Monday, April 21, 2008

Greening Faith in Connecticut

The Stamford Advocate has an article about Connecticut IPL.
'Green Faith' aiding the Earth
By Lisa ChamoffStaff Writer

The first book of the Bible tells of God creating the Earth in six days.
While there is no mention of climate change, energy efficiency or solar panels in Genesis, that has not stopped some religious leaders from embracing the ideals of environmentalism that were once reserved for the crunchy granola set.
Earlier this year, the Vatican included pollution in a list of seven new sins.
"Environmental problems are getting obvious and worse," said Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, a Hartford-based environmental advocacy group. "People feel that when they look outside."
One of the Eco-Justice Network's projects is Connecticut Interfaith Power and Light, which is part of a national campaign that promotes renewable energy, with more than 25 states participating.
Over the last two years, Connecticut Interfaith Power and Light has helped organize the program This Old House of Worship, which assesses the energy efficiency of churches, synagogues and other religious buildings. A new workshop will focus on homes.
"I think people are coalescing around it," Cohen-Kiener said. "We're building community with it."
Religious environmentalism is not new. The Interfaith Power and Light effort began 10 years ago. The New Jersey-based organization Green Faith has been around for more than 15 years.
But religion only recently began playing a major role, said John Grim, who teaches religion and ecology at Yale University with his
wife, Mary Evelyn Tucker. They also co-founded the Forum on Religion and Ecology.
This partially stems from the efforts of religious leaders, such as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Grim said.
Religious groups and scientists also have started to express common opinions on environmental issues.
"There's a feeling of a shared ground now," Grim said. "They've put aside those differences and tried to realize that this common ground we share is this habitat we live in."
A conference at Yale University last month, "Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism," drew dozens of people.
Yale Divinity School recently began offering a joint degree program with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and there are many faculty members who work at both schools.
Willis Jenkins, who teaches social ethics at Yale, is one of three faculty members with a joint appointment. He teaches a class on the interaction between Christian theology and environmental problems.
While there are currently just four joint degree students at Yale, there are Divinity School graduates who work with faith-based environmental organizations, including Green Faith and Earth Ministry in Seattle.
Religious groups have found that the values they hold translate well to environmentalism, Jenkins said.
"Religious communities are much quicker to make the connections to human suffering," Jenkins said.
Locally, religious groups are latching on to the environmental movement. Various area churches have hosted screenings of former Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth."
Others are finding small ways to help save the planet.
Yesterday morning, members of the Northeast Community Church, a new non-denominational church based on Knight Street in Norwalk, teamed with environmental group Save the Sound to clean Calf Pasture Beach in honor of Earth Day.
Pastor Thomas Mahoney said this is the church's first specifically environmental project, but that members intend to organize other initiatives.
"We do believe strongly that we have a responsibility to care for creation," Mahoney said. "We believe that's pretty well outlined in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis. We're working through what that means for us as a community and how we implement that. We definitely feel that it's not just an environmental issue, but it's a spiritual issue."
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C.

Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.
Find discounts on energy saving products at

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