. Within the great cycles of change, let us not forget to give thanks and remember our blessings no matter their amount of distance from us in time and space. During Samhain and Halloween the doors between worlds and possibilities are open. For Dia de los Muertos, the Jain New Year, All Saints Day and All Souls Day and Thanksgiving we are also reminded of the passage of time, loved ones, and standing on the threshold of new beginnings. But let us also draw upon the Hindu tradition of Diwali to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. No matter how this year has been for you or the election results pan out, seek solace in faith, community, and tomorrow. The path begins with hope and thanks.

Don’t wait until the fourth Thursday in November, to sit with family and friends to give thanks.
Make every day a day of Thanksgiving! —Charmaine J. Forde

November 2020 Newsletter: Webinar Recordings

We have two webinar recordings now available-Solar Options for Congregations and Engaging Active Hope book study:

  • Solar Options for Congregations:
    Joy Baxter did a virtual presentation about solar options for congregations for the Main Line PA IPL chapter, and it is now available to all of you!  Get the recording. ​​​
  • Engaging Active Hope Book Study:
    In June, Alison Cornish held a webinar for folks interested in preparing to lead an Engaging Active Hope book study, either virtually or (eventually) in person. 
    The recordings and materials are available here.

Giving Thanks to You

Over the past three months, I’ve had the honor and good fortune to join the PA IPL community. I have been welcomed with open arms and this has brought with it a great sense of home and family. The year to come bears so much hope for the future as we seek a solution to the current pandemic, navigate this new world and the many new beginnings which 2020 have brought about in our government and society. I am confident we will come together as families do to care for one another and our shared home. Thank you for the hope you give me and so many others through your work, your caring, and your love.

Lessons from the Year

Building on the lessons learned earlier this year by following the works of Joanna Macy, we continue our commitment to and gratitude for this precious Earth we call Home; to name and honor the pain we feel; to seek new understandings of our shared strength and determination to act for the well-being of all; and to go forth, every day, with renewed intentions to live in ways that heal our Earth, and one another. Let us recognize what it has taken to get us to today and give thanks for the many blessings creation has provided us.


Gratitude is a spiritual resource worth tapping into. A 2018 study from Indiana University found that people who took time to have a daily writing practice around gratitude experienced greater mental health than those who did not. Many of our faith communities include gratitude as part of their spiritual daily practice. In the Jewish tradition there is a daily “Thanksgiving” prayer recited which says, “We are grateful…for our lives which are committed into Your hand, and for our souls which are entrusted to You, and for Your miracles of every day with us, and for Your wonders and benefactions at all times— evening, morning and noon.” Please enjoy this video of gratitude that it might lift your spirits wherever you are today.


As we face this moment of intensified pandemic it is more important than ever to draw from the lessons of Thanksgiving — both the national holiday and the ongoing spiritual practice — to work to notice and cultivate a sense of gratitude for our bodies and health, the important relationships that sustain us, and for our nourishing connection to the natural world.

Many blessings and thanks,