Laudato Si and the Sages

Five years ago, in advance of 5776, and following the September 2015 publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (addressed to all people in advance of the United Nations meeting and the Climate March) Rabbi Daniel Swartz prepared a text study to use on Yom Kippur or any time through the year.

On Yom Kippur at the fifth anniversary of the both the encyclical and the study, we are re-publishing this resource. Find the downloadable study here, and the opening letter republished below.

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Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Shanah Tovah! As you prepare to welcome 5776, I invite you to connect with one of the most notable faith events of the year – Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just after Yom Kippur, during which he will speak about his encyclical on climate change and justice, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home. At this time of year, as we reflect on how we have treated our fellow human beings and how we might better live up to God’s expectations of us, we have a special opportunity to examine our relationship with all of God’s creation– and the Pope’s encyclical provides us with an excellent way to do just that.

To that end, I’ve selected a number of excerpts from the encyclical and paired them with Jewish sources ranging from the Tanakh, to midrashim, to Heschel, to rabbis of today. Here at Temple Hesed in Scranton, PA, I will be using this text study, “Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice,” on Yom Kippur afternoon, and we have invited the press and other faith communities as well. Please use it however it might work best for you: at High Holy Day Services, at a multi-faith gathering, at a social action weekend etc.

The texts are presented in two formats. The first is a more complete four-page selection, designed for in-depth or multi-session discussions; it can be studied in a larger group setting, in hevruta, in small groups or in some combination. The second is a single page of texts, meant to serve as a ready-made one-hour program. In both formats, I’ve included questions on each topic highlighted by the texts, as well as some summary questions. I’d love to hear how you’ve used it or if you have any questions – drop me an email.

I also hope this text study will inspire further action to combat climate change. (To help with this, some “next steps” are presented at the  end of each discussion guide) I present it in my role as board president of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, one of 40 IP&L affiliates, each of which works with communities, organizations, and individuals of faith to address climate change as a moral issue. If  you’d like to learn more about PA IPL, please feel free to email me or our Executive Director [2020 edit: Executive Director Daniel Heayn-Menendez, or rising Board President Rabbi Nathan Martin]

Lastly, I’d like to thank colleagues who reviewed this text study and made suggestions: Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein of Philly IPL, Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center.
In Hesed,
Rabbi Daniel Swartz

Before becoming the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed, Rabbi Daniel Swartz was the coordinator of Greater Washington IPL, executive director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network, Associate Director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and Congregational Relations Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he was the lead author of To Till and to Tend: a Guide to Jewish Environmental Study and Action.

Matzo Meditation — a liturgical interfaith seder at Earth Hour

This post was originally published here.  Reposted with permission
Marisa Guerin, PhD.

Original event/calendar post.  The downloadable MLK + 50 Freedom Seder created by the Shalom Center, which was a great resource in creating the Earth Hour seder.

Photos from the Seder were taken in low-light.  We are grateful to have them!  Thanks to Neysa Nevins for the visuals.

This reflection is inspired by the beautiful interfaith Seder that I participated in recently, jointly prepared and led by two women religious leaders, a rabbi and a minister (and that in itself was a gracious experience for this Catholic woman). The evening ceremony was focused on the theme of climate justice, and it was scheduled to coincide with “Earth Hour”, when electric lights around the world are turned off for one hour to shine a light on the need for climate action. The Seder was sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. In the beauty of candlelight, we commemorated the ancient traditions and living faiths of Judaism and Christianity.

During the service, Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein spoke of the symbolism of the matzo bread on each person’s plate. It is unleavened – that is, not puffed up, but plain, made with few ingredients and quickly-baked. Like our essential selves stripped of ego-puffiness, it is a bread that reminds us of what is basic and true. It is a bread of poverty, and also the bread that symbolizes freedom. It reminds us that even when what we have is humble and simple, we have enough. I could meditate on this for weeks.

Like matzo, the communion bread Continue reading Matzo Meditation — a liturgical interfaith seder at Earth Hour

Religious Leaders Condemn Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

President Trump’s announcement on June 1, 2017 that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement has inspired a diverse chorus of condemnation from religious leaders and organizations in the U.S. and across the globe. If your tradition or denomination has issued a statement that you don’t see listed below, please let us know. And if your tradition or denomination has not yet released a statement, ask your leaders to do so—and send them this page of religious statements for inspiration!

COP21Religious Statements Condemning U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

But wait…there’s more! Religious Statements in Support of Paris Agreement and/or Climate Action

Marywood University Presentation on Laudato Si

The 2015 release of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home, shifted the conversation about ecology, climate change, and environmental impacts on human communities, and emphasized our moral responsibility to care for creation. A great way to consider the teachings offered in the encyclical is to study it with a group in your community.

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Here, we offer a PowerPoint presentation about Laudato Si that was first given by Rabbi Daniel Swartz at Marywood University. Download the presentation here: Marywood Laudato Si, and the full text of the encyclical is available for download here.

Find other Laudato Si resources here, including a study guide for Yom Kippur developed by Rabbi Swartz.

 

No need to wait— the Paris Pledge

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11.

International leaders brought emissions-reduction commitments with them to this conference.  Those commitments are not yet binding, and they’re not yet enough to keep us under 2 degrees Celsius* of warming, but they’re working on it (keep those prayers flowing—they’re needed!)  We, however, don’t have to wait for an international agreement to make our own changes.  The  Paris Pledge is open to both congregations and to individuals; it is a promise to cut emissions 50% by 2030 and to zero by 2050.

Benedictines getting ready for the drive back to Erie after the Interfaith Moral Advocacy Training in Harrisburg in August 2015.
Benedictines getting ready for the drive back to Erie after the Interfaith Moral Advocacy Training in Harrisburg in August 2015.

One institution that signed on issued the press release that follows.  Thank you for your leadership, Sister Pat Lupo and the Benedictines of Erie!

NOTE: Both congregations and individuals may continue to add their commitments at the Paris Pledge website.  Signatures through last Wednesday have been added to a large scroll that is with the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham and Sister Joan Brown in Paris, which will be presented on December 11 at the conference, in the Blue Zone (that’s the zone with the international bigwigs).  Tune in tomorrow for the story of a congregation that has REACHED carbon neutral — including members’ transportation to church!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Benedictine Sisters of Erie Sign Paris Pledge

Erie, Pennsylvania – November 24, 2015 – Long known as environmental leaders in the Erie area, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie have taken a decisive step in their commitment to environmental sustainability by pledging to reduce their carbon pollution by 50% by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. They along with 150 other Religious Organizations and 3,500 individuals have signed the Paris Pledge. A scroll with the pledge and all its signers will be presented at the international climate conference being held in Paris, France over the next several weeks. It is hoped that the 150 nations represented at CPO21, the 21st “Conference of Parties” will establish internationally agreed upon targets to curb ongoing Climate Change.

The Paris Pledge was developed by Interfaith Power and Light, an organization of 18,000 religious congregations and organizations located in 40 states throughout the US. Through this pledge they intend to lead by example and clearly state that Faith Leaders in the US are committed to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the impact of human activity on Climate Change.

“Care for the earth has been integral to the Benedictine Charism since our very foundation in the 6th century,” explains Sister Anne Wambach, Prioress. “The Erie Benedictines have consciously and deliberately included this responsibility in our community’s Corporate Commitment and have taken significant steps, both as community and as individuals, to deepen our understanding and take concrete and intentional actions toward sustainable living.”

Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si`, clearly lays out the crisis that our planet faces and calls all of us, all nations, all religions, all people, to a find a common solution to Climate Change. In his words: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. . . .  Regrettably, many efforts . . . have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. . . . All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” (14)

“We urge everyone to make his/her their own commitment to reduce carbon pollution through energy conservation, purchasing electricity from a ‘green provider,’ and making use of renewable energy products and sources,” Sister Anne continued. “If we expect nations to commit to significant energy policies, then we should do so ourselves, at home, in the workplace, in our churches, and in all the places that touch our lives.”

For further information regarding the Paris Pledge and practical ways to reduce carbon pollution, please contact Annette Marshall, OSB (572-8325) or Pat Lupo, OSB (490-3108).

 

*2 degrees Celsius never sounds like much.  It’s important to realize that that’s a global average.  The 20th century global average that is the baseline against which that change is marked is 13.9 degrees Celsius.  That means that a 2C increase for the Earth is proportionally the same as a 14 F increase in body temperature (for a deadly body temp of more than 112F) for a human being.  Perspective is everything!  

Praying with Paris — in Philadelphia and Harrisburg

The Paris climate talks (the 21st such talks) began on Monday, November 30.  People around the world held vigils and marches on 11/29 and 11/30 to show our leaders that we are with them in spirit, supporting the difficult, urgent, vital work that they are engaged in.  The people’s voices —including faith voices— have been vital in getting international leaders as far along as we are.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11.

HarrisburgVigilMarch.11.29.2015In HARRISBURG, a multi-faith service hosted by Grace United Methodist Church was attended by about 120 people, and  made the evening news.  News coverage embedded at the bottom of this page (these links can expire quickly!)

Inspiring speakers included  Professor John Dernbach  (himself a Paris Summit delegate) and former PA Senator Franklin Kury (the author of Article1, Section 27 of our PA Constitution, and the recipient of our first PA IPL Visionary Award, back in 2011).   Father Jim Podlesny talked about the significance of the Pope’s encyclical and what it means for Paris.

 David Glasgow, music director of Unitarian Universalists of Cumberland Valley, provided opening music, with congregational singing of  We Would be One, This is My Song, and Blue Boat Home.    Harrisburg Drummers added color and energy.

Readings and reflections were offered by leaders from the Religion & Society Center, Baha’ís of Harrisburg, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of PA, Hadee Mosque, and PA IPL. 

The event concluded on the Capitol steps with a rousing speech by former pastor and climate activist, the Rev. Jerry Miller, along with other testimonies, more drumming, and singing of Let There Be Peace on Earth.

IMG_5098In PHILADELPHIA , PA IPL member congregation First United Methodist Church of Germantown  hosted an afternoon multi-faith vigil on Monday, 11/30.  The vigil and prayer was led by Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein, the Rev. Cheryl Pyrch, and song led by Daniella Forstater.  Participants from many local congregations, including the Sisters of St Joseph, the Germantown Jewish Centre, P’nai Or, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the Unitarian Society of Germantown, host FUMCOGSt. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, the Shalom CenterSummit Presbyterian Church, and Good Samaritan Baptist Church and more!

in PARIS
Because of the attacks in Paris last week, planned marches and outdoor gatherings were not allowed, so the Place de la Republique filled with 10,000 pairs of shoes, “marching” without their owners.  Among them: Pope Francis’ shoes, and Ban Ki Moon’s shoes.

Nearly 10,000 people linked arms to form a human chain through Paris, stretched out along about 2km of the 3 km (2 mile) route of the planned march, rather than gathered in one spot.

Religious leaders delivered a multi-faith petition signed by nearly 1.8 million yesterday, and Cristina Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, broke out into a dance with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of South Africa, who was among those delivering the signatures to the talks.

HARRISBURG Fox43 coverage: