Sunday, 27 June 2010

Interfaith Power and Light -- by Elaine Emmi

Elaine Emmi
Interfaith Power and Light does interfaith environmental action. To join it is a logical step for many Friends, and may become an important form of outreach for Quaker Earthcare Witness, to people of other faiths engaged in earth care.

I first heard about it when I asked Ruah Swennerfelt of QEW to present to the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable. I asked her how people of faith might turn their concerns into action.

At the same time I learned that Rev. Sally Bingham was coming to Salt Lake City to speak to the Episcopalians. So we asked her to speak to the interfaith roundtable as well. It was the best attended meeting they ever had, so we created Utah Interfaith Power and Light as an offshoot of the roundtable, which had just obtained 501(c)(3) status. We shared it through a DBA filing. A year later we got our own 501(c)(3).

"Jesus was an active person. Praying about clean water and air is fine. But taking action to make sure that the air and water are clean, that’s where we put our faith into action." -- Reverend Sally Bingham, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

When we started, we asked the LDS (Mormon) representatives on Roundtable if they could be involved. They said, yes, as long as UIPL is not political. But education and outreach are "policy" and that is okay. Also we found that the outreach could include letters to politicians stating concerns, as long as we do not tell them how to vote. We also suggested in newsletters and emails that if they so desired they could sign onto this but it was not required as part of Utah Interfaith Power and Light. We take small steps, one at a time that everybody is comfortable with. Since we started we've gotten a little more political. We publish a monthly newsletter, The Light Pages, with news items (about COP-15 for instance), state and national updates, and invitations to write to Congress. We posted Sara Wolcott's blog from Copenhagen. Our website has in-depth material additional to what you find in the newsletter.

Doing an energy audit: photo by Leah Hogsten

What does Utah Interfaith Power and Light do? It is a religious response to climate change, but it's also a continuous worshipful reflection on the connections between spirituality and reverence for life on Earth. That's one of the most important things we do, helping all the faith communities make that connection. We do energy audits in churches, mosques, and temples. Our director will preach a sermon, or present a PowerPoint on earth spirituality. We also offer materials that help faiths in their explorations: "Sunday" school curricula, postings on the website, a lending library of books and videos. When a faith community joins they get a packet with a reading list, and a 90 minute video DVD, Renewal. [8 parts, also available on Youtube]

One of the most meaningful things Quakers can do in their own region is get involved. It's not only a means of personal transformation, but of action. One of the major reasons I became a Quaker was in order to be faithful seven days a week, not just on Sunday. As I became involved with interfaith work and regional health issues I found it very fulfilling. And in my own region there are specific issues that touch people of all faiths. Salt Lake City last year had the worst air quality in the USA. And currently we are still in shock from our own oil spill catastrophe - which happens to be in my neighborhood. The need to reduce the need for fossil fuels is even more imperative.
See also the national site, Sally Bingham videos and her blog, formerly IPLog. now called The Regeneration Project. Mormon proposals for greening churches, interfaith videos from Powering a Nation.

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