California Interfaith Power & Light held its 10th annual awards ceremony at Oakland’s Beebe Memorial Cathedral last night, and the feeling of interfaith solidarity in the room was palpable. CIPL members from Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and Unitarian communities shared food, offered prayers and celebrated climate care and advocacy work being done by congregations all over California from Humboldt County to El Cajon.
CIPL’s annual awards ceremonies are always special, but this year’s gathering came at a time when many, especially climate-minded voters, are feeling discouraged following the results of the 2016 election. Many expressed profound concern and anxiety about the state of public discourse, the rise of intolerance and the devastating implications of any weakening in U.S. climate leadership.
Attendees were encouraged to deepen their commitment to environmental justice by becoming more engaged, especially at the local level, where important climate policy and green job victories are possible. Focus on faith communities’ moral responsibility to raise consciousness about threats to the common good and to practice care for local and global neighbors was a common theme throughout the evening.
The Cool Climate Awards began with the sharing of a Sioux prayer offered in support of Standing Rock by Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll of Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley and founder of Green the Church. Emcee the Hon. Doug Linney, national IPL Board member facilitated the presentation of awards to congregations for their work in Green Building, Climate Advocacy, Climate Education, Energy Efficiency and Conservation. This year’s awards also included a Climate Luminary and Green Retreat Center. Honorees came from diverse faith traditions and from all over California. Presenters of the awards included CIPL Steering Committee members Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Executive Director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis; Juana Torres of the Sierra Club and volunteer with the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles; and G.L. Hodge, co-chair of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.
Among the highlights of the evening, one stood out in particular: the video of and words from Rev. Ken Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland. This congregation, along with numerous faith communities and organizations, engaged in an historic two-year struggle that ultimately defeated a proposal to bring coal from Utah into an export terminal in Oakland. The defeat of this project was more than just one regional success; it epitomized the local and global demand for climate justice and a just transition to clean energy. West Side Missionary, along with many other East Bay CIPL member congregations are continuing to work together for green jobs and climate resilient communities. In accepting the award for Climate Advocacy, Rev. Chambers stated, “West Side Baptist Church was a vessel to be used but the campaign would not have happened without everyone that played a part.” Referencing the broadly shared feelings of post-election uncertainty, he added, “In lieu of our present, political dynamics, if we ever worked together before, we surely must work together now.”