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Interfaith Celebration Highlights Solidarity and Sustainability


By Allis Druffel
California Interfaith Power & Light, Southern California Outreach Director

California Interfaith Power & Light held its 10th annual awards ceremony at Oakland’s Beebe Memorial Cathedral on November 15 and the feeling of interfaith solidarity in the room was palpable. Representatives from the Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Unitarian traditions met with one another, sharing best practices on sustainability, which only increase the capacity of the interfaith community going forward.

The program started with an indigenous prayer in mindful support of fellow faith leaders at Standing Rock. Presenters of the awards included CIPL Steering Committee members Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Pastor of the Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley; Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Executive Director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis; Juana Torres of the Sierra Club and volunteer with the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles; and G.L. Hodge, Administrator of Providence Baptist in San Francisco.

The Catholic community was well represented this year with awards going to both Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Palo Alto and Saint Anthony High School in Long Beach for Green Building, and American Martyrs Church and School in Manhattan Beach for Energy Efficiency and Conservation. La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, originally started by the Immaculate Heart of Mary community won the award for Green Retreat Center. All four had focused on sustainability initiatives for several years, with Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si,’ re-energizing action and commitment.

Saint Thomas Aquinas especially was noted for its leadership within the Diocese of San Jose. In the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and Creation protection, this parish has implemented many energy- and water-saving measures, including installing two solar systems totaling 62 kilowatts of clean power; and employing energy-efficient lighting and drought-tolerant landscaping. Saint Thomas Aquinas has an active Green Committee, which has hosted presentations on Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, advocated for clean air policies to local regulatory agencies, and held Earth Day celebrations that provide resources on actions their parishioners can take.

Among the highlights of the evening, one stood out in particular: the video of and words from Rev. Ken Chambers, pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland. This congregation, along with numerous faith communities and organizations, engaged in an historic two-year struggle that ultimately defeated a proposal to bring coal from Utah into an export terminal in Oakland. The defeat of this project was more than just one regional success; it signified for all present the local and global demand for – and ongoing transition to – clean energy, which creates jobs and does not endanger public health. In accepting the award for Climate Advocacy, Rev. Chambers stated, “West Side Baptist Church was a vessel to be used but the campaign would not have happened without everyone that played a part.”

In referring to the communal feelings of post-election uncertainty, he added, “In lieu of our present, political dynamics, if we ever worked together before, we surely must work together now.”