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.


We breathe in, and breathe out, thousands of times, every day. We don’t have to think about it.  Our bodies do it automatically.  Prompted by a complex physiology of which we might be dimly aware, our chests rise and fall – our lungs inhale and exhale, expanding and emptying – oxygen is absorbed into our bloodstream, carbon dioxide flows out of our nostrils.

As humans, we can live for quite some time without food, much less time without water; but for mere minutes without breathing.  Quite simply, it is necessary for us to breathe in order to live.

We breathe in, and out, until we don’t.  Breath is ever-present, until it isn’t.

Seared into our collective consciousness now are the last words of George Floyd, ‘I can’t breathe’ as his life was brutally ended on an ordinary day in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Just as Eric Garner’s life ended, his breath taken away. As it has been for tens of hundreds of thousands of men and women whose lives have been brutally taken from them, the same words cried out or silent.  Now those words are repeated by millions around the country who march and chant, fists raised in the air.

I can’t breathe.

Marchers wear masks, so what is breathed out doesn’t become what the person standing next to them breathes in. Because we are in the time of a pandemic, when anyone might, at any time, be contaminated; be a toxin to the stranger or lover a few inches, or feet, away. 

But you have to breathe to march and chant.  You cannot hold your breath.

Continue reading Breathe.

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.

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.