A year ago I began a personal journey that I had long wished to start: a journey of integration, practice, cooperation, and learning, all in the name of playing a small part to unite the strands of science and faith on the “common ground of stewardship of life”, to paraphrase E.O. Wilson . In the uncaring and inefficient sprawl of Dallas, I set out to find those who share my belief that sustainable living would only be achieved when individuals and society re-connect with the divine, with the highest potential of human nature. From many such personal journeys, Dallas Interfaith Power & Light has been organically emerging as a moral and practical social space for addressing the great challenge of our times, climate change.
Returning to the personal journey: on one level, one can form friendships with neighbors, taking time to uncover shared concerns and discover the means for remedying them . On another level, the active mind sometimes need the moral-support, encouragement, intellectual stimulation and creativity of like-minded souls - and even the occasional spark of disagreement that can reveal deeper truths . This is the realm of social discourse in the wider society, and that is what I was seeking in April 2012, when I searched for “dallas interfaith earth day.”
My timing was fortuitous. An ecumenical group of Christians, concerned about “care for creation,” had reached out to Texas Interfaith Power & Light in an attempt to broaden their perspectives and find help channeling their spiritual energy into sustainable action and reflection. I joined them, along with Jewish, Muslim, and Pagan practitioners, for an Earth Day potluck and dialog (prior meetings had also included Hindu and Jain participants). Two more beautiful interfaith encounters followed, engaging us in deep dialogues on our spiritual experiences in nature. This culminated in a July retreat, where several of us committed to continuing the journey together, in the context of a local affiliate: thus was born Dallas Interfaith Power & Light.
However, even while adopting the Interfaith Power & Light name, and agreeing to work as a subsidiary of the state chapter, we wanted to express a sense of local ownership and “customization.” This is reflected in our organizational tagline, “love, justice, care for creation” and our longer mission statement: Dallas Interfaith Power and Light promotes love, justice, and care for creation through local action, education, and dialogue about climate stewardship. Our choice of language needed to reflect values important to people of faith in North Texas, and we felt that this simple statement struck the right balance in expressing our concern and calling on the deepest values of good-hearted people from all walks of life.
Since that July retreat, we have continued with monthly meetings, with attendance ranging from just a handful to 50 or so. We’ve had presenters, round-table discussions, a walk in an downtown park, and conversation around a Nova documentary. Our most recent gathering was organized by the Keep Texas Parks Open campaign, who gave us the opportunity to learn about the state of funding for, and the economics of, state and local parks. That was far more enlightening than it might sound, thanks to a slate of knowledgeable and passionate speakers. This month’s meeting will be on the Living Building Challenge. Beyond that, our meetings will likely continue to address both practical concerns — such as green teams, community gardening, and xeriscaping — and big picture ideas, such as environmental justice and the call for stewardship from different faith perspectives.
Monthly week-night meetings are great, but they don’t work for everyone, especially when covering such a large geography. On Sunday, May 5, we will hold an afternoon conference at Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas, on the theme of “Let’s Get to Work”. Our keynote speaker will address the topic of water; we will also have an expert Q&A panel, a break out session, and time to enjoy the Center grounds in the late afternoon.
Long term, we hope to engage our “members” (we have no formal membership) to become volunteers working with different houses of worship to help facilitate energy improvements and speak with the children, youth, and adult study groups about “creation care” stewardship. We have a small steering committee with five local volunteers  who receive encouragement and support from the Associate Director of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy , Yaira Robinson. None can devote the time they would want to this project. At various stages we’ve been stymied by personal and group schedules, but somehow we’ve managed to sustain some momentum. Together, we are building the foundation for an interfaith movement for creation care in big-oil’s backyard.
Dallas Interfaith Power & Light’s mission is extended by this statement of principles:
We represent many faiths and traditions, coming together because we believe that “love thy neighbor” and social justice call us to work for changes in how we utilize our natural resources. We seek positive interactions and a bright future that accounts for the well-being of those living today and for the generations to come. We believe in listening to and welcoming the voices of all who seek the same. We see our diversity as bringing greater strength to this work, enhancing rather than weakening our personal faith. By providing a safe space for interaction with those from other religions, we can all learn and share our own perspectives, building bridges with others who are equally passionate about seeking God and protecting creation.
- Wilson, E.O. The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. See page 168 for these particular words.
- for Bahá‘ís such as myself, this constructive process is carried out through a set of community-building activities centered on worship, education, and empowerment.
- “The shining spark of truth, cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p6.
- I feel blessed to be working with Anna Clark, Genny Rowley (co-chair), Glen Suhren (treasurer), and Jinen Adenwala. I serve as co-chair at this time.
- Texas Interfaith Power & Light is a program of the Interfaith Center; they also support local groups in various stages of development in Austin, Ft. Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. This notion of local “IPL” affiliates is, to my knowledge, unique to Texas. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from approaching their state organization, if there is one, about partnering for a local venture.
Posted with : Social Discourse, On the Subject of Religion, Climate Change