Celebratory and Personal Letter of Goodbye from Executive Director Alison Cornish

Dear PA IPL Friends

At the end of this month, I will depart from my role as the Executive Director of PA IPL.  It has been an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity for the past five years – and what a time it has been! When I stepped into this position, Laudato Siwas hot off the presses at the Vatican; we were prepping to offer testimony for the Clean Power Plan; and PA IPL friends from around Pennsylvania were inspired by our annual conference keynote speaker, Keya Chatterjee, who offered us a vision of building an inclusive movement in support of climate action with organizations small and vast through the USCAN. The sense of urgency of action on climate change was becoming more palpable, more real, and people of faith were increasingly welcome at the table – in fact, sometimes at the head of it!

Now, five years later, the good news is that more people, across generations and identities, agree with the need to act now in the face of alarming news delivered nearly daily – new record high temperatures; more loss of species; increased drought in some places, while others suffer intense rain events; and so much more.  Yet this is set within an environment of rollbacks of environmental protections, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and enormous new subsidies to fossil fuel industries. 

In the past four months, during the interconnected world-wide events of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the call for long-delayed racial justice and equity, the needs before us have us both reeling and inspired, alternately energized and devastated.  Our work in this time has been so welcomed by you – our email missives of hope and inspiration, the Around the Spiral community of practice, monthly Advocacy Update calls, and soon – Stories from the Road reflecting on the inspiring experiences of PA IPL bike trip participants from the past eight years. 

What the past five years has taught me is that our movement grows in numbers and depth when we listen deeply to one another, so that we can meet one another where we are – not where we expect one another to be.  When there are ‘multiple points of entry’ into the work on climate, people are ready, willing and able to become involved.  This work is so huge, we cannot be afraid of failure, but must embrace it as a way to learn. Hard as it is, the work works best when we leave room for all the unspoken fears, sadness, and loss that people may be carrying, but also may be unable to articulate – or are even unaware of.  And perhaps most importantly, our work is most powerful when we ground our work in our faiths, not in the news cycle.

Thank you for the opportunity to do this work with you. I will continue to cheer on the work of PA IPL from my new home in Massachusetts, where I know there will be plenty of chances to continue to act on climate as the urgent moral issue it is.  I carry with me the presence of all who have welcomed me into circles of impassioned work, friendship and care in this state I have been so fortunate to call home for the last seven years. Please know you have gifted me with so much that I will carry with me into this next chapter.

June 2020 Newsletter-On the Horizon—

  • Practice with us!  Around the Spiral meets second and fourth Tuesdays: June 23; July 7 and 21. 
  • Advocate with us!  June’s Policy Update “call” will be summary only.  Have you submitted testimony to Pennsylvania’s proposed existing-source methane rule, or explored the Vision for Equitable Climate Action, laying out policies that would get us where we need to be?  If not, check out the May call summary.
  • Watch with us! An online screening and discussion of the critically-acclaimed film The Condor and the Eagle on June 28th. Learn more and register.
  • Celebrate with us! Our celebration of connection, action, and hope, Stories from the Road, debuts August 1st (Lammas Day), and concludes September 1st (Global Day of Prayer for Creation).  Invitations to join us are on their way!

June 2020 Newsletter-Responding to this Moment

IPL’s national board wrote of a Kairos moment —a time outside of our usual, chronos, clock-time moments that presents us with “God-moments” when there is ripeness, possibility for growth and transformation. Other religious traditions describe such moments of unforeseen openings, too. Writer Rebecca Solnit speaks of “the spaciousness of uncertainty,” and Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy speaks of recognizing the possibility of being “strengthened by uncertainty.” Such a time invites us to step boldly into spaces of moral imagination and reimagination.

This Friday, Juneteenth, IPL leaders across the country will be in attendance at the US Climate Action Network (USCAN) Virtual Annual Meeting. We at PA IPL, and all of the USCAN network invite members to actively participate in three days of action being lifted up by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). Members of USCAN know the creativity and courage of each person is needed to reimagine and recreate the just systems that we need to move us from systems that extract, expend, and punish, to systems that support, uphold, celebrate. For those ready to be outside in crowds with masks, there are opportunities to demonstrate in multiple ways, including commiting to dismantling structures of systemic inequity and racism —closing the green gap— particulate matter emitted by power plants and affecting neighboring communities. There are also opportunities to lift up creative, generative, and ongoing work without being in crowds.

  • Commit to M4BL actions on and around Juneteenth
  • Stand in solidarity with the Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington via a 2 hour program broadcast on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00am and 6:00pm, and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm. Sign up, and visit June2020.org to tune in.
  • Participate in the #GreenGapChallenge, a call led by USCAN member Nakisa Glover/Sol Nation, to all – especially culture workers – to highlight on social media the connections between racial justice and environmental justice through varied artistic forms of expression. This challenge will launch on Saturday, June 20; we’ll share more on our Facebook page. This video by artists Marcus Kiser and Georgie Nakema will give you a taste of creative, generative art meant to communicate harms, and lead us into new spaces.

If you are curious about connections between the Movement for Black Lives, and the work we are committed to, we invite you to read “If you care about the planet, you must dismantle white supremacy” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, and published in Grist just this week.

May Newsletter-Part 3: The New Carbon Footprint Calculator & Stimulus Priorities

New Carbon Footprint Calculator

The new Carbon Footprint Calculator national Interfaith Power & Light has been waiting for is finally here! And the developers describe it as “the most peer reviewed carbon calculator out there.”  Enter a few basics (like your zip code), and the calculator will automatically set the “default” average settings using information about electricity generation and weather patterns in your area.  Then there are a lot of places to play — see the impact of changes you’ve already made, and consider the next steps you might take.  Individual, household, and congregational changes are important because Changes we make serve as spiritual disciplines, linking us to stewardship, mindfulness, and gratitude.Individual steps, curious explorations of next steps, and celebrations of progress serve as invitations for others to join us in the work. Shared goals and actions serve to create and strengthen communities of support, curiosity, and care. Personal and community actions give us authentic voices when we speak with policymakers about the bigger changes we need. Some of you may have joined the webinar for a tour and intro.

IPL’s Cool Congregations webinar  is always available – you can watch it first, or just jump in to experiment with either the Household, or the Congregation version. 

If you think you might be interested in a future study group to learn together — and reach out in your own congregation — please let us know.

Stimulus Priorities

Are you wondering how we are engaging with lawmakers in these extraordinary times?  We are working with partners to articulate values and principles that should underpin any work on the urgent tasks of relief, recovery, and stimulus.  This use-right-now stimulus priorities sheet was developed by IPL leaders to use for our annual national-network Hill visits (by phone and zoom, this year); broader documents, signed by diverse values-focused partners, are in development. We believe all policy is a covenant with the future.  

Join our monthly Sustained Advocacy Policy Update calls — or just check out the summaries — for information and tools like holistic principles documents. 

May Newsletter-Part 2: Upcoming PA IPL Events

Engaging Active Hope: How to Do It

On June 2nd from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., this one-session event is for people who are interested in leading a book study in a small group that they convene.  For several years, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light has been offering practices from the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. Going around the Spiral of the Work allows people to rest in gratitude for earth; honor our pain for the world and ourselves as we go through this pandemic; see with new and ancient eyes what we are experiencing is part of the Great Unraveling and the Great Turning to a life sustaining society; and Go Forth with a new vision for the future and a sense of community support.  

Register now for this one-session event will walk through the outline and details of the 6-session, online book-study-practice series we developed, and which we hope you will now offer either in-person (as circumstances allow) or virtually in your own settings, and with your own audiences/groups.

Daily Sustenance becomes Sips of Sustenance 

We are so glad our daily missives have inspired, soothed, touched and stirred you since we started sending them out the week Pennsylvania started its stay at home restrictions.  Now it’s time to recognize we’re in a marathon rather than a sprint, and so we’ll be offering sustenance in ‘sips.’

Starting May 17th, watch for two emails a week, one on the weekend, and one mid-week – and, please still send us your suggestions for contributions!

Bike Trip

Some of you may have noticed that it’s May!  This is the month when our website and newsletter usually feature wheels, pedals and bike helmets.  For years, you have read and prayed as the intrepid groups of cyclists pedaled from Pennsylvania to Washington, DC; you’ve “ridden along” with us as we visit, work, eat, and sing with members of host congregations and communities between here and there; and you’ve followed cyclists as they carried their stories (and your commitments) to Capitol Hill for important conversations.  

With no opportunity to have an embodied 2020 event like the ones in the past, we are planning a unique bike event celebrating its history, and reflecting on its impact.  There will be opportunities for you to participate! Do you have a story about your involvement in our bike trip?  Were you inspired to be a rider?  By a rider?  Tell us about it! 

May Newsletter-Part 1: Connectedness

We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections. 
–Grace Lee Boggs

In these upended times, connectedness is certainly taking new forms and dimensions.  In the past few weeks, we have met new friends from across the country at our Around the Spiral: Practices from the Work That Reconnects virtual workshops; attended the annual national conference of Interfaith Power & Light via Zoom; and received notes of gratitude and joy for the daily missives of inspiration we’ve been sending forth.  

As this pandemic stretches on, all of us are likely to be touched directly in some significant way.  If there’s any truth that shines clearly across the globe in this pandemic, it’s that we are truly, and inextricably interconnected, and interdependent. Again we embrace this truth: we cannot do what needs doing alone, and so are very grateful for all of you, and all you do; and we invite you to join us in these upcoming PA IPL events.