Climate Action: What if it were easier? — Seth Bush of the Radical Support Collective

So many people wanted to be in more than one place at a time during our conference workshops, that we are inviting conference workshop leaders to contribute reflections for our blog. We hope that you will continue to engage with our workshop leaders, partners, and allies.

Climate Action: What if it were easier?

That was the title of a workshop led at the PA Interfaith Power & Light Annual Conference in Pittsburgh by Seth Bush, a coach for social change leaders working to heal the climate crisis.

And think about it for a moment, wouldn’t that be great if our work were even just a tiny bit easier?

Seth’s interactive workshop showed participants simple principles for taking climate action with ease rather than struggle, and they went home with a way to practice what they learned with their congregations.

Here’s what two participants had to say about the workshop:

“Being in Climate Justice work for the long haul can be very exhausting.   I have felt the heaviness, which is why I chose to attend Seth Bush’s workshop at our Pittsburgh PA IPL conference a few weeks ago.  I believe we need all the resources we can muster into our personal toolkits so we don’t get disheartened.  

Seth’s workshop did not disappoint.  I was able to come away with some simple, concrete steps that  I can take away to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed. One tip that I have already integrated into my daily life, thanks to Seth, is to keep a Gratitude journal.  I was not aware that the brain can’t handle anxiety and gratitude at the same time. Spending a few minutes every morning journaling has made an amazing difference in the management of the anxiety I was feeling.  

When my actions are frozen from feeling overwhelmed, another take-away from the workshop was to break a task that feels overwhelming into a smaller beginning step that I could easily accomplish so I will  be able to see a tangible result that will move me forward to the next step.

Seth’s workshop helped change my mind to see that in Crisis, there is Opportunity.  I would highly recommend his workshop.”

George Dempsie
Board member Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

“PA IPL’s workshop with Seth Bush was a huge blessing in my life. The theme of doing meaningful activism with ease rather than struggle hit a chord with me. 

Activists often feel alone in their work, especially those working in faith communities. We have such high hopes and high expectations for our communities, but are often let down as complacency and fear of change are realized. Activist minded leaders see a beautiful future, but often struggle to know the small steps necessary to bring a community of people toward those potentials. Seth helped participants recognize the small steps that can be taken with ease to work toward big goals. I’ve already begun using what I learned and am excited to celebrate the small victories that will come as our church pushes, slow as it may be, toward a much greater goal of social and environmental justice.”

John Creasy
Associate Pastor, Pittsburgh Open Door

If any of this has you thinking, “Ease? I could use some of that!”, you might be interested in joining one of Seth’s Radical Support Circles. These by-donation, “drop in” coaching groups provide a space where you can get coaching to see ways to bring ease to your climate activism (and the rest of your life) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about the Radical Support Circles here.

Or schedule a 30-minute interest chat with Seth to find out more about one-on-one coaching, group programs, and workshops.

You can read more about Seth and his work at

Conference breakout workshop preview: Civic engagement and watershed conservation (Scranton)

Have you seen the amazing workshops that will be part of our February 9th conference?

This is one of the breakout workshops planned for our Scranton location. Register now for the Scranton of The Long Journey: from Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future.

The Scranton conference will be at the IHM Center, 1512 University Ave., Dunmore, PA 18509. The center is adjacent to the Marywood University campus. For GPS or Google Maps, use N41.43381 W75.63615 with the address, or these directions will get you there from any direction.

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Lackawanna Watershed Conservation Corps: Our Common Home, and Opportunities for Community Involvement
Bernie McGurl, LRCA

With a wealth of native, historical knowledge, Bernie McGurl will present the state of the Lackawanna Watershed followed by pragmatic stewardship opportunities that all inhabitants of Northeastern PA can enjoy. He will also introduce the Lackawanna Watershed Conservation Corps, a new initiative that will allow local people, businesses, and government to find common ground with their neighbors and safeguard their waterways. 

Bernie McGurl is a fourth generation native of the Lackawanna Valley.  Though he worked for many years in railroad and construction, most know him through the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA), where he has served variously as  co-founder, Board President, and Executive Director.  He also serves as a board member of regional organizations including United Neighborhood Centers, The Rail Trail Council of NEPA and the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR).

Bernie helped  establish the Lackawanna Valley Conservancy (LVC), which created a land trust in the Lackawanna Watershed, and also leads brownfield remediation work to restore damaged lands for recreation, conservation, and economic reuse.

In 2020, Bernie is leading LRCA work to develop Watershed Conservation and Greenway Trail plans along two critical Lackawanna River tributary streams, Leggett’s Creek and Roaring Brook. Both initiatives involve community volunteers to help implement the plans over the next 20 years.   Mr. McGurl may be contacted at the LRCA: 570-347-6311 or

There are three workshops per location. Find everything you need to know about the conference here.

Register for the Scranton location now.

Conference breakout workshop preview: Drawdown (Scranton)

Have you seen the amazing workshops that will be part of our February 9th conference?

This is one of the breakout workshops planned for our Scranton location. Register now for the Scranton conference-The Long Journey: from Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future.

The Scranton conference will be at the IHM Center, 1512 University Ave., Dunmore, PA 18509. The center is adjacent to the Marywood University campus. For GPS or Google Maps, use N41.43381 W75.63615 with the address, or these directions will get you there from any direction.

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Drawdown: Two perspectives on this hope-filled work and what it offers  

The solutions-focused, research-driven possibilities presented in Drawdown (“the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” ) has captured both of your workshop leaders.  They are ready to share the resource and ways that individuals and communities may engage with it and  act on some of the top 100 solutions. While Drawdown is a secular resource, we will include connectivity points — places where the work can be drawn into and supported by to liturgy, prayer, moral imagination, and beloved community.

Greg Williams early career was teaching children about the natural world in California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. His “retirement career” of habitat restoration allows him to care for the earth, make a better world for his grand kids, and get to know the natural world even better. His gloves-on work with other people out in the air, land, and water of our Common Home keeps him going when he is doing other kinds of climate justice work.   Greg has served on the PA IPL Board for the last four years (including a term as Board President).  He currently lives in rural Williamsburg, PA, in Blair County.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz serves as the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed of Scranton  and as the Executive Director of the Coalition on Jewish Life and the Environment (COEJL).  He has a long history of leadership at the intersection of faith, climate justice and care of our Common Home.  He is the lead author and editor of To Till and to Tend:  A Guide to Jewish Environmental Study and Action.  His comparison of classical Jewish texts with sections of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si , “Laudato Si and the Sages,” has been used in congregations around the globe.Daniel served on the PA IPL Board for many years, including a term as Board President.

There are three workshops per location. Find everything you need to know about the conference here.

Register for the Scranton location now.

Gathering to share warmth and light- PA IPL at the Winter Solstice

December 21, 2019
Winter Solstice

It was the longest night. People gathered from near and far, in small groups and large,
to share their fears and grief and the darkness in their hearts. A year like no other, this was, 
Testing us beyond what we’d ever imagined.
Day after day, week after week, we found ourselves growing and becoming sturdy because there was no other choice.
And the solstice fire was lit and the candles passed and the light of the new year’s dawning lifted our heavy hearts and brought us brightness and hope.
— The Longest Night, Julie Middleton

Over eons, as we have insulated ourselves from the natural world, it has ceased to mystify or worry us in the way it did our ancient ancestors; it also ceases to amaze us nearly as often.  
In letting the solstice pass by, we do more than leave behind some of our ancient history.  We also turn our backs on the season of winter. The media portrays the winter season as an enemy to be feared, fought and defeated.  Winter, we are told, is to be endured. Yet in wishing away the season of winter, we also wish away the time when we humans might view the world from a different perspective, even marvel at its mysteries, and re-awaken our quiet awe.  

Once in our collective history the winter solstice was a time when ordinary people gathered in the dim and dark.  They came together for support, and for comfort. “And then the Solstice fire was lit and the candles passed and the light of the new year’s dawning lifted our heavy hearts and brought us brightness and hope.”  Might this solstice be a marker of winter within as well as without — a time to gather, to hold the memories of all our human forbearers who faced the dark places in their own lives and the larger dangers of their time in history? 
May their commitment to follow the light be the spark to our own hopes today!

As we seek to gather our lights in the darkness, to nurture the Spark, we hope you will mark your calendar to join with us in community

  • Our conference The Long Journey: From Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future takes place on Sunday afternoon, February 9th, in Scranton, Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia.  
    Learn more and register.
  • A “bookgroup plus” — a series of virtual workshops will allow participants to share and experience resources from The Work That Reconnects.  This series of six, 75-minute virtual, participatory workshops will take place on Tuesday evenings from January through March.  The virtual workshops will draw on the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy
    Learn more and register.

Gather with us, and welcome the returning light,

links and resources from Facing the Climate Crisis: Called to Save our Sacred Home.

Our 2018 statewide Annual Conference Facing the Climate Crisis: Called to Save our Sacred Common Home was a wonderful conference, beautifully planned, filled with deeply generous leadership and participation.  It was also in Pittsburgh, on October 27, 2018, the day of the hate-motivated killings at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.  The terrible news broke just as the first people were arriving. Most people heard the news at the conference. We made space for prayers together, and songs and prayers already planned took on different significance.  A few were unable to be there. Those who were gathered found comfort in the chance to be in a community of caring.  By the time we adjourned, thanks to the strength of the Pittsburgh networks present, people left with times and places for multiple vigils and services over the next three days.

We will continue to share resources from the day here as they are shared with us.  We are so grateful to the volunteers, leaders, speakers, musicians,  sponsors and attendees who made it all possible.


Rev. David Carlisle had to miss the conference to be fully present for a family emergency; Rabbi Ron Symons was called to respond to the shootings.

workshops and workshop leaders

Workshops and workshop leaders are all cross-linked on our Annual Conference page.  When “portable” materials are generously shared with us, we will share them with you — though they certainly will be pale compared to the richness of the interaction, leadership, and community of the in-person workshops.

PA IPL’s 2018 Visionary Award to Dr. Patricia DeMarco was beautifully received by Mark Dixon and Kirsi Jansa, who delivered the plaque and award citation to her after the conference.  We are delighted that Patty’s treatments have been successful, and she is now focused on regaining her remarkable energy.

These sponsors helped make the day possible
business sponsors

faith community sponsors

Gathering and break times were enriched by the presence of many allies at information tables.

Our delicious vegetarian lunch was from Baby Loves Tacos, and the amazing apples we snacked on were Stayman Winesaps from Penns Corner Farm Alliance.

Program book ads also helped underwrite the conference, and lift up the work of friends and allies.  Thank you.


Decluttering (and de-stressing) Christmas

Yes, we know it’s July 25! We’re choosing to publish this today — “Christmas in July” at many Christian summer camps— as a way of connecting other Christians with this wonderful piece well in advance of  Advent 2018, giving everyone time to plan!  

Author Kathryn Lewis is a member of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ Climate Action Team.  She led the Decluttering Christmas event on Saturday, November 11, 2017.

Decluttering Christmas
I’m dreaming of a stress-free Christmas…

By Kathryn Lewis
So many of us are ready to simplify the way we celebrate Christmas with our families and friends. We’re ready to declutter our homes and our lives. We recognize that most of us have enough ‘stuff’- probably too much stuff – in a world where so many don’t have enough. Many feel anxiety and even dread as we contemplate shopping (and inevitably overspending) as we try to find gifts and things to make our loved ones happy. We’re also aware that the stuff we buy will probably soon be forgotten and eventually make its way to our overflowing landfills.

Since the Middle Ages, celebrations of Christmas outside the church have always had an element of abandon and “blowout”. But the Christmas of abundant gifts, decorated trees, and Santa Claus which most Americans associate with the holiday wasn’t part of our collective culture until right after the Civil War. The rise of department stores and advertising, the proliferation of catalogues and the availability of so many new manufactured goods in the early twentieth century ushered in a brand new era of consumerism in America.

In his book Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas renowned environmental advocate, Bill McKibben says that Christmas was always celebrated in a way that met the needs of people in the time they found themselves. In a country where many people were just starting to hope for a more comfortable and affluent way of life, the acquisition of things and the gift giving at Christmas could create a childlike happiness. Through the mid century, people who’d had nothing in the depression or barely survived the war were thrilled to be able to give their children what they’d never had and to give themselves what they’d never thought possible. But McKibben points out that we live now in very different times and lots of gift buying no longer meets our deepest needs and longings.

In our workshop we shared some of our favorite childhood Christmas memories. Almost all were activities and fun shared with family and neighbors: caroling, the maybe rare experience of a parent’s undivided attention, multiple generations baking and cooking together or telling stories or sharing the beauty of nature and the magic of church on Christmas Eve. We contemplated the lives we live now and explored what traditions and rituals we wanted to include in our celebration of Christmas even as we diminish the ritual of buying lots of presents

Some of the rituals are fun and create joy and connection with our families and friends. Others give us space for much needed quiet and time for reverence.

Lighting the Darkness

Everyone – especially kids – love candles this time of year. Candles are also important symbolic accessories to our Christian rituals.

In one Celtic solstice ritual, a holly twig is burned to symbolize the habits and sorrows one is ready to let go of. Then an oak twig is burned to symbolize the hope one has for the future.

Make or purchase an Advent Wreath. The four colored candles around the wreath symbolize hope, peace, joy and love. The ritual of lighting a new candle each week in Advent gives families an opportunity to reflect and respond together. For instance, lighting the peace candle could lead to talking about war and its impact on people’s lives. A family might then look for ways to help a local refugee family displaced by violence. What other ways can you and your families respond to each week’s theme?

Consider a candle and lantern-lit Solstice Walk on Thursday, December 21. Only a few days after a new moon, there should be very little light from the moon to block your view of the stars. This is also a great opportunity to perk up your ears and listen for any local owls.

Nature’s Bounty

Another beautiful ritual to share with family on Christmas Eve is to scatter seeds and crumbs outside. St. Francis started the tradition so that even the animals and birds would have time off from hunting to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

A nature walk in a park or preserve on Christmas day is an opportunity to experience gratitude for the beauty of our earth and say a prayer of protection for all living things.

The Five Senses

The best Christmas traditions awaken all of our senses. Baking cookies with family and friends or making favorite ethnic foods also produces wonderful gifts to share with others. Children will remember the fun of delivering food gifts to neighbors, those in need, or people who have made a difference throughout the year.

Christmas has been celebrated with music and instruments and traditional songs throughout the centuries. Children love to hear and sing carols and many people describe a caroling party as their favorite Christmas memory. The more bells and banjos and guitars played the better. Check in with your local churches and music organizations for seasonal offerings. Many, especially the church-sponsored events, are of charge and rife with opportunities to joyfully connect with our neighbors.

When the music is sung in hospitals and institutions where people are alone it is a true gift.

Rethinking Gifts

Everyone loves a present and there are so many alternative gift ideas that might be more appreciated than a store bought thing in the Age of Clutter.

Give family and friends coupons for your time and/or expertise: It could be the gift of a backrub, a few hours of babysitting, or a week worth of dinners prepared and delivered.

Give the offer to help them for an entire morning or afternoon. Don’t forget to wrap it up with ribbon, because presentation is important!

A collective longing new to our era is for some time that is device free and unplugged. When we play with our children or have a conversation with someone we give the gift of our full and undistracted presence.

Give a donation in their name to a cause that you know is important to them.

If your family wants to exchange objects, you can always suggest that that you all set a limit on how much to collectively spend. In his book, Bill McKibben describes how much fun his family has and how creative they can get with their $100 family limit.

You can also draw names so that everyone (even the little ones) has one person to find a gift for. And set a limit —maybe $10 or maybe $20— to be spent on the gift. This limit fuels real creativity. Thrift and second-hand stores have wonderful treasures and everything’s reused.


When we’re freed from the need to shop for lots of gifts, we have the time to share experiences. Cook a soup dinner with the family or friends and invite neighbors you don’t know very well to share your meal. Go to museums, take the train to the city to look at the lights, have lunch with a friend you’ve been missing, or visit someone you know is alone or is having a hard time.

Enrich the World Community

With the money you’ve saved by simplifying gift giving, you and your family can also experience the joy of talking about and giving generously to the charities you most want to support.

A Blessing for Simplicity

This traditional Celtic blessing captures the spirit of the simple (uncluttered) Christmas that so many of us are ready to make a new tradition.

The light of the Christmas star to you,
The warmth of home and hearth to you,
The cheer and good will of friends to you,
The hope of a childlike heart to you,
The joy of a thousand angels to you,
The love of the son, and God’s peace to you.    

(Traditional Celtic Blessing)