March 2020-The Cusp of Springtime

This was first published as March 2020 newsletter.  Now that we have fully entered this time of COVID-19, we trust that our members will use resources responsibly — virtually, in-household , or much later. As you will see in other posts, the newsletter included March and April events, an action idea, and a review of our February Annual ConferenceWe will be adding virtual connecting points and more.

The Cusp of Springtime

Although some would say there was no real winter in 2019-2020, nonetheless, the calendar heralds a change in the season.  Thoughts of springtime fuel our March newsletter’s opportunities, and yet we pause first to take in all that is alive and churning within us – and the myriad ways we are called to respond.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

(The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995)

Please join others around the state as we honor all the ways there are to ‘kneel and kiss the ground.’

Earth Hour

Have you made plans to host, or attend, an Earth Hour gathering?  It’s not too late! 
Since 2007, people around the world have paused on a Saturday close to the Spring Equinox – this year March 28th – to ‘power down’ and turn off the lights from 8:30-9:30 pm local time.  PA IPL encourages and supports all kinds of Earth Hour gatherings — concerts, house parties, vigils, and celebrations – all opportunities to show reverence for our planet.   Two special celebrations in Philadelphia and State College are fundraisers for PA IPL, helping us continue our programming, keeping it affordable and accessible. 

Bike Trip

NOW is the time for interested cyclists and volunteers to sign up for the 2020 Bike Trip.  We are seeking riders from several locations around the state, particularly Philadelphia, State College, and Harrisburg for the new Capital-to-Capital ride, our annual ‘minimal carbon’ event delivering a message directly to elected officials. This year’s trip takes place May 15-19, with a launch overnight on May 14.  If you know someone who might be interested in riding, or in supporting the riders, please encourage them to join us! Potential cyclists and volunteers can access a recording of the informational webinar; we’re asking for cyclist registration and commitments by March 31st.
Would your business, foundation, community group, or congregation like to sponsor the bike trip? Pass this information on by sharing this newsletter, or this 1/2 page print sheet.
PS – watch for the 2020 supporters’ prayer project which is forthcoming!

Faith Climate Action Week 

Congregations around the country are gearing up for Faith Climate Action Week April 17-26. This annual “week” of action organized by Interfaith Power & Light calls faith communities to preach, teach, and act for the climate.  This year’s theme is Love Made Visible, and includes activities around tree planting, art, and activism or civic engagement rooted in love.  There are downloadable resources, or you can order a print kit for a small fee.
This year’s suggested film is The Human Elementby filmmaker James Balog, who also made the powerful and beautiful film Chasing Ice.

Earth Day

The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is on April 22nd.  The theme is Climate Action, and the day handily falls immediately before the Ecumenical Advocacy Days sponsored by the Council of Churches, which is also climate-themed this year

Engaging Active Hope

With more coverage of the growing phenomena of climate anxiety and despair, we are offering more opportunities to gather to strengthen our spirits and resolve.  We are just wrapping up our first Engaging Active Hope Virtual Workshop, and are about to offer an in-person workshop in Philadelphia. Would your congregation, school or organization like to host an in-person or online workshop?
Please be in touch.

Cyclist Registration for 2020 Bike Trip

For the moment, our plans are on hold.  We will review the situation with our volunteers, leaders, and hosts and update this page on April 10th. 

It’s still a good idea to register or email (see below) as a way to let us know you may be interested in riding or volunteering.  We will be sure to be in touch directly with those who do.  

This year, PA IPL is trying a Capital-to-Capital ride (Harrisburg, PA to Washington, DC) taking place May 15th-19th, 2020.  The ride will begin with an overnight just outside of Harrisburg on the night of Thursday, May 14th, and will end with many riders making visits to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 19th.

Interested and potential cyclists can learn more about the 2020 bike trip here and request a recording of the 2020 interest webinar that shares details about the bike trip for cyclists and supporters.

To register as a cyclist for the upcoming bike trip, please complete the registration form.

Registration is open now thru March 31st.

If you have any questions, please contact Rabbi Nathan Martin.

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

View the PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly episode Religion and the Environment, aired April 19, 2013 (featuring the cyclists both on their bicycles and cleaned up in the halls of Congress).

Want to see Interfaith Power & Light founder Rev. Canon Sally Bingham’s extended interview?  It’s online over at PBS, too, as is the extended interviews with Sarah Jawaid, and Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb.

Before you head out to the wider ‘net, scroll down to see the elevation change pictures from the cyclists, thanks to Dave Hunter’s nifty GPS watch.   The first-day ride was a little longer than it appears — he forgot to start the watch until the end of the community ride.

Continue reading Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

Bike blog 2013.6: Hill Visits

Bike blog 2013.6 – final installment 

It is good to be back in State College, where spring comes at a more normal pace. It was 92 degrees yesterday in Washington as we walked the halls of Congress, and it seemed that the cherry trees that had only just blossomed were already losing their beauty in the hot breeze. 
This was my second time visiting our Congressional representatives, and I absolutely recommend that everyone go to Washington to do this at least once in your life! Dan Tomaso (Ray’s grad student who drove the van down from State College to transport the tandem back home) came along for some of the visits and said afterwards that he came away feeling much better about his government than he ever had before. 
I understand what he means. Our Congressional representatives may seem far away, but I really get the sense that the whole place is designed to provide access to any citizen who makes the effort. All the office buildings are open to the public, and the security lines were better than most airports. Every office door says: “please enter” and when we did, a receptionist was always friendly and happy to help. 
Cricket made all of our appointments in advance, and when she writes and asks for an appointment to talk about climate change (not everyone’s favorite subject), they carve out some space in their busy schedules. Generally, this means 15 minutes with a legislative aide, but sometimes it’s more. 
We separated into three teams: Jess and Hannah met with aides to both our senators, and they were very solicitous of Hannah. When she brought out the more than 100 prayers and drawings she had collected, they were delighted, even making copies of several for their own records. The PBS cameras were right there to record the moment as well. 
I was with Ray and Dan, and our most surprising meeting was with Jordan Clark, chief of staff for Rep. Glenn Thompson, Republican for PA-5. Rep. Thompson is my representative, so I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak with someone in the office. 
A few things about this visit were unusual. In the past, we have spoken with John Busovsky, a staffer who specializes in energy issues – John joined the meeting, but it was Clark who controlled it. Also, meetings are often in cramped quarters, even out in the hall, but Clark sat us down in GT’s own spacious office. Finally, meetings are usually quick and intense, but we sat and discussed the issues for over an hour. 
True to what I had heard about him, Clark is a tough old politico: he had no interest in our bike trip or Hannah’s letters; he feigned ignorance about climate science and tried to goad Ray and me into arguments over alternative energy and carbon taxes. He was playing with us to see what we were made of. 
Far too much happened during that meeting to record here, but about 30 minutes in there was a palpable shift in his tone. I guess he realized that we were serious about finding truly pragmatic solutions to this civilization-challenging crisis. He emphasized his own concern for the poor and for the environment, and invoked his Catholic faith. He seemed genuinely interested in our energy efficiency programs (especially our cooperative venture with Interfaith Human Services) and even offered that at some point, perhaps “GT” (Rep. Thompson) could even help us with an insulation project. 
This sort of shift is precisely what I was hoping for. I am convinced that climate change is too big a problem to be caught up in partisan politics. All parties have to be involved in the solution, and there are many ways that we can work together, at least on some short-term solutions. 
As we now settle (or rather crash) back into our normal lives, my thoughts turn to the members of our immediate families who kept things running for us while we were away: Barb, Jean, Jim and Louise, and Paula. I know I speak for everyone when I say that this trip would not have happened without your support – thank you! 


Finally, I want personally to thank my fellow cyclists: Andy, Dave, Hannah, Jess and Ray. You were terrific, and your good humor in the face of small adversities was very much appreciated! I can’t imagine a nicer group of people to spend five days with. 
See you all next year! 
(to see my whole blog, click here
(to see Hannah’s blog, click here

Bike Blog 2013.6: Maryland

WE MADE IT! We all arrived, safe and sound. What an exhilarating trip. From Joyce’s gourmet breakfast to our interviews with a national program for PBS, to the heroes’ welcome at Gallaudet, it’s definitely a day I will never forget. 

We started the day with lots of coffee and animated conversation with Joyce and Dave over a breakfast of eggs benedict, asparagus and hollandaise sauce (I had seconds). Jess and Hannah soon arrived and gradually we made our way over to the Café 107, where we met with some local high school students on their lunch break. After hugs and pictures, Joyce took off in her Chevy Volt and we got back on the bikes. 

It was an easy ride down to the tow path, and for the next four hours or so we rode along and enjoyed the scenery. I was particularly delighted when, just around the stunning Great Falls of the Potomac, my old friend from high school Bill Luecke showed up. Bill is a materials engineer with the National Bureau of Standards and something of a biking fanatic. We caught up on each others’ lives (after probably 25 years) while riding along with the crew – oh, and the blue herons, turtles, vultures and lots of gnats that accompanied our ride. 

There’s nothing quite so spectacular as arriving in Washington, DC from the Potomac. The city hits you first with its brawn: huge bridges, overpasses, concrete embankments. Then, very quickly, you spy the towers of Georgetown, the Kennedy Center, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It is amazing and kind of awe-inspiring. 

In between riding and talking with Bill, I was also on the phone, trying to arrange our meet up with the camera crew from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a PBS production. They were doing a piece on Sally Bingham, the founder of Interfaith Power & Light, and got wind of our tour.  Much to our delight (and the camera crew’s dismay), the cherry blossoms were in full, glorious bloom. This meant that traffic was snarled, and (after a few missteps) we finally found one another at the Jefferson memorial. 

Camera takes, film footage, interviews and such took about 2 hours in the blazing heat. We had all run out of water and were pretty tired. But everyone soldiered through with good (enough) humor. Plus, with those gorgeous cherry blossoms and our main task accomplished (we did it!), it was hard not to be psyched. The craziest thing was when the camera man grabbed Hannah’s seat on the tandem and told Jesse to ride around so he could film on the bike – wild! 

Then, we made the last, final trek up the mall to Gallaudet – 4 miles and no biggie, so you would think. But while our bodies were holding out, our bikes were not. After 200 miles, BOTH Dave and Ray got flat tires. Ray’s actually blew on the grounds of Gallaudet, so we ended up walking the last 500 feet to the Kellogg Center. Once again, though, Sally was there to welcome us, along with Cricket and many other IPL friends. Ray was moved to tears, and the six of us joined in a sweaty embrace! 

Tomorrow we head to the Hill, with many stories to share with our representatives. Thanks so very much for all your prayers and good wishes – we rode, but could not have made it without all of your support! 

(Andy, Dave, Hannah, Jess, and Ray) 

Bike Blog 2013.5: Maryland

Editors’ note: pictures will come when we get home and get them in the right format.  For now, you should be able enjoy the videos of the day posted here, and here, and here.

Day 4 (Guest blogger: Jess) It’s been like riding into springtime, each day a little warmer, a little greener.

We rolled away from our overnight stay at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in warmth and bright sunshine to an excellent breakfast with some of our new friends in Hagerstown. Rev. Tim Leighton, pastor at another United Church of Christ in Hagerstown and an avid cyclist, rode along with us, pointing out many points of interest along the way. For me, one of the blessings of this trip has been seeing something of the rich uniqueness of places like Hagerstown that I’ve only known as name on a highway sign. There is so much beauty in our country that you’ll never see from the interstate.

After a relatively short ride through the Antietam Battlefield and the town of Sharpsburg, we made a steep descent to the C&O; canal towpath for most of the day’s 57 miles of riding. The level terrain along the Potomac was a welcome change from yesterday’s hilly, wind-blasted challenge. We rode along relatively easily through the growing warmth and dappled sunshine, stopping to take in some of the stirring views of the river and some of the beautifully restored aqueducts along the canal.

There aren’t leaves on the trees yet, but wildflowers were in bloom along the trail. The most alarming moment of the day came after stopping in the small town of Brunswick for lunch at a charming local place called Sloppy Tacos. Andy had been having increasing trouble working the gears on his bike for the last two days, and he discovered that his rear gear cassette was actually coming loose – a problem we were not going to be able to solve with the few basic tools we are carrying along even if we could figure out how. We saw that there was a local bike shop – Three Points Cycle – just across the street from the taqueria, and Andy brought his bike over to see if there was anything that could be done. The owner fixed it up in 15 minutes for free.

That was the second time a great local bike shop bailed us out on this trip. In Huntingdon, Jon discovered that his chain had actually chewed through his front derailleur cage. The owner of Rothrock Outfitters in Huntingdon fixed that up in a half hour, charging only $12 for the part. These local bike shops are such a great resource – support them with your business! I’d also like to mention how thankful we are for our own great local shop in State College, Freeze-Thaw Cycles, for its generous support of PA IPL.

We ended the day’s ride by climbing up out of the Potomac valley to Poolesville, MD to the home of Joyce Breiner and Dave Yaney, some friends of PA-IPL that Jon made on last year’s ride (Hannah and I will be staying with Laurie and Brian Hundertmark; Laurie is the daughter of Barb and John Fisher – members of Grace Lutheran in State College). We had wonderful meal out on the back deck, enjoying the warm evening air, the wonderful food, the funny, passionate conversation ranging widely over our experiences and aspirations working for a greener world. Sitting there, it was easy to believe that spring had finally arrived, and that another, more just, more sustainable world is coming.

Of course it is. You can’t hold back the spring.
 Jess (and the gang)