Indiana Society of Friends
Two Friends meetings have installed solar panels in recent months with the help of Hoosier IPL’s grant programs, one in Bloomington and the other in Winchester. Two other Friends groups are taking initiatives, with H-IPL’s help, to green their congregations.
Quaker understandings of human spiritual connection with the natural world are embodied in this statement from theBloomington Friends Meeting:
Quakers are committed to the transformational power of love embodied in the Testimonies of Peace, Equality, Community, Simplicity, and Integrity. When we live in the Life which is attuned to nature and which finds joy and satisfaction in human relationships and personal growth, we will be less dependent on material possessions and more protective of our environment.
The meeting, established in 1950, installed their first three solar panels in 2009, and last year added many more through an Indiana OED grant. They are also installing a geothermal heating and cooling system as they undergo a major building renovation this summer.
While the Bloomington fellowship is relatively new, Winchester Friends Church has met since 1873. Their meeting house was built in 1898, at a time when there were more Quakers in this area than any other place in the world. In the view of Winchester Friends, “Every effort to reduce our carbon footprint … provides a prophetic witness to our community that protecting the long-term health of the earth and it inhabitants expresses the love of God and is worth extra effort and sacrifice.”
The Society of Friends combines a conserving lifestyle with advocacy for social justice. Winchester minister Pam Ferguson writes:
For more than 70 years, Quakers at Winchester Friends Meeting in Winchester have worked with the Friends Committee on National Legislation to lobby for a world free of war, a society with equity and justice for all, and an earth restored. With help from Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light the Friends at Winchester were able to install 32 solar panels on January 1, 2016 to make visible their testimony of care for the earth. The solar panels will supply over half of the electricity needed by the Meeting and they hope to further reduce their energy costs with conservation efforts.
Below is a photo from the meeting’s solar dedication.
Clear Creek Friends Meeting
Clear Creek Friends in Richmond meet on the Earlham Collegecampus. According to longtime member and physician Gwen Halsted, the fellowship has sought ways to respond to the climate crisis that are grounded in the belief that all of creation is sacred. “We realize that we participate in a culture and economy that contribute heavily to climate change,” she says, “and we are moved to educate ourselves and to reduce our own consumption of fossil fuels.”
So the Clear Creek Meeting adopted a project called the Carbon Awareness Contribution. It was inspired by Mount Toby Meeting in Massachusetts. Participating households calculate a quarterly voluntary contribution based on their use of fuel for vehicles, home heating, electricity use, air travel, and the carbon footprint of their food consumption. (See and download their worksheethere.) The project not only keeps them mindful of energy use, but also allows them to contribute to organizations that mitigate against climate change.
During an April 2016 visit to Richmond, Trisha Tull facilitated a lively discussion with Clear Creek Friends concerning how spirituality grounds earth care, and previewed H-IPL’s Using Energy Prudently program. Clear Creek Meeting has subsequently become a H-IPL affiliate congregation, and sent their first quarter’s Carbon Awareness Contribution to H-IPL (thank you!!!).
The Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting, to which Bloomington and Clear Creek belong, has called for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in the development of sustainable energy resources. Individuals, local Friends Meetings, and regional yearly meetings also support the Friends Committee on National Legislation(FCNL), which lobbies to influence governmental energy policy.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
The offices of FCNL, the nation’s oldest nonpartisan, ecumenical lobby, stand just across the street from the U.S. senate offices on Capitol Hill. Every May when members of Interfaith Power and Light gather from across the country in Washington D.C., they end the conference with a day of visiting with senators and representatives, using the offices of FCNL as homebase.
In May 2016, Emily Wirzba, FCNL’s policy associate for sustainable energy and environment, described years of effort to find the Republican representative who might introduce a resolution affirming the reality of climate change. In 2015, New York Rep. Chris Gibson was approached by an interfaith delegation, asking him to sponsor such a resolution: the so-called Gibson Resolution, introduced in the House of Representatives last September by Gibson and ten Republican colleagues to coincide with the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. As the congressman later told a reporter, addressing environmental issues is a core conservative principle. “If conservation isn’t conservative, then words have no meaning at all,” he said.
Eleven—and now thirteen—representatives may not seem like enough to change the national conversation. But Ms. Wirzba reported that this move has quietly inaugurated fundamental shifts over the past several months. A bipartisan house solutions caucus has formed, Noah’s ark style—two by two, with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. A House Republican energy innovation and environment solutions working group has also begun meeting.
And in late April, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and nine colleagues introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill. This amendment acknowledges that climate change is real, human-caused, and already affecting the U.S., posing risks to health, security, economy, and infrastructure, and that 180 other countries have committed themselves to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It proposes that the U.S. become a world leader in addressing climate change, and that Congress take action. This huge step forward proceeds from the powerful work of a spiritual communion, the Society of Friends—who, it’s worth recalling, also led the charge for slavery’s abolition two centuries ago. (Watch this video featuring young Quakers speaking out to representatives about citizen concerns, and calling for public bipartisan support for climate action.)
We all need the challenging questions and examples from each other’s lives to inspire us for the spiritual work of living sustainably on our precious earth. Quakers in Indiana and across the country provide the gift of living more simply and peaceably, sharing the earth’s abundance with all creation, and exercising citizenship in the public forum.