Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022 – Session 2: “Environmental Justice”

Please join PA IPL for our 2022 zoom series, “Walking Through Life With Active Hope.” The theme of our second program is “Environmental Justice.” We will explore this topic with music, meditation, images, prayer, and Active Hope practices.

PA IPL Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022:
Walking Through Life with Active Hope
Session 2: “Environmental Justice”
Wednesday, June 22nd at 7:00pm

This Spiritual Care series provides space for our interfaith work and expressions of our traditions. Each event is designed to help us come together, reconnect, and seek hope as an interfaith community. Additionally, we will offer opportunities for PA IPL Board Members and Chapter Members to organize faith specific celebrations.

Register now and receive an email providing the Zoom link for the meeting.

Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022 – Session 1: “The Cry of the Earth”

Please join PA IPL for our 2022 zoom series, “Walking Through Life With Active Hope.” The theme of our first program is “The Cry of the Earth.” We will explore this topic using Joanna Macy’s Active Hope spiral using poetry, meditation, readings, and song.

PA IPL Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022:
Walking Through Life with Active Hope
Session 1: “The Cry of the Earth”
Wednesday, February 23rd at 7:00pm

This first session of our seasonal programs in 2022 will honor the spiritual gifts with which our creator has blessed us from the natural world. The program will include interfaith prayers, meditation, and music.

This Spiritual Care series provides space for our interfaith work and expressions of our traditions. Each event is designed to help us come together, reconnect, and seek hope as an interfaith community.

Register now and receive an email providing the Zoom link for the meeting.

Reflection on Hope

Offered by Harrisburg PA IPL chair, Rachel Mark, and member congregation Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 12/31/17

On the subject of hope, I pondered what I thought about it and how I personally relate to it. If you know me, then you would assume I was going to make a climate change connection. But everyone has heard that before. So I thought about how hope ties in to world peace, how hope relates to equality, and how it relates to any number of social justice issues. However, for me hope is deeply connected, not just with aspiration, but with action. So yes I did indeed come back to climate change.

On October 16, when I traveled to the small Susquehanna River town of Columbia in Lancaster County, with intrepid UCH member Barbara Van Horn [photo and article], I did not have a preconceived notion of what I intended to do that day. I only knew I wanted to be present with a group of people who over the course of several weeks, had inspired me with their stories, their vision and their determination. As we gathered that morning and listened to instructions, options, and possible consequences of civil disobedience, it became clear to me that I needed to stand with those in the “no trespass zone”, in the way of pipeline construction, and to risk arrest.

I felt a deep resolve to stand in support of new and old friends, who were committed to taking action against an injustice to their land and neighbors, an injustice to their children, an injustice to the climate. With this community, I have now shared a prison cell, sang songs, stood in the rain, and froze our butts, all of which has restored my energy and hope. I have discovered that where there is resolve, where there are still options and choices to be made, there is hope.

Active hope, in community with others, seems to me the healthiest and perhaps only sane way to live in the face of an uncertain and daunting future. Daunting, not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of our democracy and civilization.

Several days ago in my email box, there was a short message written by a writer familiar to many UU’s. Rebecca Solnit is an American writer whose book A Paradise Built in Hell was read by many UU circles. The email message read:

Dear Rachel,

It’s a race. And you’re in it; it’s your race too, to win or lose.

A race between the increasingly ominous news about how the climate is changing and the extraordinary measures being taken to slow that change and transform our society. That’s one of the challenges of this moment: to feel the despair and the hope, both, together. And then to choose hope.

Hope doesn’t mean pretending that climate change doesn’t exist or that we can erase it. It means we can fight for the best outcome instead of settle for the worst.

Leonard Higgins, a Unitarian Universalist from Oregon, has been convicted and faces sentencing for his involvement in pipeline action. Leonard was one of five activists, so-called Valve Turners, who turned the valves on pipelines in four northwestern states, and halted the flow of petroleum for one day. Leonard faces a prison term of up to ten years.

About hope, I think I most resonate with Emily, another one of the five valve turners. She says, “to be honest, I’m not sure what I hope for, except that humans can be as loving and sane and brave as possible in the coming decades—to each other, to the world. I look into the future, sometimes to think about how life might start to reestablish something like the abundance and magic that’s here now. “

Hope is the opposite of resignation, of giving up. It is about resolve, about looking for those actions that work to bring about our vision.

To further quote Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark:

“Hope means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action. To hope is to give yourself to the future. Anything could happen and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. I want to start over, with an imagination adequate to the possibilities, the strangeness and the dangers on this earth in this moment.”

As long as there are visions, options, and further actions to be done, there is room for action—and hope.

—Rachel Mark

More about the site and history of the pipeline protests in rural Lancaster County here. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have been leaders, as have Lancaster Against Pipelines, which is led by a Mennonite clergyperson.

Rachel appears in a photo at the Day 5 verse (that’s the Golden Rings one) of a fun 12 Days of Christmas rewrite by Lancaster Against Pipelines.

A Solstice Story

Whenever we feel pessimistic
concerning the future of humanity
upon this troubled planet,
we can always remember this:
that with all their fears and failings,
human beings have yet somehow managed
to put the brightest of their festivals
in the darkest part of the year.

When it is darkest, we celebrate the light.   [A. Powell Davies, adapted]

Rev. Alison Cornish writes:
In my years as a parish minister, I was struck by the longing that arises in so many people during this time of long shadows, short days, cold winds and bare trees.  A yearning for connection to the rhythms of nature, the simplicity of timeless stories, and a word of hope.  I searched long and hard for a solstice story to offer them – and finally wrote one myself.

And now I’m giving it to you.   I’m giving it in honor of all you’ve given to PA IPL across the years; in honor of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren; in honor of the other-than-human creatures amongst whom we live; I’m giving it to you for telling today and tomorrow; for honoring the mystery of the Earth which we share as our Common Home.  

Here is the story of Solstice Black Cat.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a black cat.  He was a black as the bottom of a coal bin, blacker than a starless sky, a jar of India ink.  Even his eyes were black.  His name? BLACK CAT!

Black Cat lived with his People in a cottage on the edge of the forest.  It was OK, but his People were old, and they worried a lot, and they didn’t play enough for Black Cat’s taste.  They fed him, and let him sleep in all the warmest and softest places in the house.  But they didn’t venture far from home.  They didn’t explore, and they didn’t seem to be very curious about the world around them.  But Black Cat was.

Sometimes Black Cat explored far from home, following his nose, and his ears, and his very sharp eyes.  But Black Cat always made it home before the darkness of night folded itself around the little cottage.  He may have been adventurous, but he still liked to be safe and warm come nighttime.

One winter’s day, Black Cat was exploring in the woods.  It was a gray day, just right for a snowfall, and he kept moving to stay warm.  One thing led to another – chasing a squirrel led to a stream, where he found icy water to drink.  Climbing a tree led his eyes to wonder what would be over that next hill, and through that grove of trees.  On and on Black Cat explored, not noticing how early the dark came in the woods.  And then, quite suddenly, he found himself in darkness, and quite a ways from home.  Black Cat began to be a little nervous.  Thoughts of dinner flashed through his growling belly, and the cold night crept into his thick fur.  Black Cat was feeling a little scared, and alone. 

Then he saw something up ahead – a light inthe dark.  He decided to investigate, very cautiously.  As he drew closer, he saw the light came from a window in a stone cottage.  It wasn’t a steady light, but the flickering light of a fire.  As he crept up onto the windowsill to peer through the glass, he saw the most amazing sight!  The room was filled with animals, all kinds and all sizes, and they were dancing together!  The flickering light came from a great stone fireplace in the middle of the room, and around and around the animals danced, Bear with Wolf, and Squirrel with Chickadee.  “How extraordinary” thought Black Cat.  And as he thought, his tail swished from side to side.  Bear, who seemed to be in charge of things at the dance, saw the movement outside the window, and went to the door to see who was there.  Black Cat shrank into the shadows, afraid of Bear’s great size, but Bear could see him even in the dark.  “Come in,” he said, “you are welcome to join us.”  Shyly, Black Cat tiptoed into the warm, bright room, and sat in the corner to watch.  He was still in awe of what was happening – all these animals?  Together?  Dancing?  It seemed too incredible!

Bear lumbered up to Black Cat, to ask him of his origins, his home, his People.  Black Cat told about himself, and then ventured a question.  “What is all this?  Why are you all here?  Why are you dancing?”  Bear solemnly replied, “Tonight is the Winter Solstice.  It is the darkest and longest night of the year, and it is the one night when all animals come together in peace to celebrate our kinship with one another.”  Black Cat was puzzled – “Why have my people never told me of this?”  His people, he thought, knew everything.  “Well,” Bear sighed, “many people have forgotten about the celebrations of the natural world.  They are so busy in their lives with other people, that they forget the ancient rhythms of the earth and the planets.  They mean no harm, but they are forgetful.”  Black Cat felt a little sad.  This seemed such a wonderful celebration, and after a while, he joined in, dancing with Mouse and Dog, as if they had been friends for life.

As the night wore into morning, and light began to appear on the horizon, the animals started back to their homes in the forest and cottages in villages.  Black Cat didn’t want to leave – he wanted to stay with his new friends.  But Bear came to him and said, “No, you must go back to your people.  They will be worried about you by now, and they need you.  You can come again next year.” “But how will I remember,” Black Cat moaned.  “I never knew about this, and you already said people forget.  How will I know?”  Bear smiled, and told Black Cat to look in the window to see his reflection.  “Do you see something different about yourself?”  Black Cat did, for where his eyes were once as black as his coat, they now glowed as yellow as the fire in the center of the cottage.  “All you will need to do,” said Bear, “is take a look at yourself, and you will remember this night.”

And off Bear went, back to his cave to sleep off the rest of the winter.  And off trotted Black Cat, back to his people.

Some people say when we look into each other’s eyes, we see windows to the soul – perhaps, just perhaps – when we look into the eyes of animals, we see the memory of the world around us, its rhythms, darks, and lights. [Cat image credit: Jirmut Center Papyrus, Egypt]

On this, the longest night and shortest day of 2017, we wish for you the remembrance of kinship with all creatures, and the possibility of peace and joy embedded in the promise of a new day.  With you, we celebrate the returning of the light, and the persistence of hope even in the darkest season.  And we thank you for your generous support of our work through all the seasons of the year.

DONATE               To support the “persistence of hope” persistently, you might consider an automatic recurring donation.  They can be made to recur monthly or quarterly, and they provide financial stability which is vital to our planning.

A gathering of snowflakes.

image source
image source

After the week we’ve had in PA, most of us are feeling pretty intimately acquainted with the weight and power of impossibly light, gentle snowflakes, gathered together.  As we’ve been mulling on the theme of Hope, it seemed timely to repost this story from a few years ago.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake” a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing” was the answer. Continue reading A gathering of snowflakes.