Report on the Climate Change, Faith and Action Workshop at St. James

January 12, 2012
Steven Chase
Keene Transition Movement's Community Website and Blog

This past Sunday, Transition Keene Task Force member Steve Chase and Antioch professor Polly Chandler co-facilitated a community interfaith conversation at St. James Episcopal Church on “Climate Change, Faith, and Action.” This local event was co-sponsored by the Transition Keene Task Force, the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church, and the St. James Episcopal Church. Attenders also included people from the Keene United Church of Christ, Keene Friends Meeting, Putney Friends Meeting, and Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro.

Over 40 people from these six congregations showed up and took the opportunity to talk deeply with each other about their worries and concerns about the increasing impacts of climate change, their visions and hopes for a sustainable future, and what they and their congregations are currently doing–or could be doing to support positive climate action, help build community resilience, and tackle sustainability efforts as one of the key moral questions of our time–and a core element of our many faith traditions.

As Steve Chase noted, Quakers like himself are inspired by the three great loves shared by all faithful and prophetic Jews and Christians: 1) love of God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength, 2) love of neighbors, including one’s enemies, and 3) love of God’s good earth. Many other participants agreed that these three great loves were at the core of their faith journeys and traditions as well. Indeed, almost everyone in attendance raised their hands when asked if in their deepest heart of hearts they wanted to live in a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling.

After watching a short video segment of the interfaith environmental movie Renewal on the creation and spread of Interfaith Power and Light, a national religious coalition focused on taking action for climate justice and sustainability, Polly Chandler facilitated a process of small group discussions about how the congregations represented could expand their sustainability ministry and further innovative action and practices in their homes, congregations, and in the wider community. Polly asked people to think about easier, technical fixes as well as deeper and more creative cultural shifts and adaptions within their congregations. In the report back, many innovative ideas were shared, from the simple to the more challenging. Among the ideas floated was the idea of organizing a Keene Interfaith Power and Light chapter to keep pushing for these deep spiritual and practical conversations and helping area religious congregations become strong community leaders in addressing climate change.

I hope other attenders will write in comments to this post and share their high points and inspirations from the day.

Also, anyone who is interested in setting up a Keene Interfaith Power and Light chapter can–for now–contact Steve Chase of the Transition Keene Task Force, Putney Friends Meeting, and Quakers In Transition.

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