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Organizing for Climate Justice: Conference at Pendle Hill

Items brought by participants as reminders

Items brought by participants as reminders

The Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice Conference, hosted by Pendle Hill June 16-19, was attended by thirty-four participants from across the country, including myself, Beverly Ward (Tampa Meeting). This “conference for inspiration, education, and networking”  focused on three areas for climate justice work:

  • Lobbying and Moral Advocacy
  • Strategic Nonviolent Direct Action
  • Community Resilience Building

Each participant was asked to bring an item or object as a reminder of his or her connection to the Earth and interconnection with living things and commitment to work for climate justice.

The conference opened with a plenary and worship session on Thursday evening. Rev. Rhetta Morgan, Interfaith Minister and Founder, Ecclesia Spiritual Center, and Koko led us with drumming and singing.

Each morning, there was Silent Worship.

Eileen Flanagan, Jose Aguto, Owen Coursin, and the 300+ year-old beech tree

Eileen Flanagan, Jose Aguto, Owen Coursin, and the 300+ year-old beech tree

On Friday, Jose Aguto, the Legislative Secretary of Sustainable Energy and Environment Program at Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Eileen Flanagan, a leader of Earth Quaker Action Team, opened with discussions on climate justice basics, good news about climate justice work, and a call to people of faith.

Paula Kline, a Quaker educator and peace and environmental activist, Rev. Alison Cornish, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Power & Light, and a Unitarian Universalist minister, Justin Wright, negotiation trainer, mediator/facilitator and conflict management consultant, and Jose Aguto, conducted three sessions on lobbying and moral advocacy. In an exercise to build relationships with elected officials, participants were asked to call their elected officials during one the sessions to talk about climate change!

Eileen Flanagan, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center Founder and Director, Lina Blount, trainer and nonviolent action strategist, and Rev. Morgan began the sessions on strategic nonviolent direct action on Friday evening. This was followed by a Shabbat Service for Community.

Additional sessions on nonviolent direct action were held on Saturday. Examples included the PNC bank mountaintop removal action. Rabbi Waskow is planning a yearlong action beginning April 4, 2016, in memory Rev. Martin Luther King’s assassination. He asked that we be mindful of Rev. King’s and Vincent Harding’s call to action on militarism, racism, and materialism, and pointed out that materialism is not a euphemism for capitalism, it includes use of the earth.

Pamela Boyce Simms, a convener of the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub, Aravinda Ananda, a social ecologist, Erik Curren, Buddhist and founder of the blog Transition Voice, and Silke Springorum, an environmental organizer, led the sessions on community resilience building. These sessions emphasized the wisdom of collective genius. The premise being

If we wait for government, it will be too little too late.

If we act as individuals, it will be too little.

If we act as communities, it might be just enough, just in time.

On Firstday, the opening plenary focused on Practices for Sustaining Ourselves, led by Rev. Morgan. She reminded us of the importance of singing in other movements. Among other songs, John Meyer, Pendle Hill Education Coordinator, led us in a rendition of the song Jacob’s Ladder with a verse, “We are building up a new world (three times), Builders must be strong.”

Rabbi Phyllis Berman, a Jewish-renewal liturgist, led us in the closing circle where we formed concentric circles thanking and otherwise acknowledging the work we had done.

A view from Pendle Hill

A view from Pendle Hill

It was an experience of grace— though difficult to be inside, sitting, while outside there was the bounty of Pendle Hill in late Spring. Each participant discussed an action or activity that he or she would engage in locally. We also committed to keep in touch to support each other.

—-Beverly Ward, Tampa Meeting