By Michael Jacobs
Young Israel of Toco Hills was one of four award winners at Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s ninth annual Gippys.
The other awards went to:
- Central Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, which won the Power Award for its work to retrofit energy-efficient features into its 19th-century building across the street from the state Capitol.
- St. Philip AME Church of Atlanta, which received the Light Award for educational and outreach efforts such as an annual recycling event.
- Canterbury Court’s Recycling Committee, which took the Trailblazer Award back to the senior living complex on Peachtree Street near the Buckhead-Brookhaven border for instituting a recycling program that has diverted 47.9 tons of material from landfills.
All of the awards celebrated congregations that said yes, according to GIPL Executive Director Kate McGregor Mosley, picking up on a theme of the keynote address by the Rev. Sally Bingham.
Bingham is an Episcopalian canon from San Francisco who launched the national Interfaith Power & Light campaign in 2000. She explained that her life was driven by her willingness to say yes from the time she agreed to join the national board of the Environmental Defense Fund in the mid-1980s.
Saying yes, along with her growing knowledge of climate change and curiosity about the lack of action on the issue in the faith community, drove her to start college at the age of 45, then enter a seminary and earn a master’s, push her diocese to launch an ecological ministry, split from her wealthy husband, achieve ordination in 1997, and launch a project to emphasize the connection between ecology and faith.
“How could we let G-d’s creation be destroyed?” she asked.
What she started became a national movement that now works with 18,000 congregations in 40 states. Bingham said the ministry has been taken over and propelled forward by people like those at the Gippys who say yes to G-d even when they don’t know what they’re getting into. She said every person in the room could be a leader in the environmental faith movement.
“We’re all in this together,” she said. “We must work together to solve the problem.”
That work in Georgia is led by GIPL’s 10 board members, two of whom are Jewish: Noah Levine of Congregation Etz Chaim and Ruth Menter of The Temple.
Togetherness was also a theme of a recorded message from the Rev. Woody Bartlett, who founded GIPL with his wife, Carol. The Bartletts were in California for a wedding.
“We belong to G-d, and we can’t ever forget that,” he said, adding that we also belong to the earth but that it’s an all-too-common blasphemy to think that the earth and even G-d belong to us instead.