CIPL’s 20 Anniversary Celebration highlighted the people and congregations that have made a difference in the faith/ecology arena for two decades. And, though celebrated via Zoom, a great time was had by all, motivating us for the crucial work ahead in the next decade.
In a reception ahead of the main event, 2020 honorees, speakers, Steering Committee members and sponsors introduced themselves and their affiliation. Some spoke of their current work and what motivated them. The excitement of being together provided a supportive framework for people to share stories, laughter, and hopes for the future.
CIPL Steering Committee member Rabbi Marvin Goodman provided an overview of CIPL’s three-year strategic plan, which emphasizes environmental justice, quality of engagement with the faith community, and even greater advocacy for local and state climate and energy legislation. All of this work will be underpinned by a commitment to climate and racial justice, and empowering and training new voices for the climate movement. The new mission statement was highlighted – “Our mission is to inspire and mobilize individuals and communities of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change.”
The main event was truly inspiring. It started with Thrive Choir’s “Remember Me” – a call for a return to Earth that bore all of Creation and that is a living and healing environment. Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light thanked all the people and houses of worship that have engaged in efforts for a just transition to clean energy and protection of public health, especially those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The Rev. Sally Bingham, founder and past president of IPL and CIPL narrated the “Honor Roll of Congregations and Leaders”, a list of hundreds active in solar energy, energy efficiency, education, advocacy, water stewardship and climate exemplars.
Former Senator Fran Pavley gave an engaging, informative, and sometimes humorous presentation on climate and energy legislation in the last 15 years. She recalled the passage of Assembly Bill 32, in which she was the main author, and CIPL’s role in obtaining one of the last votes needed for passage. Senator Pavley mentioned that she had good training as an 8th grade teacher to manage the challenges and personalities of the California legislature, to which a response in the chatbox declared, “Amen, Fran, working with 8th graders makes you a superhero!”
Many other “superheroes” were present in the event, including those who received the 2020 awards. The award for Environmental Justice went to Bishop Ernest Jackson and Grace Tabernacle Community Church of San Francisco. From installing solar on their roof – commemorated by a Juneteenth event – to hosting a gathering of the Association of Black Cardiologists, to undertaking efforts aimed at carbon neutrality, this church understands the intimate interconnection of environmental injustice, health, and poverty. Bishop Jackson challenges everyone to take action in his statement, “From God’s creations in the North Pole to the fires here in the Bay Area, our message is to ask ‘what can we do, what can each congregation do, what can each member do?’
The award for Green Building went to Church of the Presentation in Stockton. Their impressive 535-panel solar system provides almost all of the church’s needs, which frees up much-needed funds for their many community ministries. Presentation Church understands the very real effects of regional climate change and pollution on communities in the Central Valley and has been very involved in environmental justice efforts for a decade. They are a true embodiment of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’ – Care for Our Common Home.
The award for Education & Advocacy went to Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. Greatly inspired and motived by a visit from The Rev. Sally Bingham in 2001, their Green Team has educated its members and the wider community on climate change and working solutions in a variety of ways. This includes hosting speakers like Bill McKibben, Tom Steyer, and Dr. James Hansen. They have been at the forefront of climate and energy policy advocacy for two decades, and have been faithful (pun intended) in attending CIPL’s Sacramento Advocacy days. The Green Team even has a “Rapid Responders List” for timely letter-writing and telephoning for time-sensitive campaigns – a great idea for all congregations!
After a wonderful time of encouragement, support and real camaraderie among all attendants, the final speaker, Rev. Gerald Durley, brought down the house. Rev. Durley marched with and supported Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2011; is a national leading voice for civil rights and climate justice; and is the national board chair of Interfaith Power & Light. Rev. Durley gave an enthusiastic, stirring and inspiring overview of his work with Dr. King and civil rights in the 1960’s, great leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, and his entry into climate justice with the realization that all major justice issues are related. As he spoke reassuring words of love and conviction, the chatbox filled up with enthusiastic, heart-felt praise: Amen! Hallelujah! Yes! Be ye not weary! TALK ABOUT IT! Yes we will because YES WE CAN! and With folks like you, Rev. Durley, WE WILL TURN THIS THING AROUND!
With hearts, minds, and spirits alive, the Unity Inspiration Ensemble reinforced the message of “never give up” with their rendition of “Pressing My Way” by John P. Kee.
Truly, everyone at this 20th celebration – and all who work for a healthier and more just world – have been and remain gifts for our world, exactly what is needed now and in the New Year and new decade.
Experience the magic of this celebration – links:
—20th Celebration recording (Rev. Durley’s remarks start at 44:49)
–Thrive Choir’s “Remember Me”
–Unity Inspiration Ensemble “Pressing My Way”