July 2020 Newsletter-Join PA IPL this month and next

This post contains part 2 of our July 2020 newsletter. Part 1 is Executive Director Alison Cornish’s departing letter, offering encouragement, gratitude, and celebration.

  • Sustained Advocacy Policy Update calls happen on 4th Thursdays, 12:30-1:30.  Summaries come out about a week later and include positive news, a discussion hook (for policymakers, friends, family, or congregational study groups), a federal and a state action item, some background to keep current and build your base of knowledge, and our closing prayer or meditation. You need not attend the live call to get (and use!) the summary Sign up here.
  • Our celebration of connection, action, and hope, Stories from the Road, debuts
  • August 1st (Lammas Day), and concludes September 1st (World Day of Prayer for Creation) with a live (online) celebration.
  • National IPL board member, the Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, will speak at the funeral of Rev. C.T. Vivian at Providence Baptist Church in Atlanta on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:55 a.m. People in PA IPL’s networks are invited to view the livestream either at the PMBC Website or the PMBC YouTube channel.
  • Watch a film, and make a discussion group date with friends or family.
    • Cooked: Survival by Zipcode is available to view via PBS’s Independent Lens, and is relevant in this time of heat emergency.
    • Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek  — watch the video with an individual or a congregational “ticket” August 2-4, then tune in for the panel discussion on August 5.
    • We are working on distribution permissions for a 30 min film with Pennsylvania connections: Unbreathable: The Fight for Heathy Air.  Watch the trailer now, and watch for opportunities next month.

We are here to abet creation and to witness to it, to notice each other’s beautiful face and complex nature so that creation need not play to an empty house.
-Annie Dillard

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.