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.

Faith Climate Action Week Videos

As Faith Climate Action week comes to a close, we can look back and reflect on this year’s theme, Love Made Visible, through a collection of videos posted by National Interfaith Power & Light.

A prayer for our Earth, Pope Francis, by Sr. Joan Brown, OSF

Join the the nationwide #ClimatePrayer at 12noon local on Earth Day, April 22nd. Sign up and download the prayer of your choice here: http://bit.ly/earthdayprayer
Then come back to FB to pray along! Why not say a prayer at 12noon local every day of Earth Week!
Sr. Joan is praying the Pope Francis Prayer for the Earth. She is a Franciscan sister and the Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light. She lives on a farm that supports many people and teaches sustainable living. You can hear the chickens and see the beehives behind her. She walks the talk of caring for the earth and one anothe #FaithClimateActionWeek #covid19 Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2020 COEJL Earth Day Network Lutherans Restoring Creation CA Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology Presbyterian Hunger Program @PresbyteriansforEarthCare United Church of Christ Parliament of the World’s Religions SojoAction Creation Justice Ministries Sojourners

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rev. Patricia Mushim Ikeda prays the Shantideva Prayer

Join the the nationwide #ClimatePrayer at 12noon local on Earth Day, April 22nd. Sign up and download the prayer of your choice here: http://bit.ly/earthdayprayer Then come back to FB to pray along! Why not say a prayer at 12noon local every day of Earth Week! Rev. Patricia Mushim Ikeda, a core teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA is praying Shantideva’s Prayer. #FaithClimateActionWeek Ecumenical Advocacy Days Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Earth Day Network Lutherans Restoring Creation CA Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology Presbyterian Hunger Program United Church of Christ Parliament of the World’s Religions Sojourners Creation Justice Ministries
NC Interfaith Power & Light Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA) Faith in Place

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

We Hold the Earth, A Climate Blessing

Join Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light in praying the interfaith Earth Day Climate Prayer at 12noon local today. Download the prayer here http://bit.ly/earthdayprayer, and come back to FB to pray along with Rev. Susan Hendershot. Share this video with your friends and members of your congregation. Prayer transforms our hearts and opens us up to compassion. #FaithClimateActionWeek #ClimatePrayer

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Rev. Ambrose Carroll offers a prayer for Creation

Rev. Ambrose Carroll, Sr. Pastor of The Church by the Side of the Road, Berkeley, CA and Founder of Green The Church, offers a heartfelt prayer from the Eden of his own yard. #faithclimateactionweek #climateprayer

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Monday, April 20, 2020

Rev. Brooks Berndt prays Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Earth

Rev. Brooks Berndt, Environmental Minister of the United Church of Christ, prays Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Earth in honor of Interfaith Power and Light’s Faith Climate Action Week and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb Prayer for the Earth

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb prays a beautiful prayer for the Earth from the Eden of his own garden.

Posted by Interfaith Power & Light on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

on Ramadan fasting: an excerpt from “A Taste of Injustice”

An excerpt from a reflection by Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL’s Board Secretary, and a member of the Ansari Qadiri Rifai Sufi Order.

O ye who believe! Fasting (l-siyāmu) is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may be mindful/conscious of God (tattaqūna)

Qur’an 2:183

One can go to the dictionary to find out what sugar is and how it is used. That is the first (Sharia) Gateway to knowledge. One feels the inadequacy of that when one sees and handles sugar, which represents the second (tarikat) Gateway to knowledge. To actually taste sugar and to have it enter into oneself is to go one step deeper into an appreciation of its nature, and that is what is meant by (marifet) experiential knowledge. If one could go still further and become one with sugar so that they could say, “I am sugar,” that and that alone would be to know what sugar is, and that is what is involved in the final (hakikat) Gateway to knowledge.


Hajji Bektash Veli (d. 1271)

The following is a typical encounter with a non-Muslim who discovers that you are fasting for the month of Ramadan. At first there is a general reaction of incredulity – a mix of amazement and skepticism.

“You don’t eat anything?” No.

“All day from sunrise to sunset?” Well, actually we stop eating just before dawn prayer (sometimes you have to explain that dawn is before sunrise, i.e. it is the morning twilight when it begins to get light but the sun has not risen yet which adds more than an hour to the fasting day) to sunset.

“For a month?” Yup – from crescent moon to crescent moon.[1]

“You must drink water then?” Uh, no.

It is about here when the restriction of drinking water is understood, especially in the summer months with their long, hot days that a variety of responses emerge somewhere along the following spectrum:
“Bit extreme isn’t it?” or “That can’t be healthy?” or to the more sarcastic ones “Oh, that must make you very holy?” (wink wink) or ….
At first, I would explain to the person astonished by Muslim fasting practices, that Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and reading of the Qur’an, and self-restraint both physically and emotionally (it is easier to lose your temper and get annoyed with people when hungry). By the looks I get sometimes you would think I’m speaking a foreign language. I’ve had eyes roll, smirks given, and an occasional “that is very interesting” and frequent and matter-of-fact statements like “I could never do that.” However, when I mention empathy with the poor, their interest is sparked and yet I find little in the tradition that expresses the depth of that connection.

Over the years of fasting and reflecting on poverty and hunger during Ramadan, I have begun to respond to remarks like “that can’t be healthy” or “that’s a bit extreme,” with “Absolutely; It is extreme and it is not healthy.” A month of fasting can in fact have its health benefits, but prolonged and especially unwilling hunger and thirst do not. It is with the intent of making the connection between fasting and justice for the poor and hungry more clear that I write this piece called “A Taste of Injustice.” Poverty and hunger in any community is more often than not evidence of broader systemic, communal, and personal injustices that we only can address in the way of God, The Just (Al-Adl), with any lasting consequence.

Breaking the fast with dates after sunset. Image source

[1] Even if the person is Christian and may have performed a forty day Lenten fast, thirty days is little consolation especially when they learn about the part about not drinking water. 

With recognition for all the ways that climate change increases injustice and decreases food security, we give our thanks to Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL Board Secretary, for sharing this reflection as we approach the eve of Ramadan 2020.

Climate Action: What if it were easier? — Seth Bush of the Radical Support Collective

So many people wanted to be in more than one place at a time during our conference workshops, that we are inviting conference workshop leaders to contribute reflections for our blog. We hope that you will continue to engage with our workshop leaders, partners, and allies.

Climate Action: What if it were easier?

That was the title of a workshop led at the PA Interfaith Power & Light Annual Conference in Pittsburgh by Seth Bush, a coach for social change leaders working to heal the climate crisis.

And think about it for a moment, wouldn’t that be great if our work were even just a tiny bit easier?

Seth’s interactive workshop showed participants simple principles for taking climate action with ease rather than struggle, and they went home with a way to practice what they learned with their congregations.

Here’s what two participants had to say about the workshop:

“Being in Climate Justice work for the long haul can be very exhausting.   I have felt the heaviness, which is why I chose to attend Seth Bush’s workshop at our Pittsburgh PA IPL conference a few weeks ago.  I believe we need all the resources we can muster into our personal toolkits so we don’t get disheartened.  

Seth’s workshop did not disappoint.  I was able to come away with some simple, concrete steps that  I can take away to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed. One tip that I have already integrated into my daily life, thanks to Seth, is to keep a Gratitude journal.  I was not aware that the brain can’t handle anxiety and gratitude at the same time. Spending a few minutes every morning journaling has made an amazing difference in the management of the anxiety I was feeling.  

When my actions are frozen from feeling overwhelmed, another take-away from the workshop was to break a task that feels overwhelming into a smaller beginning step that I could easily accomplish so I will  be able to see a tangible result that will move me forward to the next step.

Seth’s workshop helped change my mind to see that in Crisis, there is Opportunity.  I would highly recommend his workshop.”

George Dempsie
Board member Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

“PA IPL’s workshop with Seth Bush was a huge blessing in my life. The theme of doing meaningful activism with ease rather than struggle hit a chord with me. 

Activists often feel alone in their work, especially those working in faith communities. We have such high hopes and high expectations for our communities, but are often let down as complacency and fear of change are realized. Activist minded leaders see a beautiful future, but often struggle to know the small steps necessary to bring a community of people toward those potentials. Seth helped participants recognize the small steps that can be taken with ease to work toward big goals. I’ve already begun using what I learned and am excited to celebrate the small victories that will come as our church pushes, slow as it may be, toward a much greater goal of social and environmental justice.”

John Creasy
Associate Pastor, Pittsburgh Open Door

If any of this has you thinking, “Ease? I could use some of that!”, you might be interested in joining one of Seth’s Radical Support Circles. These by-donation, “drop in” coaching groups provide a space where you can get coaching to see ways to bring ease to your climate activism (and the rest of your life) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about the Radical Support Circles here.

Or schedule a 30-minute interest chat with Seth to find out more about one-on-one coaching, group programs, and workshops.

You can read more about Seth and his work at www.radicalsupport.org/seth.

Responding to this moment

Originally shared as part of our 4th Thursday Sustained Advocacy Policy Update call on March 26, 2020)

In this moment, all of us who have been driven by deep concern for justice, who have long worked on particular issues may be feeling a bit split.  We want to respond to the immediate crisis, to be of use and to be safe; we want to do what’s needed in our own households and communities, now. And when we look a little farther ahead, we want to know that the work in which we’ve invested so much sweat and spirit will not lose ground, will not be forgotten or pushed aside when we, may it come soon, are able to spend less attention and fewer resources on distancing and protecting ourselves, and instead can re-enter the analog world with gratitude and a whoop of delight. 

We can do the first (responding to immediate need)  without sacrificing the second (progress toward climate justice).  But to do so, we may have to work differently for a time.

We must remember what we know from “normal times”: the work that we do to open people’s eyes to climate chaos, to injustices magnified and stretched by climate change, and to the vast human fingerprint (particularly the industrialized, consumer-oriented world’s fingerprint) all over that change is emotionally challenging.  This is why we work where we work: we cannot address this mess, to make the changes that we need to make, to learn new ways of living and being together, and to respond to the immediate harms and needs in front of us without faith. We need faith, spirit, and love, and we need communities of people grounded in those values, and committed to weaving the tapestry our values, ethics, commitments call for —the tapestry that our faith traditions, our scriptures, our stories, and our Wise Ones tell us is, improbably, impossibly possible.  

So instead of trying to push climate change — another world-wide chaos maker —  into the same spotlight as pandemic right now when it will simply overwhelm, we can instead focus on making sure that our community resilience responses can be supported and sustained and will continue into times of need due to heat waves, when community connectedness can be literally life-saving; into times of flood and mold, when we need to show up for one another.  We can talk about the ways that people’s responses are helping each other, connecting each other, even over distance. We can talk about the ways that the pandemic is making us aware of all the ways that other people make our communities and our lives work. We can talk about the ways in which physical isolation from one another has given us all a hunger for one another, a recognition of the surprising magnitude of the importance of incidental daily contact with other living beings.  We can talk about and make plans for building our newfound sense of interconnectedness into the world as we re-emerge. And we can make conscious plans to show up for and with the communities which keep bearing the brunt, listening to what they need right away, and also to the ways they are working to realize visions of vibrant and healthy neighborhoods. We can practice gratitude. We can reflect on our gifts and capacities. We can seek out others’ gifts, and ask about hidden gifts or hopes.  We can show up for each other in new ways, and in forgotten ways. In this time of rending, it is a time to prepare for sewing. (not-quite-Ecclesiastes

As we and our partners, congregations, and allies are all finding our feet in the shifting and unsettling new landscape of pandemic, we are

We hope you will join us.