If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

Coming Soon: Presentations in Fort Worth and Dallas on Creating Local, Interfaith Eco-Networks

Texas is a big state! In order to provide an effective religious response to our environmental challenges, we need local teams on the ground in cities and regions across the state. Texas Interfaith Power & Light (TXIPL) supports the development of local, interfaith environmental networks—and is coming to Fort Worth on March 5th and Dallas on March 6th to begin conversations there.

Over the last 18 months, Interfaith Environmental Network (IEN) – the Austin Chapter of TXIPL – has really taken off, creating a workable model that we believe can be replicated in other areas of the state. When we come to Fort Worth, Dallas, and possibly other cities soon, we will share IEN’s story—and then focus on the needs and interests of your community and explore how we can work together to create an effective local network.

Please be part of the conversation! Come to the meeting in Fort Worth on March 5th, or Dallas on March 6th. Invite others from your religious community to attend with you. RSVP for either meeting by e-mailing Amanda.

If you live in another city or region and would like to schedule a visit, please send us an e-mail or call us at 512-472-3903.

To learn more about why we think these local networks are so important, read this.

For detailed information about the upcoming presentations in Fort Worth and Dallas--including language you can use in newsletters, bulletins, and e-mail messages--visit the event pages on our site:

Fort Worth Information Page                   Dallas Information Page

You can also view the facebook event pages, and be sure to invite your friends:

Fort Worth facebook event                      Dallas facebook event

 

How to Start a Green Team in Your Congregation: Notes from TXIPL's January 2012 Conference Call

January's interfaith environmental conference call featured a presentation by Robin Nelson, Environmental Stewardship Manager of the Unitarian Universalist Association, on the topic of "How to Start a Green Team in Your Congregation." The conversation this topic generated on our call was fantastic! In case you missed it, here are some ways to learn more:

  • You can download the mp3 recording of the call here.
  • Resources mentioned on the call by Kerry Stevens, including a PowerPoint presentation and a collection of Biblical scriptures about caring for Creation, can be found here.
  • Notes from Robin Nelson about her presentation are below. Thank you, Robin!

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Texas Interfaith Power and Light

“How to Start a Green Team in your Congregation” – presentation
Robin Nelson, Environmental Stewardship Manager, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has a specific program that provides the framework for congregations to begin specific projects and activities that lead to recognition as a Green Sanctuary through candidacy and then accreditation.

The Green Sanctuary program invites congregations to:

• Build awareness of the significance and complexity of environmental issues.
• Encourage personal lifestyle changes.
• Engage in community action on environmental issues.
• Strengthen the connection between spiritual practice and Earth consciousness.
• Work to heal environmental injustices.
 
“The formation of a Green Committee was the spark that set into motion a wide range of
progressive environmental movements within the church.” – Unitarian Church of Charleston, South Carolina

Steps to starting a Green Team in your house of worship:

1.     Develop interest
2.     Invite team members to join
3.     Form a charter/purpose/mission
4.     Involve the faith community

1. Develop interest:

·      What spiritual guidance does your denomination give around the environment?  Feel free to quote scripture. Explain how being good environmental stewards helps you live out your beliefs.

·      Potential money saving with energy improvements.

·      Strengthen your community: you will take actions that are designed to bring your congregation together. Worshiping together, learning together, solving problems, and creating something new as a community; discussing, debating, even arguing (respectfully, of course) to arrive at collective decisions; putting your time, energy, and skills to work for a better world--these practices reinforce the bonds that hold your congregation together and strengthen your capacity to change.

·      Collaboration: Networks, coalitions, alliances, and myriad other groups are forming and evolving all over the world to address the environmental crisis. The experience of the effectiveness of collaborative relationships and the hope that emerges when you know you’re not alone. The work gives us satisfaction, but the relationships bring us joy.

2. Invite Members to join the team:

·      Formally invite folks who are current or past members of relevant committees, such as religious education, worship, communications, building and grounds, finance, hospitality, or social justice.

·      Make sure you invite people with great networking skills or a special knack for synthesizing different viewpoints and seeing the “big picture.”

·      Members need to have enough diversity of experience in congregational life to connect with the entire congregation.

3. Form a charter/purpose/mission for the team:

·      A well-written charter or purpose statement clarifies that the role of this team is to organize and facilitate the work.

·      The entire community, not the team alone, is responsible for being engaged in environmental work.

·      The team leads the effort by conducting the assessment, planning projects, providing resources and logistical support, and communicating with other leaders and staff.

·      A key role of the team is to encourage participation in the program. In a sense, they are the congregation’s environmental cheerleaders.

4. Involve the faith community:

·      Hold information sessions to talk with the community about what the Green Team is doing and how others can be involved.

·      Invite feedback and suggestions for projects from the community.

·      Work collaboratively with other committees and staff.

Resources:

UU Ministry for Earth http://www.uuministryforearth.org/

Contact Information:

Robin Nelson, rnelson@uua.org
Environmental Stewardship Manager, Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA  02108

(Photo "Earth Hour 2010" by User Cornelia Kopp used under a Creative Commons-Attribution License.)

Faith Stands Behind President on Keystone XL Decision

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., January 18, 2012 — President Obama has just announced his decision against the issuance of a special permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. What follows is a reaction by Interfaith Power & Light’s President, The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham:

“Interfaith Power & Light applauds President Obama for demonstrating leadership in deciding against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. His actions today will help to ensure a clean, healthy and safe world for our children. Transporting dirty tar sands oil through the heartland of America will unnecessarily risk catastrophic damage to ecosystems and aquifers that millions of people depend upon for their livelihood. People of faith are called to be good stewards of God’s Creation, and to love our neighbors and take care of the vulnerable among us.

“For months, faith leaders have been speaking out against the Keystone XL pipeline at State Department hearings and in letters to the Administration and Congress. It is of great concern that Keystone 1 has had many more leaks than expected, and the 1 million gallon tar sands oil spill into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 was a national tragedy. An EPA spokesperson said he has never seen anything like it – a heavy crude mixed with chemicals that sinks instead of floats, greatly hampering the multi-year clean-up effort.

“Our nation is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution. According to a Brookings[1] report released in 2011, more than 2.7 million people are working in the U.S. clean energy economy right now. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that in 2011, America surged ahead of China[2] on clean energy investments. The new proposed fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks will save 2.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2025 – about double the amount the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have delivered, and without the risk. 

“People of faith strongly believe that we need an urgent response to the climate crisis through continued implementation of better clean air safeguards, construction of a renewable energy grid, and more robust energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. The Keystone XL would only slow the pace of this clean energy transition, continue with business worse than usual, and hasten global warming. We can and must model a way forward for the world, create jobs, and care for God's Creation. Thank you Mr. President for making the right and moral choice to set us in that direction.”


[1] Brookings, Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment, http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2011/0713_clean_economy.aspx (July 2011)

[2] Bloomberg New Energy Finance Statement, http://bloom.bg/yK10VN

Interfaith Community is United in Support of EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Safeguards

Statement by Interfaith Power & Light President, The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., December 21, 2011 — The EPA has just announced that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been finalized. What follows is the reaction of Interfaith Power & Light's President, The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham:

“This is good news for the religious community across America. The finalization of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards shows us that the 40-year old Clean Air Act is still an invaluable tool to carry out our call to be stewards of God’s Creation and to serve the least among us.

“Clean air is something people of faith have a responsibility to maintain. Thousands of clergy and communities of faith representing Interfaith Power & Light’s network of 14,000 congregations turned out at public hearings or wrote postcards to the EPA urging them to adopt these safeguards. We are delighted that our voices have been heard. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are long overdue, and we commend this Administration for making clean air a priority. These safeguards are an important and critical step in reducing harmful pollution and protecting human health. Not only will they keep us healthier, but additionally they will help to stabilize the climate that we most certainly need to protect.

“Addressing emissions of mercury and other toxics will help prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 asthma events every year. These safeguards will mean significantly less human exposure to toxic mercury, whichposes particular risks to children. Each year, more than 300,000 children born in the U.S. have levels of mercury in their blood high enough to impair performance on brain development tests and permanently affect intelligence. The finalization of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is welcome news and upholds the commandment to love God and love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor means extending care and concern for our children and future generations who have, as yet, no voice of their own. We applaud you, Administrator Jackson and President Obama, for doing the right and moral thing.”

For more information about the EPA's new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, click here.


January Interfaith Environmental Conference Call: How to Start a Green Team in Your Congregation

Our first interfaith environmental conference call of 2012 is scheduled for Wednesday, January 25th at 12:00 p.m. For this call, we are excited to have Robin Nelson, Environmental Stewardship Manager for the Unitarian Universalist Association, as our guest presenter. In honor of a new year and new possibilities, Robin will give us some tips on "How to Start a Green Team in Your Congregation."

And if your congregation already has a green team, we hope you'll join the conversation to lend some of your expertise, too. As always, we will have some time for callers to ask questions, share ideas and connect!

January Interfaith Environmental Conference Call

     Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

     Dial-in number: (712) 432-3066 

     Conference Code: 424548

To RSVP for the call, receive a copy of the call's agenda or request notes from the call, please e-mail Amanda. Feel free to invite others to participate!

In our monthly environmental calls, we seek to connect faith leaders around the state who are engaged in the work of caring for Creation; provide updates about environmental legislation and advocacy opportunities; keep you current on new programs and initiatives; and create a space for sharing hopes and frustrations, plans and ideas, stories and prayers.

(Photo "Earth Hour 2010" by User Cornelia Kopp used under a Creative Commons-Attribution License.)

Sign Up for the 2012 National Preach-In on Global Warming

This year's National Preach-In on Global Warming will be over Valentine’s Day weekend, February 10-12, 2012. Clergy of all religions, lay leaders, and green team members from across the country are invited to participate, and when you sign up to preach, teach, or host an event, we'll make a variety of support resources available in January, including:

  • Denomination-specific liturgical and thematic notes to help in the preparation of sermons, reflections, devotionals, Bible studies, and youth activities
  • Ready-to-go sample sermons on global warming
  • Global warming fact sheet and bulletin inserts
  • Valentine’s Day postcards for policy makers
  • Preaching for the Planet 30-minute film in DVD format

All materials are free-of-charge to those who wish to give a sermon or hold an activity. Download the Preach-In on Global Warming Flyer to print and share with others.

The Olive Trees and the Menorah: A Chanukah Teaching on Sustainability from Rabbi Neal Katz

The Chanukah menorah is a variation of the classic menorah—which traditionally only has seven branches. The nine-branch Chanukah menorah was designed to accommodate the eight day celebration of the festival, but the seven-branch version was the original biblical design. In the book of Exodus, and elsewhere in the Torah, we find repeated commandments to build a seven-branch candelabrum with very specific design instructions, including special floral patterns and cups that had to be beaten into the all-gold menorah.  The menorah would stand in the desert tabernacle, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.
 
On the Shabbat during Chanukah, we read a special haftarah, or prophetic reading, that comes from the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah is prophesying in the newly reconstituted land of Israel soon after the exiles from Babylon returned. He was one of the voices that spurred the community to rebuild the second Temple in Jerusalem. In the Chanukah haftarah reading, Zechariah has a vision of the menorah that will be rebuilt for the new Temple—only in his vision, he sees something different than in the original design. In his vision, he sees that there will be two olive trees flanking the menorahone on the left, and one on the right. 
 
Traditional commentators have understood that these olive trees on either side of this menorah would ultimately produce the oil that would feed the menorah’s light. It was to be a self sustained little ecosystem of olive trees producing oil for the menorah that would stay lit from that very oil. One of the ways to understand this wonderful vision, is to meditate on that symbiotic relationship between the menorah and the olive trees. Just as the olive trees need light and warmth to grow, the menorah needs oil to burn so that it can produce light and warmth and feed the world with spiritual light. These two items, the olive trees and menorah, are in a mutually beneficial relationship with one anotheras they each gain from the other’s strength. 
 
What a wonderful holiday messagethat as we give of ourselves to support our family and friends and communityas we kindle the flames of their spirit, they in turn, will nourish us. 
 
L’shalom - to peace,
Rabbi Neal Katz
 
I would like to thank Rabbi Arthur Waskow from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia who taught me this wonderful take on the olive trees and the menorah.
 
Submitted by Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El, Tyler, Texas.

The Holy Land Garden and the Headwaters Sanctuary, San Antonio: A Guest Blog from Sister Martha Ann Kirk

One does not save what one does not love. To save God’s creation, we need to help the younger generation fall in love with its beauty. The ecological problems of over consumption and destruction of the environment cannot be solved by science alone. They demand spiritualties of recognizing the common humanity of the other and putting the common good before one’s selfish interests. At the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, the Holy Land Garden, a place of common ground, is used to invite students and all to deeper spirituality.

UIW may be the only place in the world that has plants from the Holy Scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam together with citations. These scriptures invite people to plant and enjoy the fruits of the earth together rather than build instruments of destruction. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:3-4).  

Also at UIW, the Headwaters Sanctuary is one of the last undeveloped forests in San Antonio and it includes 53 acres adjoining the campus. Within this urban wild space is the San Antonio Spring and Olmos Creek which are the headwaters of the San Antonio River. The Headwaters Coalition is a non-profit sponsored ministry of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, dedicated to preserving the Headwaters Sanctuary and spreading an ecological ethic. The Headwaters Sanctuary offers holistic education that teaches visitors the importance of caring for the earth and gives them tools to do so.

Submitted by Sister Martha Ann Kirk, Th.D. Professor of Religious Studies, University of the Incarnate Word

COP 17 - International Climate Talks in Durban: Information & Religious Resources

Government leaders, scientists, lobbyists, activists, and yes--religious leaders--are meeting in Durban, South Africa from November 28 - December 10, 2011 for international climate negotiations. On this page, we've collected links to information about the conference and the issues, as well as news about how people of faith are involved.

If you have stories you'd like for us to include, please send us an e-mail!

 

Information about COP 17

Religious News and Resources

Self-Sustaining Advent Calendar from Earth Ministry

The 2011 Self-Sustaining Advent Calendar from Earth Ministry, home of Washington Interfaith Power & Light, is now available! On the calendar, you'll find one tip for each day that will help decrease stress and increase meaningful celebration this holiday season.

Click here to download the calendar as a pdf. Happy holidays!

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Photo by Jennifer Spengler (Attribution via Flickr, Creative Commons)

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