Connection, Hope and Action in Challenging Times
These are unprecedented and difficult times. In the span of just a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has indelibly altered our lives. Many of us are struggling to adapt to new routines and manage needs of family members and children at home; many are dealing with financial instability and job loss; many are worried about friends or family who are sick or high risk; many are feeling depressed, disconnected and disoriented.
For those of us who are connected to faith communities, this is a particularly trying time, as the places where we are used to gathering regularly with others for spiritual sustenance and social connection are closed.
It seems that our calling in this moment, as people of faith who are concerned about the whole of creation, is twofold. On one hand, we must find creative ways to tend to our spiritual and mental health, stay connected, and meet the needs of our neighbors - especially the most vulnerable. And on the other hand, we must continue to advocate for policies and outcomes that contribute to a more just and sustainable world, with an economy that prioritizes caring for one another and all of creation.
The seeds of these efforts are already sprouting up in so many places, and will continue to grow. In this edition of our quarterly Montana IPL newsletter, we will continue to share ways for you to stay engaged in the interconnected efforts of caring for our neighbors and building a just and sustainable world. Thank you for all that you do, and wishing you health and perseverance in this time.
Montana IPL Board Member & Newsletter Coordinator
Out of our love and care for our neighbors, and to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, faith communities are conducting their events virtually to stay connected. Join Faith Climate Action Week - the nationwide movement of people of faith and conscience acting on climate April 17-26 - by creatively using your digital networks and the Faith Climate Action Week resources to make your love visible.
Download the free Faith Climate Action Week kit here.
This year's theme is "Love Made Visible: Engaging in Sacred Activism" to protect the people we love who are most impacted by climate change. The kit includes a Sacred Activism guide on the importance of people of faith taking part in civic engagement, suggestions for activism challenges, and a Sacred Activism Art Guide to create eye-catching banners and placards with faith-based messaging.
Find suggestions for messages and images and ideas for how to go virtual with your Sacred Activism in the Faith Climate Action Week kit. You can even plant trees virtually through the "For Love of Trees" campaign by donating to IPL's Carbon Covenant program to plant trees in the Global South through faith-based programs. $5 will plant one tree that will live to maturity and offset one ton of carbon emissions. Add your trees planted to the IPL tally here.
Join the National Earth Day Climate Prayer - invite members of your congregation to download the prayer to recite at noon local time on Earth Day. Click and pray along with me and other religious leaders with the videos on IPL's Facebook page.
Sign up and download the prayer here.
During this time of crisis, let's remember that we have the power to create awareness and advocate for change that will benefit all life.
Comment on draft Montana Climate Solutions Plan by April 24
Earth Day 50th Anniversary
Last summer, Governor Bullock created the “Montana Climate Solutions Council” and tasked it with producing a Climate Solutions Plan for the state by June 2020. The Council’s goal is to provide the governor, legislature, other leaders, and all Montanans with recommendations aimed at decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing Montanans for climate impacts. The Council has released its draft recommendations and is asking for public comment by March 31. Comments may be submitted by email to ClimateCouncil@mt.gov . Comments submitted will be made public along with the names. Wondering what to say? Head HERE for some ideas.
Join Youth Climate Strikers for three consecutive days of live streaming to celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd (Earth Day) to April 24th . This festival will bring together celebrities, activists, performers, and thought leaders for an empowering, inspiring, and communal action—Earth Day Live! This celebration will be used as an opportunity to lift up the work being done on the front lines across the country, highlighting the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous leaders, and encouraging all people to join in on the movement. Throughout each of the day’s live streams, there will be several coordinated actions for everyone to participate in.
Pledge to be a Faith Climate Voter
“I pledge to vote with climate and Creation in mind. I am pledging to be a Faith Climate Voter to put love into action for every living creature and for every vulnerable community suffering the impacts of our changing climate, from sea rise, to extreme heat, to devastating droughts, to supercharged storms.
I believe that our nation’s elected leaders and our public policies should reflect our shared values. By pledging to be a consistent voter and vote with climate in mind, I am communicating the values of caring for God’s Creation and our children’s future.”
You pledge to vote. We remind you to keep your word. It’s so easy. And it works. Just click on the words below - and share this with others!
SIGN THE FAITH CLIMATE VOTER PLEDGE
Grow a Climate Victory Garden
It’s an anxious time, but also a good time to plan or plant a garden if you have the space and time. Interfaith Power & Light has Pizza Garden Seed Kits! It includes delicious tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs for pizza making. Click here to order.
Some are calling backyard vegetable gardens “Climate Victory Gardens” because they contribute to sequestering carbon in the soil and help provide food for the hungry like the Victory Gardens during World War II. These gardens also are victorious because they lift our spirits in these challenging times of social distancing. Our time in the garden reminds us we are connected with all life, and to the Creator of all life.
Check out this new carbon calculator from Cool Congregations to calculate your faith community's carbon footprint.
Fantastic climate speaker Professor Rob Davies gave his talk entitled "Disruption in the age of humans" in Missoula and Bozeman back in February - many of our IPL board members and volunteers attended and highly recommend watching the video of this talk!
Spotlight on EcoAngela: Care of Creation through spiritual discussions about Laudato Si
Submitted by Kathy Masis, compiled by Anne Carlson
Angela’s Piazza is a drop-in center dedicated to the support, education and empowerment of women in Billings, Montana. Organized and run by the Ursuline Sisters, their mission is to provide an environment where women can learn to live safer, better lives free from addictions and violence by discovering self-confidence, courage and hope through programs that encourage spiritual and emotional healing.
Named for St. Angela Merici (1474-1540), the founder of the Ursuline Sisters, Angela’s Piazza has created a study group called Eco-Angela that seeks to foster community, creativity, wellness, and joy for all beings. Participants in the group gather monthly to read and discuss the Pope’s 2015 Encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, and to consider the personal and community actions recommended by Pope Francis as a way of Caring for our Common Home.
Pope Francis points to pollution, climate change, and our throwaway culture, and especially the “widespread indifference” to their effects on the poor; and he calls for clean, renewable energy and adequate storage technologies as a critical and urgent step to dramatically reduce the levels of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases around the world.
We in Billings are given the opportunity to reflect on these words. Have we inflicted harm on our Sister, Mother Earth? Do we see “symptoms of sickness” in the soil, water, air and all forms of life? Are our eyes open? What would it take to interrupt our busy lives in order to answer these questions?
At EcoAngela, our response to this crisis has included participation in a Billings coalition dedicated to demonstrating the need to reauthorize a municipal commission on Energy and Conservation: this resolution was passed by our City Council in spring of 2019, with newly-appointed members now meeting to establish next steps. Representatives from our group also participated in city-wide Climate Strikes in Billings in September and December of 2019; and joined a Climate Change Theatre Action.
Francis welcomes “dialogue with everyone” to “realize that their responsibility within Creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator, as an essential part of their faith. There is a lot that each of us can do to help, whether that means learning more about the issue, talking with others, changing our own energy use, or making sure that decision-makers know how we feel. At EcoAngela, we are committed to continuing our work together to meet the Pope’s call to action through study and community.
Submitted by Kristopher Drummond
On the weekend of November 15th, 2019, I, along with 18 others, had the opportunity to break an unwritten taboo. Gathering at Bozeman's Lindley Center, we came to grieve. Together.
My gut still churns thinking about letting go so deeply with other people. And yet I know that in these times of such uncertainty, we need each other. As the facilitator of the ritual grief facilitation training, Shauna Janz, taught us, we have to co-regulate our nervous systems to truly access the deep states of release that help grief achieve its evolutionary function of renewal. We're not meant to feel (or live) in isolation - community is required to open in the way that is now being asked.
Shauna also taught us that unprocessed grief leads to a hardening of the heart and an inability to truly feel the tragedy of all that is unfolding; the rapid acceleration of climate crisis, the echoes of fascism ringing louder in our ears, myriad social justice atrocities, the sudden corporate exploitation of long-preserved wilderness, and now, the Coronavirus.
What we learned over the course of three days, gathering in ritual circle, wandering on the land, holding each other in hugs well beyond socially acceptable standards, drumming and praying to the divinity that animates our lives, can be summarized by the following:
Individualism is a false myth.
Humans evolved in deeply interdependent communities; our soft and shivering bodies, our slow growing young, our cleverness made possible only through our adaptive and sophisticated cooperation. With the fragility of our anonymized global economy so suddenly displayed, the imperative to remember our primal communal needs has never been clearer.
From the very opening of the training, we were offered the chance to be vulnerable, sharing in a council circle, reading our writing exercises aloud, weeping openly with the opportunity to finally be real with each other. I rediscovered what I always seem to forget: The extent to which I can open and be witnessed by others is the extent to which I belong to myself and the world. We need mirrors, we need hearts to beat alongside our own, and others to share in what Buddhist writer Stephen Levine calls The Pain.
The purpose of coming together like this was first, to catch the scent of what our distant ancestors knew in their bones. We belong, and not just our "good" parts. Not just our happiness. Our despair, our shame, our strangeness, our aloofness, even our numbness, it's all welcome with true community. We had to touch that knowing ourselves, so that we could hope to know where we are aiming in future gatherings. The other purpose of the training was to cultivate a local community of people who possess the basics of ritual grief facilitation so that we can practice and eventually offer ongoing grief rituals for the Montana community as the collective pain body grows heavier.
Since November, we've been meeting regularly, having less intense rituals, practicing how to hold that tender place without the presence of a long-established grief facilitator. And we, The Bozeman Renewal Network, decided that in these days of Covid isolation, we will open to the wider community. To begin with, we are offering a ten week series called "Ten Steps to Personal Resilience and Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate," which is adapted from a curriculum by the same name created by the amazing Good Grief Network. This will consist of 10 consecutive weeks, meeting on Zoom for 90 minutes each, to collectively explore our edges of emotion and understanding around what's happening now. The tentative starting date is mid or late April.
As the virus runs its course and in-person gatherings become possible again, we'll be offering more spaces for collective processing. For information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.bozemanrenewal.org
Thank you, MT IPL, for all your heartfelt work. I am so thankful.
Happy Spring! Check out this video of musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing Appalachian spring separately, together!
Churches across the country are taking steps to build climate resilience. Here are some inspiring examples.
Here are six lessons that coronavirus can teach us about climate change.
And finally, a poem:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.