April 2018 newsletter: Earth Day – Birth and Brokenness

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
   the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
Psalm 98:7-8

Most celebrations of Earth Day tend toward the practical, or a simple celebration of the birth of our finall-visible spring, but the widespread celebration of Earth Day is in fact rooted in the conversation between awe and grief.

Awe inspired by the 1972 image of blue marble from Apollo 17 and collective grief came with the publication of Pennsylvanian Rachel Carson’s 1968 book Silent Spring, which engaged imagination to move readers to feel the deep grief of a future foretold by then-current action and inaction.

As faith communities, on Earth Day we are called to hold these things together —this awe and this grief— for without one, the other cannot be.  If we did not love our Common Home and our neighbors, there would be no call for lament, and no need for action.  But we do.

And so for us, Earth Day is not one-off birthday celebration, but rather can be a day to celebrate and commit ourselves to work —practical and joyful work, and prayerful and grief-tender work— with and for one another throughout the year.  Some work we may take on as practical necessity, some we may take on as spiritual discipline, as a way of finding our way back into right relationship with neighbor and squirrel, stream and Source.

On this Earth day, let us seek, reveal, and feel connection with the earth and all who dwell therein.  May we continue in determined and active hope.

Celebrate Earth Day with your faith community!

Earth Day is on Sunday, April 22, 2018.
Read on for resources, and a really important poem.

Continue reading April 2018 newsletter: Earth Day – Birth and Brokenness

March newsletter: Spring showers

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains all life.
                            —Thich Nhat Hanh

Springtime is a watery time – whether spring showers, snow melt rushing into brooks, streams and rivers, fresh dew on newly plowed fields, or puddles in winter’s potholes.  We celebrate spring – arriving March 20th this year, as the vernal equinox – with these notes about Water. Continue reading March newsletter: Spring showers

February newsletter: For the love of children.

Today, on this Valentine’s day, we invite you to love the next generations.  Love them by loving their world, and also by celebrating their examples, by reading with them, studying with them, and helping them find ways to act in hope.  We’ll help with a bouquet of new resources.  Select one you like, and learn a bit more.  Continue reading February newsletter: For the love of children.

January 2018 newsletter: Greening and Growing in the Dark

Photo credit: Darlene O’Neal, Bellefonte PA

somehow, in some way,
it has managed to survive –
pampas grass in the snow

— Matsuo Bashō, 17th c, Japanese

It is winter – and it is 2018 – and so it’s understandable that we seek evidence of ‘survival,’ perhaps against all odds.  At Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light we know that surviving – even thriving– is most fully realized when we can reach for meaningful action, companions in the work, the sense of fullness that comes from prayer, ritual and meditation, and always, always, generative hope.  Here are some ways we are cultivating all of these around the state right now – we hope you’ll join in! Continue reading January 2018 newsletter: Greening and Growing in the Dark

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.


Republished email, sent Nov. 21, 2017.  Get added to our mailing list!  

Thanksgiving is our shared national holy day.  It is fitting that it is rooted in gratitude —a practice that grounds all of our faith traditions.  Refocusing ourselves there can help us drink in all that is good about this time of gathering, even as we hold and seek healing for the close-in aches of illness, loneliness, or challenging relationships and wider-circle aches of wounded communities and ecosystems that can can be especially visible in contrast.  Thanksgiving is a day when these things are juxtaposed: the bounty of the harvest, the voice of an old friend or beloved, the holes where things are not whole, and the spaces where the commercial world is banging at the door to chase us from gratitude and to acquisition.*

We invite you to join PA IPL around the table this week, too.  Enjoy your food.  Eat all the leftovers.  Then also hold a few moments or hours to get out into the slanting light of November. Go slowly.  Breathe deeply — we’re breathing with you.  Feel the solid ground holding you up.  Savor one small specific moment and share it with us, via email or on our Facebook page.  Perhaps you will make something beautiful.  Perhaps you will clear a little space for a native plant to breathe.  Perhaps you will heal a small corner of a place.  Or bless the grass.  Or laugh at an active squirrel.  When you come back indoors, share the moment, however you wish to do so — a photo, a sketch, songs or poems that you sing, or read, or write, or maybe even a 6-word story.

(The photo we’ve shared here is a grand sweep rather than a small moment.  It was taken just a few weeks ago by the Rev. John Creasy, a member of our Board, on the farm he manages on a hillside directly below a water tower right in Pittsburgh —  a gift as he was working on the harvest.)

For those of you looking for prayers of harvest or thanksgiving, in a past year we gathered a good group still collected here.  Extend the season of gratitude by printing or forwarding them, and reach for a new one each day before a meal, or as you return home.  Looking for tools for conversations instead?  We collected a few of those in a previous year, too, and just today ran into this piece about a longtime skeptic changing his mind.

*Those who were able to attend our 2017 Annual Conference got a beautiful glimpse of shared practices in the work of Joanna Macy, who always begins with gratitude. A conference statement from the program book introduces one part of her work.  More is available at The Work that Reconnects and we’d be happy to connect you with one of the many talented folks in our networks who has studied with Joanna Macy to help design a workshop in your neck of the woods.  Just ask!