Come to Our Senses this Thanksgiving

Come to Our Senses

Over the past two months, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to facilitate six sessions of Engaging Active Hope at Cranaleith Spiritual Center.  Each Sunday afternoon a group has gathered to share our gratitude for this precious Earth we call Home; to name and honor the pain we feel as we witness its desecration and destruction; 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 Earth, and one another.
photo credit:  Dori Midnight

This work, inspired by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy, has been happening for many years in congregational basements, retreat centers, study circles, and even online.  But that didn’t prepare us when, halfway through the series, the exact work we’re engaged in showed up in a New York Times article, “Apocalypse Got You Down?  Maybe This Will Help:  Searching for a cure for my climate crisis grief.”  In fact, we feel even less alone, and grateful this important work is being embraced by such a mainstream audience.   

Every session of Engaging Active Hope begins in gratitude.  This resonates for me, as every faith tradition offers practices of gratitude – for Life itself; for the gifts of air, water, and the good earth; and for fellow beings.  I’ve dubbed my favorite practice ‘Coming to Our Senses’ because that is, literally and figuratively, the most fundamental, and most hope-filled action we can take in facing the state of our planetary home. 

Here’s how it goes:

Call to mind something you’re grateful happened over the past day or two. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Just something that, when you remember it, you think ‘I’m glad that happened.’ 

Got it? Now try to call to mind what the setting was like – the light, the colors, the sounds and smells … everything that fills out the memory to the fullest. Savor the memory as your senses revisit it.  

Group of People Making Toast
photo credit: fauxels

And now, silently or out loud, give thanks for what, or who, helped make that moment happen – for we are not self-made, nor isolated, beings.  We  are part of the interconnected web of all existence, and there is always something, seen and unseen, at work in our world. 

When we are fully present, bathed in all we are gifted by a single, precious moment, we come to our senses.  And when we are filled with gratitude, for even a moment, we are strengthened by the vast net of relationships that holds and sustains us. And then, we have the courage to see what we must see – that is, we Come to Our Senses – and are moved to act on behalf of this awesomely beautiful, broken world.

As you share this holiday with friends and family, remember to pause to fill your senses with the aromas of familiar foods and fall colors, especially in this time of great challenge, and boundless hope –

The Rev. Alison Cornish
Executive Director

P.S. We are considering offering an online version of Engaging Active Hope in 2020.  If you’re interested, please email us at so we can let you know our plans!

October 2019 Newsletter-Part 3: Free Webinar on Tree Planting

Grab a friend or collaborator from your congregation and join us on Thursday, November 14th from 7:00-8:15 PM for a free webinar that will help you learn about siting and planting native trees on your land. Trees reduce mowing, act as windbreaks, provide shade and habitat, and provide a sense of time we simply don’t get from calendars or watches — and they are amazing carbon capture machines.  Brenda Sieglitz and BJ Small will join us from 10 Million Trees to share their wisdom, and let you in on some opportunities to apply for trees.  People and congregations in Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, and Cumberland counties, and areas in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed may have some additional opportunities. Registration is free but required.

We close with this excerpt or a prayer from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and hope you will click through to read the whole prayer, carrying it with you as you move through your days.

We are the generation that stands between the fires:
Behind us the flame and smoke
that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;
From the burning forests of the Amazon,
From the hottest years of human history
that bring upon us
Melted ice fields, Flooded cities, Scorching droughts.
Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.
It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see each other fully.
All of us different, All of us bearing
One Spark.
— an excerpt from Between the Fires: A Kavvanah for Lighting Candles of Commitment, by Rabbi Arthur Waskow;
Read in full here.

October 2019 Newsletter-Part 1: Embracing the Fall

Photo credit: Michael Heimlich, Flick

If you Breathe in my quiet, 
Interbreathe with all Life
Still small Voice of us all —
You will feel the Connections;
You will make the connections
And the rain will fall rightly
The grains will grow rightly
And the rivers will run
So you and all creatures
Will eat well in harmony,
Earthlings / good Earth.
— Rabbi Arthur Waskow;
Excerpt from v’haya im shemo’ad: a Prayer in a Time of Planetary Danger.

See prayer in full, and in Hebrew

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Fall is finally upon us!  Leaves crunch underfoot. Mornings are crisp.  Apples and pumpkins abound.  At many of the Global Climate Strikes in Pennsylvania on those last Fridays of September, it didn’t yet feel like fall. But that visible and hopeful upwelling heard around the world was beautiful, new, and challenging—as it was meant to be.  We’ve gathered photos, videos and words you have shared with us in this blog post.  We’d love to add your pieces, particularly those  rooted in faith, or connected to the youth leadership of many gatherings across Pennsylvania. Thank you for being part of the clarion call!

October 2019 Newsletter-Part 2: Annual Conference and Meeting

NEW PLANS FOR Our Annual Conference and Meeting

For PA IPL, October has always been the time for our  statewide annual conference. This year, the conference would have fallen on the same date, and in the same city, as it did last year: Pittsburgh, on October 27th.  This is also the place and date of the first anniversary of the shooting and deaths at the Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 people from 3 congregations lost their lives.  Rather than mounting a conference now, we are supporting this time for remembering, drawing together in community, and rejecting the anti-semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment that fueled the attack in a sacred space. 

Pittsburgh has declared October 27th “Remember Repair Together” day.  We invite you to find your own ways of remembering, repairing, and joining together on this day.  Perhaps several congregations might together adopt a park, street, streambank or other spot where people gather, and where plants and animals live, to connect with our Common Home. Clean up litter, or remove invasive plants and plant diverse and resilient ecosystem-appropriate ones. 

We will have a conference, and it will be statewide in a whole new way. 

First, mark your calendar for Sunday afternoon, February 9th. 

We will gather in person in Scranton, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh for The Long Journey: From Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future. Our three sites will share a fantastic keynote speaker, and each will have live, locally-focused workshops. 

Do you want to be part of one of the local conference teams, or begin talking with your faith community about sponsoring the conference?  Be in touch with Cricket.  

And, join us on Sunday, November 10th at 7:00 PM, for the video conference call that will serve as our Annual Meeting (usually part of the annual conference).  We’ll announce the Visionary Award, share highlights from 2019, plans for 2020 -—including our conference— and vote in new  Board members! There is no charge for this virtual gathering, but please sign up here.

August 2019 Newsletter Part 4-Youth

This September, we have an opportunity to follow our youth.  Youth and young adults have been injecting fresh energy and youthful urgency into climate work across the globe, and they have identified September 20-27 for a Global Climate Strike. Adults are invited to support young people, holding space for their work, and following their lead.  Now is a time for your faith community to listen to youth; to hear about their hopes and concerns for the future; and to ask how they would like to be supported in their  movement. Youth who are interested in stepping out into the community to care for the shared spaces of our Common Home can tap PA IPL Board President Greg Williams’ passion and skills.  Greg has offered to assist in organizing groups in supporting resilient and balanced ecosystems by removing plants and planting diverse native plants that also support fauna like insect pollinators and birds. 

Are you an adult who has a skill to offer to youth?  Let us know!

We close with these two lines, from Kahlil Gibran’s poem On Children, so beautifully sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

We can strive to be like them.
Their souls dwell in a place of Tomorrow.

Additional resources:
Flash sit from Earth Holders-Earth Holder Training
Worship materials from the Unitarian Universalists

August 2019 Newsletter Part 1-Inspiration
August 2019 Newsletter Part 2-Listen
August 2019 Newsletter Part 3-Season of Creation

August 2019 Newsletter Part 3 – Season of Creation

[ image source:

For many Christian traditions, September is the Season of Creation.  2019’s theme is the Web of Life. The Season begins September 1st, and ends on October 4th, the Feast Day of St. Francis. You’ll find denominational resources, and a celebration guide at the website. Liturgical resources from Let All Creation Praise (the Spirit Series, Word Series, and Wisdom series) are rich and have many resources which can be lightly adapted for use in interfaith contexts, or as part of services in other religious traditions. This responsive invocation is one delightful example that Trinity Lutheran Church in State College used in their Soil Sunday celebration a few years back.

Leader: We invite the land to worship with us: 
People: wildflowers and mysterious mushrooms, swirling grasses and goldenrods. 
L: We invite the farmlands to sing with us: 
P: wheat fields, orchards, and vineyards, hay fields, gardens, and wetlands. 
L: We join with all the fauna of the fields in praising God: 
P: horses, sheep, and cattle, grass snakes and grasshoppers, eagles and crows. 
L: We invite the ground to stir deep below: 
P: life-giving microbes restoring the soil, beetles and worms preparing our food. 
L: We celebrate the song of the soil!
P: Sing, soil, sing! 

Additional Resources:
For the 2019 Season of Creation-Sisters of Mercy

August 2019 Newsletter Part 1-Inspiration
August 2019 Newsletter Part 2-Listen
August 2019 Newsletter Part 4-Youth