Houses of Worship as Resiliency Hubs in 2022!
As expected, COVID put a significant dent into events celebrating outstanding houses of worship in climate action. However, we are thrilled with the growth of Resiliency Hubs at congregations! Here are two that happened in 2022 and more are in the pipeline.
Faith Baptist Church, Oakland
In a significant movement forward for faith/climate action, CIPL member, Faith Baptist Church in Oakland celebrated its status as a Resiliency Hub! November 13’s celebration included a service full of music and inspirational preaching, food and local clergy and elected leaders. Pastor Curtis Robinson proclaimed the event as “a sign of hope” for the community and the climate.
The transition to Resiliency Hub took many years of collaboration with clean energy experts supporting Pastor Robinson’s dream of the church being a sanctuary in times of wildfires and extreme heat. A grant from the EPA for battery back-up to the solar system enables the church to keep the lights and HVAC working in case of blackouts.
Pastor Curtis Robinson of Faith Baptist Church and CIPL Executive Director Susan Stephenson were featured in stories highlighting their many years of collaboration transitioning the East Oakland congregation into the City’s FIRST Climate Resilience Hub! The celebration was covered on the local Bay Area CBS news station and on the Bay Area NPR affiliate, KQED. And the project received GreenBuild’s Legacy Project Award.
“Imagine if all churches and congregations that are already gathering places in our neighborhood could become resiliency hubs,” David Johnson, a partner architect, said. “There will be times of blackout, and so those people that need some security, safety…will be able to come here.”
The transition to become Resiliency Hubs is a natural step for houses of worship, which are seen as safety zones for community members. And congregational facilities have been switching to energy-efficiency and renewable energy measures for decades. A recent IPL survey identified (at least) 2,000 congregations nationwide, with 300 in California so that means there are more Resiliency Hubs to come.
Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb said climate change has become commonplace and every community needs permanently established refuge centers for times when the power goes out. “We have to make sure that we have places in the city of Oakland, in the East Bay, in the Bay Area, throughout the entire state, that can adapt and be ready to help people when those things happen,” Kalb said.
Congratulations to Faith Baptist Church! This is a huge win for the environmental justice movement, and faith communities across the country.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Foster City
Peninsula Sinai is committed to caring for and protecting all of Creation. During the last two years, congregational leaders like Rabbi Marv Goodman (a CIPL Steering Committee member) have committed to clean, renewable energy to run the facility. Prior to that, the congregation installed multiple energy-efficient strategies to reduce energy use.
In this article, Allan Jaffe, 1st Vice President of Peninsula Sinai gives a great overview of their process and reasons for adopting solar and becoming a Resiliency Hub:
“For several years, Peninsula Sinai Congregation (PSC) has been committed to the principle of “repairing the world” – looking for ways to make the world a better place for all of us to live in. After achieving Green Certification from San Mateo County, PSC looked for additional ways to reduce our impact on the environment, and solar power became an obvious direction to head in. With the support and encouragement of California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL), the congregation expanded their effort to include backup-battery storage, so that their site could function as a Resiliency Center or Evacuation Center in the event of a community-wide crisis such as the power shut-downs that Northern California has experienced over the last few summers.
After the congregation made the commitment to pursuing a solar/battery installation, the next key decision centered around financing. The aim was to keep the out-of-pocket cost at break-even vs. charges from PG&E for the first ten years of the installation. A key component to this was to capture the Investment Tax Credit offered by the federal government. As a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization, PSC has no income tax liability to be offset by the tax credit. By utilizing the financing supplied by Sand Hill Development (SDC), the congregation’s net cost was reduced as a result of SDC’s capture of the tax credit, and the installation became more affordable. Working with SDC and their own bank, Peninsula Sinai was able to structure payments for its system at a level just below the cost of buying power from PG&E. After 10 years, when the system is fully paid for, power will be essentially free for the balance of the life of the system.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation’s solar panels and Powerwall batteries have been up and running for just over a month now. The installation went smoothly, and the power cost savings, along with the benefit to our environment, are an exciting benefit for PSC and our world. The congregation is looking forward to many years of worry-free operations, at least from an electric power perspective.”
We celebrate with Peninsula Sinai Congregation and thank them for putting their faith values into action!
CIPL’s 20 Anniversary Celebration in November, 2020 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 – ––20th Celebration recording (Rev. Durley’s remarks start at 44:49)
2017 Cool Climate Awards Overview:
There was much cause for celebration on November 15 as CIPL celebrated the 2017 Cool Climate Awards event, its 11th year for honoring outstanding faith communities in the fields of green building, energy efficiency and water conservation, climate education, and climate advocacy. Awards were presented by emcee Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb and CIPL President The Rev. Sally Bingham. See videos of the winners here.
The ceremony took place at the beautiful Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland. Attendees dined on vegetarian food, and enjoyed musical entertainment by The Austin Hurst Singers. Information about electric vehicles and solar power financing for congregations was also shared.
There were many inspiring moments in the event. Councilmember Kalb, in presenting the award for Climate Advocacy to Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Fresno, mentioned the “No Coal in Oakland” campaign and how crucial it was for people of faith to have a say in policy-making. Rev. B.T. Lewis of Rising Star, in accepting the award, highlighted the work his congregation does in partnership with strong advocacy groups, such as Concerned Citizens of West Fresno and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. He also brought up the many disparities that exist within the city of Fresno itself in terms of health impacts. “I die twenty years earlier than my counterparts in North Fresno because I live and work in West Fresno,” Pastor Lewis stated. But this is one of the reasons, he went on to say, that the City has adopted a new industrial zoning plan to avoid the dumping of toxins that partially lead to this expected life difference and many other health issues.
Another highlight of the evening was the Laudato si’ award, given to the Catholic Diocese of San Diego for its exemplary work with solar energy. In 2015, after hearing of the benefits of solar energy and influenced by Pope Francis’ encyclical on “caring for our common home,” Bishop McElroy embraced a campaign for energy efficiency and renewable energy for parishes and schools in the diocese. Thus far, 34 solar systems have been completed, two more projects with signed contracts are underway, and another 20 locations are in the contract vetting process. Among the properties that have gone solar are some of the largest solar arrays for high schools in the country: Mater Dei has systems equaling 775-kilowatts; Cathedral High School has systems equaling 1,176-kilowatts, and at the headquarters of the Diocese itself, a beautiful 200-kilowatt solar carport generates renewable energy, while providing valuable shade on hot days.
In giving the award to Church Divinity School of the Pacific for Green Seminary, The Rev. Sally Bingham reflected on her time there in the 1990’s. “When I started talking about environmental care from a faith perspective, it was like I had just grown horns,” she stated, in the way people responded to her. However, after some time, Rev. Bingham’s ideas took hold and environmental care has become a natural teaching theme of many Episcopalian seminaries. The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, responsible for the solar array on the CDSP, believed to be the largest on any seminary in the United States, stated that there needs to be a resurgence of public discourse in faith communities and organizations where climate solutions can be worked on and implemented.
Despite the current federal administration’s reversal on the Paris Agreement and clean energy policies, everyone in attendance knew of California’s and the US’s continued commitment to – and action on – climate change. “I am proud that our state and our congregations are leading the way by showing the world that we will not abandon our moral obligation to act on climate – regardless of what the current administration in Washington says. Faith communities bring a moral voice to this issue that is unifying, hopeful, and cuts through the partisan divide,” she continued. From the actions demonstrated by the faith communities in the room, the California faith efforts on climate remain strong.
The winners of the 2017 Cool Climate awards by category are:
Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Islamic Society of Corona-Norco
Green Building: Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach
Climate Education: Congregation Kol Shofar, Tiburon
Climate Advocacy: Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, Fresno
Green Seminary: Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley
Laudato si’ Award: Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
Climate Luminary: Barbara Bisel of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Orinda