Faith groups responded to the historic, and for many unexpected, milestone of a potential breakthrough on climate legislation . . . with a mixture of joy, shock and cautious optimism after years of prayer and advocacy.
Join us The Temple for Understanding and the Marble Collegiate Church in collaboration to offer a multifaith climate + prayer created by others on October 16 and 17. The events are free with registration.
The Forum2020 gathering “Science, Spirituality, the Climate Emergency and Our Future” on Friday, October 16th, from 10:00am-1:00pm, consists of three 30-minute panels. Speakers and panelists are listed here, including The Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light (national).
The multifaith prayer service will take place Saturday morning, October 17th from 10am-11:30am, with “prayers, affirmations and contemplations offered by Indigenous and world religious leaders and sacred music by renown international artists including Yungchen Lhamo, Samir Chatterjee and Steve Gorn, Marble Collegiate Church Choir, Marble Collegiate Church Gospel Choir.”
This week Ray Najjar, a 2013 cyclist and Professor of Oceanography at Penn State University shares his story from the road as he reflects on some highlights from his trip and also on the fragility of our oceans and the communities at their edges. and the need to take action on climate change — and he offers hope from other environmental crises we have faced. Listen to Ray’s reflections:
Two ways to respond to climate change: adapt, and mitigate.
Adapt:prepare for challenging climate impacts now and in future. In this week when thousands of communities are under flood watch, flood warning, or under water, check your home’s Flood Factor. Find out where climate-intensified torrential rains cause problems in your area. Flood Factor is a free online tool created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation that makes it easy for Americans to finally find their property’s current and future risk of flooding, learn if it has flooded in the past, and understand how flood risks are changing because of the environment.
Do you have boil-water advisories after strong storms? Many Pennsylvania communities do. Are there wet basement problems? How does that impact people’s insurance rates, or indoor air quality due to mold? These burdens are not borne equally. Is your neighborhood OK, but adjacent to one that floods? Who lives where? As we look at bigger storms, did you know that homeowners have access to recovery funds that are inaccessible to renters? What can you do? Ask your municipality about rain gardens, bioswales, and other adaptation efforts. Can you participate, spread the word, or help? Can your congregation?
Mitigate: cut climate-changing pollution. Households and houses of worship can use the Cool Congregations Calculator tool to see their baseline emissions and set reduction goals. You start with your zip code, so the results are shaped around data from your area. Congregations can get certified as a Cool Congregation, or share their stories for an annual Challenge — a contest to inspire others, and maybe even win a prize!
Want to motivate own household and a small group of friends to cut climate changing pollution, and model a potential carbon policy at the same time? You might consider a Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness.
Turn to prayer:
Please hold PA IPL and all who are working toward climate justice in your prayers through the week.
In 2019, PA IPL supporters “paved the cyclists’ way with prayer,” submitting original prayers, poems and artwork to express the deep faith that underlies their commitment to climate justice and care. The cyclists shared a compilation of these prayers with elected officials in Washington, as part of their advocacy conversations. Each week we are featuring a different prayer from the collection. This week’s prayer was written by a member of the Philadelphia chapter of PA IPL.
Two Ways to Get your Donation Matched!
Supporters of PA IPL’s Stories from the Road Campaign have two ways to see their contributions matched! A group of generous donors has created a matching fund of up to $4,000, doubling the contribution impact of one-time givers during the August campaign. Those who make a three-year pledge will have their first year of donation matched through our For the Long Haul campaign. These opportunities come with immense gratitude for the generous people seeding our growing organization’s fundraising efforts.
Stories from the Road: Celebrating the Journey Zoom event, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.
On Sep. 1, we’ll culminate our campaign with a live zoom-based Stories from the Road Celebration, featuring live music, prayer, storytelling, a chance to share your own stories of climate work with people throughout the state, and a chance to meet our brand new Executive Director, David Heayn-Menendez The event is free with a donation during Stories from the Road. Additional tickets can be purchased for $10. Spaces are limited, so donate now!
This week, listen as IPL founder, the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, reflects on greeting the 2013 group of PA IPL cyclists on the day they arrived in Washington DC, and what their ride meant to those who had gathered from all over the country to learn and advocate as part of IPL’s annual National Conference.
Listen to Sally’s reflection here…
Other voices from the road: “A bridge issue, not a wedge issue”
Resist contributing to the waste being produced at this time by disposable masks, gloves, grocery bags. Sew masks, use reusable bags where they are allowed. And live in a way that respects and protects the life around you.
Connect with people that give you hope. For people living alone, like herself, she suggests getting off the computer and picking up the telephone to spend time with family and friends.
Sally says she takes long walks outside to restore her soul. “It gives me the hope I need to get through all of this,” she says.
And if you’re finding yourself stuck at home, take the time to read about climate change and, listen to podcasts. Sally recommends the weekly podcast Outrage + Optimism, co-hosted by Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, and Paul Dickinson.
Turn to Prayer
In 2019 PA IPL supporters “paved the cyclists’ way with prayer”, submitting original prayers, poems and artwork to express the deep faith that underlies their commitment to climate justice and care. The cyclists shared a compilation of these prayers with elected officials in Washington, as part of their advocacy conversations. Each week we’ll feature a different prayer from the collection.
We ask that you hold PA IPL and the work of climate justice and care in your prayers through the week.
Creator God, in this very divisive time, let us all work together to protect our Common Home. Open the hearts, eyes, and minds of those who do not see or care to see the damage we have done to your wonderful gift, the Earth. You have given us the knowledge in recent years to understand how we can better care for our planet. Forgive us when greed and fear get in the way of us moving ahead to cleaner sources of energy. Give us all the courage to do the right thing. Amen. —George Dempsie, Huntingdon, PA, board member, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
Save the date— Stories from the Road Live Celebration, Sept. 1
On Sep. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, we’ll culminate our campaign with a live zoom-based Stories from the Road Celebration, featuring live music, prayer, storytelling, and a chance to share your own stories of climate work with people throughout the state.
The event is free with a donation to PA IPL during the Stories from the Road campaign (June through August) Additional tickets can be purchased for $10. Seating is limited, so donate now!
One time…before there were any people walking around this valley there were bear people. They had an agreement with the salmon people. The salmon would come upriver every fall and the bears would acknowledge this and take what they needed. This is the way it was with everything. Everyone lived by certain agreements and courtesies.
But the salmon people and the bear people had made no agreement with the river. It had been overlooked. No one thought it was even necessary. Well, it was. One fall the river pulled itself back into the shore trees and wouldn’t let the salmon enter from the ocean. Whenever they would try, the river would pull back and leave the salmon stranded on the beach.
There was a long argument, a lot of talk. Finally the river let the salmon enter. But when the salmon got up into the country where the bears lived the river began to run in two directions at once, north on one side, south on the other, roaring, heaving, white water, and rolling big boulders up on the banks.
Then the river was suddenly still. The salmon were afraid to move. The bears were standing behind the trees, looking out. The river said in the middle of all this silence that there had to be an agreement. No one could just do something, whatever they wanted. You couldn’t just take someone for granted.
So for several days they spoke about it. The salmon said who they were and where they came from, and the bears spoke about what they did, what powers they had been given, and the river spoke about its agreement with the rain and the wind and the crayfish and so on. Everybody said what they needed and what they would give away.
Then a very odd thing happened—the river said it loved the salmon. No one had ever said anything like this before. No one had taken this chance. It was an honesty that pleased everyone. It made for a very deep agreement among them. Well they were able to reach an understanding about their obligations to each other and everyone went (their) way. This remains unchanged. Time has nothing to do with this. This is not a story. When you feel the river shuddering against your legs, you are feeling the presence of all these agreements.
— Barry Lopez “The Agreement”
Reading: “Earth Teach Me” from the Ute Indians
Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light. Earth teach me suffering as old stones suffer with memory. Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning. Earth teach me caring as the mother who secures her young. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands alone. Earth teach me limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground. Earth teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring. Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me to remember kindness as dry fields weep with rain.
—from the Ute Indians
Meditation: “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars
of light, are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is
nameless now. Every year everything I have ever learned
in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side
is salvation, whose meaning none of us will ever know. To live in this world
you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it
against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
— Mary Oliver “In Blackwater Woods”
Reading: excerpts from “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold, 1948
On a land ethic Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land. Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen and by innumerable physical gadgets. He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a “scenic” area, his is bored stiff. If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals. In short, land is something he has “outgrown.”
The case for a land ethic would appear hopeless but for the minority which is in obvious revolt against these “modern” trends. The ‘key-log’ which must be moved to release the evolutionary process for an ethic is simply this: Quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
The evolution of a land ethic is an intellectual as well as emotional process. Conservation is paved with good intentions which prove to be futile, or even dangerous, because they are devoid of critical understanding either of the land or of economic land-use. I think it is a truism that as the ethical frontier advances from the individual to the community, its intellectual content increases.
The mechanism of operation is the same for any ethic: social approbation for right actions; social disapproval for wrong actions. By and large, our present problem is one of attitudes and implements.”
— Aldo Leopold, excerpted from “A Sand County Almanac,” 1948
Sermon: Love Thy Nature
The Rev. Alison M. Cornish As I was meditating on the theme of today’s service, and the musical offerings and readings selected by the Green Sanctuary Committee, a vivid childhood experience came rushing back to me.
was perhaps 9 years old, visiting a zoo with my mother and some friends, and watching
a dolphin cavorting in a deep pool; sleek and lithe, moving through the water
the way I dreamed I, too, would love to – arcing up and slicing through the
clear waves it was making for itself.
a zoo worker talked about the animals.
Looking down into the water, I noticed some pennies at the bottom of the
pool – as is so common in fountains and ‘wishing pools.’
dug a penny out of my pocket, and tossed it into the pool, watching it flutter
down through the water. Suddenly the zoo
worker was yelling –at me – scolding me in front of everyone.
a stupid, dangerous thing to do he shouted.
That dolphin thinks you just threw some food, and is likely to choke on
what you just thoughtlessly threw in the water.
I felt myself turn red and hot. I was as embarrassed at being called out
in front of others as for having done something wrong. Others had done what I had – there were lots
of pennies on the bottom of the pool, but I was the one who got caught. I remember walking slowly away, tears brimming
and cheeks burning, and – perhaps the worst feeling of all – unable to undo
what I had done.
forward a few years. Now I’m an adolescent, again on a family outing, this time
at an aquarium. Again, we stopped to
watch the dolphins swimming about. No
zoo worker this time – instead, there was an interpretive panel mounted on the
railing by the pool, showing a picture of one of the aquarium’s dolphins taken during
an autopsy, its intestine filled with – pennies, made bright and shiny by the
animal’s stomach acid. The grisly display was clearly intended to stop people –
people like me – from throwing pennies into the dolphin’s pool. As I looked at the picture, my heart sank,
and my stomach twisted. This wasn’t ‘my’
dolphin – I hadn’t thrown a penny into this particular pool – but … it could
have been. It might have been.
tell you this not as a personal confession, or as a glimpse of me as a flawed
human being capable of making egregious mistakes, although it is both. This story rose into my consciousness – and
my conscience – in contemplating today’s theme – Love Thy Nature, I think, for a couple of reasons. The memory suggests to me a more apt name for
today’s service is ‘Love Thy Nature’2 – that is, ‘Love Thy Nature Squared’ – because there are really two
‘natures’ we need to love – the nature seen in that glorious dolphin – as well
as in the transient world Mary Oliver describes – and our own human nature –
us, the often exasperatingly wrongheaded beings we are. Love for these two ‘natures, are two
different tasks; but, I believe both are necessary and critical to our
survival, as well as the survival of those with whom we share this planet. And the stakes are high – for if we fail, we
stand to lose both ourselves, and this precious place we call Home.
morning’s reading from Aldo Leopold, written in 1948, is but one plea from a
long line of philosophers, conservationists, theologians, and yes, even
musicians, who decry the separation between humans and the natural world – and
the consequences of that separation. “Your true modern is separated from the
land by many middlemen and by innumerable physical gadgets…
have] no vital relation to it …” Leopold laments. “They paved paradise, and put up a parking
lot,” sings Joni Mitchell. Barbara
Kingsolver writes, “We have a habit of naming a new development for what we
just cut down and bulldozed – ‘Hidden Valley Condominiums’ – Whispering Pines
Resort.’” I imagine you, like me, are
sympathetic to their cries, and share their sadness of losing what we love – a
hallowed place, a habitat teeming with life.
Most of us would like to see more open land preserved from development –
most of us see real value in animal and plant species having unpolluted, undisturbed,
land to call their own, to live unfettered and free lives. And most of us are all too familiar with the
forces set on pushing ‘nature’ further away, to the edges of our towns, and our
consciousness. And, most of us are not
as connected to the world of nature as we could – or – should be.
moving to Philadelphia, my husband and I lived for 27 years on the east end of
Long Island. We were blessed to have a
house fronting directly on a saltwater creek, which led out to a bay, bordered
by a wildlife refuge, and a county park.
At this time of year, osprey would return from their winter homes in
Florida, their distinctive chirp announcing their presence. As the creek water warmed, so did the
turtles, who floated to the surface from their winter quarters in the mud. Geese hatched goslings in the reeds. We were surrounded by the rhythms and
cadences of nature because they were literally in our front yard.
in the city is an altogether different enterprise. Nature exists in the interstices – between
pavement and steel and the machinations of human invention. Tree roots explode through concrete
sidewalks. Birds nest in rowhouse gutters.
Cherry blossoms float down the river, swirling around plastic
I want to say is – while it was easy to be aware
of the natural world when it was everywhere around us, it was also frighteningly easy to take it for granted, to become
inured to its astonishing richness. Finding nature in the city is more like a
scavenger hunt – there if you look for it, precious and remarkable in its
tenacity. But here’s an uncomfortable
truth: in either place – surrounded by
close-by trees and water and marshland, or the carved-up gridded cityscape – to
truly be in touch with nature, and to allow nature to touch us, requires
acts of intentionality on our part.
Because whether we are habituated to its presence, or too busy to search
out its slim existence, it has become entirely possible to live out the daily
patterns of our human lives in ways that
touch – us to nature, and nature to us – simply does not happen.
about it – reaching for the shrink-wrapped chicken or fish in the grocery
store’s refrigerated case – do you remember it once breathed the same air we
do? What about that carton of almond beverage squeezed from nuts fed by California’s
water ‘borrowed’ from the future?
on a pair of jeans, do we think about the fabric’s fibers spun from countless
cotton bolls, grown and harvested under the relentless sun? The metals in the battery that powers my
smartphone – do I picture them mined in far-away Congo?
separation I’m describing may not look exactly like the mindlessness of my
penny tossed into the dolphin’s pool all those years ago; but the consequences
are similarly dire – though magnified by multitudes. When we have eyes only for the human-made
products of our world, it
is so easy to simply not even see the
rest of the world – the plants, animals, seeds, minerals; the rivers, salmon
and bears; the insects, soil and compost for next year’s crops. And
what we don’t see, we can’t love. And what we don’t love, we can’t save.
as there has been a steady flow of those who call out our separation from
nature, there has been another, more recent stream of thinking about the human
species’ place in the world: that it’s just a matter of time before the
conditions set in motion by the agricultural and industrial revolutions
manifest a world that is simply impossible for us to live in – and, so goes
this line of thought, the world will be better off without us. Without human activity that pollutes and
destroys, endangered species pushed to the edges of extinction will rebound,
habitats will be restored, and the natural order will be returned, as enemy
number one – us – fades away into history.
cannot analyze how realistic this scenario is – or isn’t. But I am sympathetic to those who are drawn
to it, and hold it. The condition of the
world is grim, and the cause of that
condition is us. We
drive the cars, cut down the trees, and build pipelines so oil and gas can snake
across the countryside. We destroy intentionally, and
unintentionally. We preference our own needs above the health of the air, water, and
soil needed by all that lives. Even if we wish it were different, we are
embedded in a system built on a foundation of ‘humans first,’ voraciously fed
by resources taken for our own needs.
will admit, there are days when I wish, fervently, that I was other than human,
just to separate myself from the species most responsible for this desecration
and destruction. But we – humans, that is – are here. And we have a
purpose in being here. To me, that
purpose is not to find new and creative ways to exploit and plunder the gifts
that surround us, and on which we and all life depend. Our call now is to claim and use the unique
gifts of our species – that which makes us special – to do what we can – and
must – that which no other species can.
dear friend, John Andrews, wrote beautifully about this, ruminating on why
humans are necessary:
We [humans] have subjective, conscious experience – the greenness of grass, the tinkle of bells, the smell of a rose, the pleasure of sex, the pain of torture, the joy of human bonding, the anguish of loss, the “aha” experience when we solve a difficult puzzle. Equally special, we are able to pursue goals that go beyond mere self-preservation.
People may differ on whether there are other beings that share our gifts of consciousness and purpose. … Do some of our cousins among the animals qualify? Perhaps dolphins create ballets and symphonies that we don’t yet appreciate… if there is any other class of purposeful, sentient beings you think might exist, [think now of] them …
Because the next thing I want you to do is imagine a universe in which there are no such beings. Such a world would be empty of meaning – no joy, no awe, no hope, no love.
In such a world – however vast, however complex, however charged with energy – nothing would matter. It is we – perhaps together with other beings of similar or greater capacity – who lend importance to events. We are indeed the measure of all things. We can comprehend the awesomeness of the cosmos, the delightful intricacy of a flower. We can transcend our selfish genes. We can seek, we can approach, we can even, perhaps, sometimes attain the true, the beautiful, and the good. Therein lies our dignity.
— John Andrews
description of the role of humans carrying the consciousness of creation
reminds me of the words of Annie Dillard found in our hymnal – “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.”
called out human’s unique role in being conscious; I would add to the “specialness”
of the human species – conscience. Again,
our knowledge may be limited, but as far as we know, we are the only species
that has a sense of moral awareness about right and wrong, of understanding
what is actually our responsibility, and the impulses that move us to act. This, too, is a special charge and position
of our species.
and conscience – these are the human endowments we must nurture and grow faster
than any other unique human quality. We
know enough about the interdependent nature of the world to know the web is in
tatters. We have collected abundant
information and developed plenty of technological expertise to solve the
problems we face. But without fully
developing human consciousness and conscience, we lack the strength and
fortitude to live up to our full humanness.
Consciousness, the direct experience of the awesomely beautiful and
complex world in which we live, leads us to love nature. Conscience, to enliven us so that we might
act for good, leads us to love ourselves.
We need generous helpings of both – consciousness and conscience – to love
our way into the times ahead.
The world is on the brink. We are facing the pressing reality of climate change, particularly the rising surface and ocean temperatures of our planet, Earth. The cause of that warming is clear: human activities, most especially the production and combustion of carbon-based fuels, as well as agricultural activities such as factory-farming of animals and clear-cutting of rainforests. The changes wrought by rising temperatures pose a risk to humans and the multitude of ecosystems of which we are a part, and on which we depend. Climate change is real. It is here, now – not someday ‘out there.’ The changes are now in motion.
do we do?
you know there are lots of pragmatic steps each and every one of us can – and
do – take every day. We recycle. We walk or bike. We use less paper, drink tap
water, pick up litter, and eat lower on the food chain. We bring our own bags, we
take the train. We know how to do these
there’s a whole lot of space between the aspiration of our 7th
principle and the practical steps we take each day. This is the space for growth for us, so we
can face the hard tasks before us.
is the space where we must show up as the curious, creative, empathetic – and
yes, flawed – humans we are, to ‘remember who we are, to remember how we can
live.’ This is the space where the
lessons ‘earth teaches us’ become our root tradition, our primary lessons upon
which all else can be built. This is the
space where ethics are crystallized, where “a thing is right when it tends to
preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community, [and] it
is wrong when it tends otherwise.” This
is the space where the astonishing beauty of nature can break our hearts, and
disturb our consciences, so we may begin again, in love.
I will be honest: this work is not for the faint-hearted. Nor can it be done alone. It may be odd to close a sermon with the hope we each feel our hearts sink, our stomachs twist. But this is how we will answer this clarion call of our times:
Come, be fully human. You are needed.
Benediction: Excerpts from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ Land Ethic
Whereas, we Adorers of the Blood of Christ believe creation is a revelation of God, we proclaim that:
As Adorers, we honor the sacredness of all creation; we cultivate a mystical consciousness that connects us to the Holy in all of life…
As students of Earth, we listen intently to Earth’s wisdom; we respect our interconnectedness and oneness with creation and learn what Earth needs to support life…
As prophets, we reverence Earth as a sanctuary where all life is protected; we strive to establish justice and right relationships so that all creation might thrive…
As advocates of Earth, we choose simple lifestyles that avoid excessive or harmful use of natural resources; we work in solidarity with all creation for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
As companions with creation, we enjoy and share its bounty gently and reverently; we seek collaborators to help implement land use policies and practices that are in harmony with our bioregions and ecosystems.
As co-creators, we participate in God’s dream for Earth; we offer new visions and vistas that expand consciousness and encourage creative expression…
— The Adorers of the Blood of Christ The complete Land Ethic is downloadable here.