2017 Gratitude, Lament & Renewal: walking faithfully in a time of climate disruption

The 2017 conference was deemed a huge success by all who attended.  Many thanks to all who contributed time, effort, and energy to making it happen!  Watch for review photos soon… and get ready for a fall 2018 conference in Pittsburgh! 

Would you like to  serve on the 2018 conference team?

PA IPL’s 2017 Annual Conference 
Sunday, October 29th
1:30 PM-5:30 PM
at the Church of the Good Shepherd
867 Grays Woods Blvd, State College, PA 16870

Do you feel despairing, or overwhelmed, disconnected, or unmoored when you think about the causes and impacts of climate disruption?  Without faith —and the connections it brings— enormous, knotty, moral challenges like climate change can erode our strength and creativity, and disconnect us from our work in the world.

This conference offers first aid to carry us forward:

  • resources and practices from religious denominations and traditions
  • sustenance for our walk together in this journey through disruption, toward climate justice and renewal
  • a place to engage the tools our religions offer to help us recognize our pain, fear, and confusion in the face of climate change.  
  • Ways to connect deeply to one another, to the glorious world in which we live, and to the spirit and wisdom that feed our faiths and our active, engaged hope.

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New format this year!
You will have the opportunity to participate in 2 workshops on our theme. (Don’t get too comfortable—the decision of which workshops to attend very difficult, even though you’ll get to attend twice as many.)  

Meet the Workshop Leaders.

Participation in two workshops will allow you to learn more about the resources available from a familiar religious tradition, as well as one less familiar to you.  Just as traveling to a new place helps us see home with new eyes, engaging with new beliefs and practices can illuminate our own traditions in exciting ways — and the dual experience will allow us all to be better cross-tradition collaborators as we walk faithfully together.

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From Climate Overwhelm to Renewed Hope:  Resources from the Jewish Tradition
Rabbi Daniel Swartz
Addressing global climate change and the disruptions it is already causing to human societies and ecosystems around the planet can be daunting, to say the least.  It is easy to become so overwhelmed that we are paralyzed into inaction and despair.  While this particular type of despair may be new, countless generations have had to face similarly overwhelming problems as they sought to bring healing to a broken world.  In this workshop, Rabbi Daniel Swartz will explore a variety of resources from Jewish traditions and teachings that may help us to regain our spiritual footing and to move forward with renewed hope.  These will include texts, rituals, and chanting practices.  All texts will be presented in English, and this workshop is aimed at people from any faith background who wish to explore how Jewish traditions and teachings can inspire and strengthen their work on behalf of the planet and the poor.

In the New Equation, We are the Difference
George Hoguet
​There is an equation defining the forces that drive climate disruption and other planetary catastrophes. It is a simple equation, but not easy to change.  Technology can play a role in the solutions we need, but it is also a 2-edged sword.  This workshop looks at a more powerful force for change – the “H” factor – a force that lies within the fabric of our very lives.  In this Workshop, you will:

    • Learn the Equation driving the Impact of Climate Change, and Our Unique Role in Changing It.
    • Discover tools for renewing your personal energy for the life-long process of Building Bridges for the Future.

  • Declare Who You Are in the Matter of Making a Future Possible for the Grandchildren of All Species. Naming​ it.
  • Take home some Spiritual Vitamins to keep your Vision and Energy healthy.

May that force grow deeper in each of us.

Ecumenical Christian Approaches to Creation Justice
Shantha Ready Alonzo
Come to this workshop for a peek into a bright kaleidoscope of Christian communities, including Orthodox, Protestant, Historically Black Church, and Peace Church traditions.  Get a glimpse of their histories and learn about their approaches toward an ethic of care and justice for God’s creation — and get connected with resources from Creation Justice Ministries that link to Christian seasons, practices, and traditions.

Spiritual Tools for Daily Life: Expressing our Awareness of the Divine
Snana Yatra Das
This workshop will give participants a taste of the ways the residents of Gita Nagari Eco Farm and Sanctuary draw strength and joy from our Spiritual Practices. In our daily lives as well as our Temple worship, we honor the Divine as we serve one another, the earth we share, and the cows in our care. When we live in conscious relationship with creation, our hearts lead us to heal the harm we have caused while our heads and hands act in service to that healing.  Participants of all faith traditions will find ideas they can apply right now, including:

    • Spiritual tools for Healing the toxic heart (Practical compassion)
    • Intentional non-violent communication in a spiritual community (developing empathy for others)
    • Expressing your spiritual values at work
    • How to put your spiritual life first
    • The power of service in our selfish world
    • Placing God in the center
    • Developing spiritual relationships with everyone in your world
    • Words that heal
    • Transforming our challenges into fuel for growth

  • Peaceful resolution to conflict
  • Retreat to nature for healing
  • Simple living and high thinking (An invitation for a road trip)

Weaving a Green Thread Through the Fabric of Life
José Aguto
The Catholic Climate Covenant seeks to inspire all Catholics to care more deeply about the gift of God’s creation and the dignity of all life.  Recognizing the vast diversity of the 75 million Catholics in the United States, this workshop will describe the programs the Covenant provides – from education to advocacy to energy efficiency – to meet Catholics wherever they may be on the spectrum of opinion about climate disruption, to foster awareness, appreciation, and action for an integral ecology.  The US Catholic Church is rich in tradition, diversity and complexity –while our resources are designed for Catholics, they are also shaped around the Christian year, and touch on themes that many faith traditions address.   Resources are adaptable, and create an opening for interreligious dialogue and collaboration on climate change within our geographic communities – which Pope Francis himself has encouraged.

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. …
—Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ (14)

 — REGISTER — workshop leaders — workshopsprojectspread the word

 — REGISTER — workshop leaders — workshopsprojectspread the word

Start NOW – with art!

Walking Sticks image searchCreate a Walking Stick for our Conference “Gallery”

Walking sticks or staffs often signify wisdom or power.  More practically, they may provide balance, support, navigation through rough terrain; grounding, help, even protection. We need all these things as we journey forward on this bumpy path.

And so: we are creating a gallery of walking sticks, conceived of and made by YOU!  Gather with another person or a small crowd from your congregation or community and begin imagining, planning, and creating now!   

Download a page with all this how-to to share with your team.

In the stories shared by the Abrahamic traditions, Moses’ staff was used to draw water from a rock and to part the Red Sea.  Walking staffs may be made of single, strong element, or by tightly binding elements that would be too weak or too sharp alone.  Where do you see staffs in your religious tradition? What words or images give you strength?  How might you share those on, in, or through a staff?

A search for walking sticks, hiking sticks, canes, and wizard staffs on Etsy, Ebay, Pinterest and Google Images will give you amazing visual launching points – you’ll find everything from Yoda and movie wizards, to art-carved hiking sticks, to practical hiking sticks inscribed with memorials or words of strength, and simple sticks scarred by their adventures — or  ornamented with markers of the places they’ve traveled.  

Your staff should be meaningful and faith-and-wisdom rooted. It doesn’t have to be postcard pretty or ADA approved! Size and materials are limited to something you can bring with you or mail to us. We will pay postage on standard postage tubes.  

Let us know it’s coming!
We want to prepare a place and have a label ready for your contribution to our gallery.  We’ll ask for the name of your congregation and religious tradition(s), for a brief description or interpretive note, and for a photo of the participants (names optional).  You may title your work of art if you are so moved!

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Workshop Leaders From 5 Faith Traditions 

(scroll for bios)

José Aguto
Associate Director, Catholic Climate Covenant

A lifelong Catholic who has spent much of his working life at the intersection of climate action and faith, José comes to the Catholic Climate Covenant from the (Quaker) Friends’ Committee on National Legislation, where he initiated the Call to Conscience on Climate Disruption, an interfaith, grassroots call to Congress for bipartisan recognition of the immediacy, science, and impacts of climate change. He has also worked for the National Congress of American Indians in the service of tribal governments seeking to address climate change. He is a graduate of Brown University and Villanova Law school. Read about José’s workshop.

The Catholic Climate Covenant inspires and equips people and institutions to care for creation and care for the poor. Through our 16 national partners, (including USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and the Catholic Health Associations) the Catholic Climate Covenant guides the U.S. Church’s response to climate change by educating, giving public witness, and offering resources. Our work is grounded in the Church’s deep history of teaching on creation, ecology, and the poor. Loving God’s creation and God’s most vulnerable is at the heart of who we are as Catholics.

Find Catholic Climate Covenant on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Shantha Ready Alonso
Executive Director, Creation Justice Ministries

Shantha’s interest in the role of faith communities in creating social change began in college. She studied in Chile and led fellow students in learning about Latin American theologies through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns and a partnership with Maryknoll Missionaries. After college, she did congregation-based community organizing with PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) in Southern California, Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis, and the Gamaliel Foundation.

Shantha’s work with Creation Justice Ministries is well-served by her passion for working ecumenically and lifting up work at the grassroots. She has served in various leadership roles at the national (and international) scale since 2008. She is a contributing author to For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church and editor of the anthology: Towards a Global Christian Movement for Eco-Justice: Young Voices from North America. Shantha holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Pastoral Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and Eden Theological Seminary. Read about Shantha’s workshop.

Creation Justice Ministries educates, equips and mobilizes communions and denominations, congregations, and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God’s creation. Its membership includes 38 Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Black church, peace church, Baptist, and mainline Protestant church bodies, all together serving about 100,000 congregations in the United States. Based on the priorities of its members, with a particular concern for people who are most vulnerable and marginalized, Creation Justice Ministries provides collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guides people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations, and raises a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ’s call for just relationships among all of Creation.

Creation Justice Ministries started in 1983 under the umbrella of the National Council of Churches, and operated as the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program until it became independent in 2013.

Find Creation Justice Ministries on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


George Hoguet is a member of Laughing Rivers Sangha, Pittsburgh’s Community of Mindful Living; Co-founder of the Earth Holder Sangha, an eco-Dharma initiative within the International Plum Village Community of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh; and a lay-ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing.

In 2007, George also became one of the earliest members of The Climate Reality Project, those trained by former Vice-President Al Gore to present his slideshow from the film, An Inconvenient Truth. Retired after 40 years in the electrical power and controls industry, he now devotes much of this time to advancing Mindful Living and Climate Awareness. Read about George’s workshop.

The Earth Holder Sangha aims to awaken a great togetherness to bring transformation and healing to Earth. We look deeply into the suffering and transformation of suffering relating to climate change and inequity; engage and link Mindful Right Actions to heal Mother Earth and her children; and enhance the sustainability of our Plum Village monasteries, lay practice centers, and local sanghas as models for an alternative future.

Members of the Earth Holder Sangha support the work of members through a shared network and resources including a quarterly newsletter, practice materials, gathering and commitment suggestions, artwork, Dharma sharings, and updates on Right Actions.

Find Earth Holder Sangha on the web, on Twitter, and on Facebook

Rabbi Daniel Swartz has been the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed of Scranton since August 2006.  Under his leadership, Temple Hesed is now a leading force in the area for connecting faith and the environment, as well as a welcoming spiritual home for people from diverse backgrounds. Rabbi Swartz currently serves as the board president for Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, and he has been active with PA IPL since before it was launched.  He has worked in the social justice field throughout his rabbinate, combining his religious training with his fervent love and respect for the environment in positions with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  Starting in November, he will also serve as the national director for the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

Rabbi Swartz has also explored the connections between and environmental values in a variety of publications.  He is the author of To Till and To Tend: A Guide for Jewish Environmental Study and Action, published by COEJL.   He is also the author of “Faith Communities and Environmental Health: From Global to Local,” for which he won the 2005 Award for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing from the Association of American Publishers, and his comparison of classical Jewish texts with sections of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudito Si and the Sages,” has been used in congregations across the globe. Rabbi Swartz is also the author of a children’s book Bim and Bom: A Shabbat Tale. In addition to his ordination and Masters of Hebrew Letters (MHL) from Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Swartz holds degrees from Brown University in Geological Sciences and in Environmental Policy. His most important roles are husband to Rabbi Marjorie Berman and father to Alana Swartz. Read about Reb.Daniel’s workshop.

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) deepens and broadens the Jewish community’s commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism and Jewish learning.

Through a network of Jewish leaders, institutions and individuals, COEJL is mobilizing the Jewish community to conserve energy, increase sustainability, and advocate for policies that increase energy efficiency and security while building core Jewish environmental knowledge and serving as a Jewish voice in the broader interfaith community.

Find COEJL on the web, onFacebook, and on Twitter.

Snana Yatra Das (Ne: Jonathan Wilson).
ISKCON Gita Nagari Temple & Gita Nagari Eco Farm & Sanctuary

Born to missionary parents in Kentucky, and the grandson of the Rev. IL Schwietzer, Director of the Evangelical United Brethren Church Seminary, Snana Yatra Das lived much of his adult life on the West coast, moving to Pennsylvania in 2014 to serve as the Head Pujari (priest) at Gita Nagari Temple, a position which includes acting as care director and facilitation for devotees. In addition to his duties as Head Pujari, Snana serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors, and as the Director of Sustainability, of Recycling, and of Beautification. He is the health and Welfare Manager of the Temple, Farm and Sanctuary, and the Editor of the Temple, Farm & Sanctuary Newsletter. He is a long-time mentee of Devamrita Swami, who resides at the Farm & Sanctuary when he is in the United States. Snana is a practitioner of Bhakti yoga. Read about Snana das’s workshop.

Gita Nagari Temple, Farm & Sanctuary is a non-profit organization owned by the International Society for Krisna Consciousness (ISKCON); The residents of Gita Nagari relate to God through loving devotional service, and share the teachings of Bhagavad Gita.  They practice bhakti yoga – the yoga of love and devotion.  They utilize their abilities, intelligence, talents in service to the Supreme Lord, and in this way they are able to serve each other and the needs of a farm community.

The community at Gita Nagari sets out to contribute to the respiritualization of the planet and its residents by demonstrating the principles of “simple living and high thinking”.  While this goal has not been fully achieved, all activities on the farm are geared to this objective.  God is the center and all residents are His servants in their respective services.

Find Gita Nagari Farm and Sanctuary on the web, and on Facebook. Their connected center in Philadelphia is the Mantra Lounge.


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It’s time to register for the conference!  You’ll leave inspired, energized, and newly connected with other Pennsylvanians who are reaching out in faith to act on climate change.  You’ll add new skills and ideas to your toolbox for adapting for your own work and contexts — we hope in collaboration with PA IPL.  We’re totally excited.  Don’t miss it.  Gather a van-full of registrants from your area and let us know as soon as you can — we’ll apply for transportation funding for your group.