Category Archives: Advocacy

Skip the Grid

Skip the Grid is an initiative focused on bringing solar power to health care systems and other critical infrastructure in West Africa. Most clinics and many hospitals around the world are off the grid, relying on generators where fuel is difficult and costly to deliver. Hospitals often must shut down their power system for periods of time to conserve fuel. Vaccines are jeopardized, and operations become riskier with intermittent or no power.

Without consistent and reliable power, rural communities face an uphill battle in managing very real health challenges. Photovoltaic (PV) micro-grids represent a sustainable, long-term solution that free up capital for direct health care initiatives, as well as mitigate numerous untold environmental, social, and health costs.

 How Skip the Grid Got Started 

The Skip the Grid initiative was inspired by a Women of the ELCA trip to Phebe Hospital in 2012. At the end of the trip, women from the NE MN Women of the ELCA asked Dr. Jefferson Sibley, a doctor at Phebe hospital, what he saw as the biggest need at the hospital. His answer – reliable energy.

When the Women of the ELCA returned home to Minnesota, they called on RREAL for help.

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a nonprofit organization that has been fighting energy poverty with solar power since 2000. Skip the Grid is an initiative RREAL shares in collaboration with the Lutheran Women of the ELCA to bring solar power to the health care sector in West Africa. These solar projects have attracted support from hundreds of donors and international acclaim.

PV for Phebe

The first Skip the Grid project was built in rural Liberia at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing. The Women of the ELCA and RREAL worked together to raise funds for the Phebe array, which is now producing power. The solar electric array at Phebe provides up to 77% of the hospital’s daytime electricity needs, reducing operations and maintenance costs. Commissioned in 2017, the project resulted in reduced fossil fuel energy consumption and realized energy efficiency upgrades using renewables and powered equipment with the solar electricity power surge. Cost savings from the array are $35,000 US annually with carbon emission reductions of 198,196.28 pounds and x-ray machines can be used. The added benefits of solar allow Phebe to expand the vital health care it provides and reduce pollution.

Skip the Grid provided solar technical training to the electrical and generator staff at Phebe hospital as well as local Liberians who helped RREAL install the Phebe system. Six months after the installation, in October 2017, two of the hospital technical staff members ventured to RREAL’s home in Backus, Minnesota to participate in a two-week Solar Energy International (SEI) technical training course. The Women of the ELCA hosted the visiting Africans by offering their homes as lodging and providing meals for the trainees and trainers. The trained Phebe technicians are now sharing their knowledge to build solar on rural Liberian clinics, maintain PV micro-grid systems, and support the construction of future Skip the Grid projects.

 

In November 2017, RREAL and the Women of the ELCA traveled back to Liberia to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Phebe Hospital array. Many people were there, including Nobel Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Minister of Health, many bishops, two RREAL staff, and nine members of the Women of the ELCA.

During the ribbon cutting visit, RREAL traveled to Curran Hospital to complete a site assessment and develop relationships with the staff. Current for Curran is the next project that will empower a rural Liberian hospital to expand its vital health care services to the poorest people’s through Skip the Grid.

Current for Curran

The next Skip the Grid solar project will be at Curran Hospital in Liberia, a 125-bed hospital facing significant economic and health care challenges. Curran Hospital is a regional referral hospital for 17 clinics and health centers in Lofa County, Liberia. Curran currently depends solely on expensive, polluting, and unreliable diesel generators. These generators often fail, and doctors are forced to deliver babies or complete surgeries using only a cell phone light or flashlight. Watch the Curran Hospital video here.

Without a reliable source of electricity, Curran struggles to meet the daily health care needs of its patients. We can do better. Project Current for Curran will bring clean, reliable solar energy with battery storage to the essential rural hospital in Zorzor City, Liberia.

These are our three specific and measurable objectives for Current for Curran:

1.     Raise $750,000 by October 31, 2018 to cover all project costs

2.     Ship array components, balance of system, and build materials to Liberia by November 30, 2018

3.     Build a 150-kW solar micro-grid with battery power system at Curran Hospital by March 31, 2019

We are grateful for Skip the Grid project partners who invest in the health of our world’s most vulnerable people as care for creation. Liberia, the fourth poorest country in the world, is recovering from a long civil war and the Ebola crisis. Please support Skip the Grid. Follow StG on FaceBook. RREAL and the Women of the ELCA seek your partnership and support of this innovative solar micro-grid solution for Curran Hospital and the global citizens it serves.

Submitted: March 25, 2018 by Vicki O’Day Development Director at RREAL vicki@rreal.org

RREAL is located in Backus, MN. We partner with the Women of the ELCA of Minnesota.

Thanks to Bishop Eaton for her Earth Day Message!

As a grassroots movement, Lutherans Restoring Creation aims to support and advocate Creation Care work throughout ELCA communities.   At our June 20, 2020 Board of Directors meeting we officially recognized the significance of Presiding Bishop Eaton’s 2020 Earth Day message (read in full here).

“…thanks Bishop Eaton for her Earth Day message and her lifting up of Lutherans Restoring Creation.”
excerpt from Minutes of June 20, 2020 LRC’s Board of Directors’ Meeting

We are eager to grow together with church-wide offices in this critical ministry as Creation Care Ambassadors and Coaches flourish, more Congregations sign Covenants with Creation and the emerging ELCA Sustainability Table guides collaborative and action-based progress.

Confused about our way forward?

As there has been continuing conversation and controversy emerging since Michael Moore’s film: Planet of the Human, we decided to share some feedback from a Lutherans Restoring Creation member.  Thanks to Josh Thede, an active member of the Central States LRC Mission Table.

Our LRC community plans to discuss the broader challenge of how to make progress in this ministry when consensus on solutions seems vague,  if not conflicting.  Join our next Connection Call. 

Katherine Hayhoe has some of the most compelling information:
Post 1 
Post 2 

Bill Mckibben’s response is interesting,  featured in Rolling Stone (click here).  Above photo from Rolling Stone’s piece.

Both Project Drawdown and Pachamama Alliance have good resources to move forward.
This TED talk is a great overview of that concept (click here). 

There may be a worthwhile conversation about infinite growth and GDP as a takeaway from the film. There is some interesting progress around “Donut Economics” (click here for TED talk). 

More reflections in response to the film and considerations when moving towards a host of energy solutions:

Lutheran Responses to Fossil Fuel Dependency

Some of us bemoan the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has not committed to entirely divest from fossil fuels as many others have (see latest cohort of 42 religious institutions). Some of us are wary of pulling out entirely from shareholder positions when we may be able to have more leverage to make change having a seat at that table.  Others have a deep concern for all who are dependent on these economic systems,  which many of us are complicit in driving every time we use a device or heat up our dinner.

There are many facets (explore below) involved with this complex issue which we are called to discuss and act on as people of faith. There are ways to move forward before we reach a church-wide consensus.  Below are some of our responses, thus far, from regional resolutions to individual members lifting up a moral calling.
Where are you called to next?

Click on each below to hear stories and information we hope will inspire you to act and bring others with you:

Do we Stay Home and DO nothing?

The general call to to action is simply: “Stay Home”.   However, many can’t heed that call, even if they wanted to.  When we are asked to care for our neighbors by stepping back,  what are other ways we can lean in to understanding each other and practice moving  forward in action?

The following is a selection of conversations, reflections, and emerging information.   Consider what realities we have learned about our neighbors’ insecurity,  the adaptability of humans under stress, the impact of policy decisions on our daily lives… and what does our faith give us as tools to fight any crisis?

> What is Climate Justice?  – April 16, 2020 – Rev.  Mariama White-Hammond, – Consider how we treat our own species? We should NOT go back to normal.

> Connections, Comparisons & Lessons – April 3, 2020 – Consider how we can learn and grow during this crisis.  Hear a variety of perspectives. Thanks UCC for gathering this group of theologians.

> “The Earth is Sick of Us” – commentary from Dr. Ulysses Burley III

> BlessedTomorrow’s Blog:  Inescapable Lessons Offer Invaluable Opportunities – Earth Day 50th & COVID19 – By Rev. Dr. Jim Antal

Advocacy vs. Politics

Thanks to Tracey DePasquale, Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania who joined our Connections Call on May 6th, 2020  to help discern the definition of politics. Hear her commentary here, followed by a discussion including insight from Ruth Ivory-Moore, ELCA Advocacy, Director of Energy & Environment. 

Click here to listen to the call. 

Resources mentioned and related to the call:

See all Advocacy-related resources here!

Tools for Grassroots Advocacy: Full Spectrum

On our April 2020 Connections Call, we lifted up numerous ways we can represent what the ELCA’s Creation Care stance offers and how to implement action from where we are each planted. Since we are all living in very different spaces and each know our own audiences best there seems to be a spectrum of resources. Below is a sampling which we can add to and will continually evolve. While there is no one size which fits all, we can all work in harmony to lift up the common language our faith offers.

From protesting to preaching to praying:

Food – Faith – Farming

Since there are so many members of our ELCA community who live in agricultural areas and we all depend on food to sustain us; let’s explore how we can deliberately share the spectrum of ways our churches can inform members of opportunities, practice mindful eating, and love the wide array of neighbors who help feed us.

What do we know (and do) about Carbon Pricing?

Oceans: Vast & Fragile

This past fall,  Lutherans Restoring Creation helped facilitate an Ocean Leadership Training event at the New England Aquarium along with the aquarium’s educators and Creation Justice Ministries.  We started as a group of strangers coming together with a common concern for the ocean.  We spent the day together exploring the miraculous diversity of life as we explored exhibits, awestruck at images from unknown worlds amoungst seamounts just a few miles from the coast we stood on, and lifting our voices about the significance this all has from faith perspective.  Tools were shared with each other: personal experiences, data from social behavioral research, techniques for reaching out to the public sphere, and the prophetic information gathered by the world-renowned marine researchers.  For more information about how to talk about the significance of oceans to climate (and for the immediate well-being of the soul), explore the Creation Justice Ministries site (here). 

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Climate Justice & Faith Course at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

An invitation from Cynthia Moe-Lobeda:

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is so very pleased to announce a new development in our curriculum that may be of strong interest to you.

We have inaugurated a concentration in Climate Justice and Faith! It is available to all M.Div students and will be available to all students in the new Masters in Spirituality and Social Change that we intend to launch in the fall of 2021.

This flier (click here) describes the climate justice concentration. Please see the website for a fuller depiction at: https://www.plts.edu/programs/master-divinity/climate-justice.html

It is so utterly crucial that faith communities provide leadership in moving our world away from climate catastrophe and toward the flourishing of God’s marvelous creation. Therefore we intend – as soon as possible – to create a version of this concentration for people who want to prepare for leadership in creation care and climate justice, but who are not studying for a masters degree.  It will be a certificate in Climate Justice and Faith.  Stay tuned for more information on that opportunity.

We invite you to share this website and flyer broadly in your organization or network.

May God’s power for healing and liberation flow among us,

Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Ph.D.
Professor of Theological and Social Ethics,
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Core Doctoral Faculty, the Graduate Theological Union

Creation Care Ambassador Program

We are thrilled to announce that, through an ongoing partnership between the ELCA and ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow, a  Creation Care Ambassador Training occurred on April 4, 2020 with over 100 participants from across ELCA communities.  Once their training is complete,  these certified Ambassadors will be eager to share their new skills and resources with your Lutheran community.  Register here (click) if you are interested in having an Ambassador connect (virtually, or eventually in person).

Disappointed you missed this training event!?
Another one is already planned:
June 6, 2020 from 11:30 to 4 pm Eastern Time.

Register here (CLICK)

See how this resources fits into the other ways ELCA supports this ministry by listening to this recorded 1 hour webinar.  Please stay tuned for official registration information coming soon.

Light for Madrid – A Devotional

Thanks to the work of Green Shepherd, Lisa Brenskelle,  there is a way for your congregation to hold a gathering many miles away in prayer.  As the U.N. Climate Conference met in Madrid (Dec. 2-13, 2019) prayers were sent to support their efforts by bringing the conversation into churches in a prayerful way. Consider bringing this resource to your Bible Study, coffee hour, Sunday School or workplace to consider our impact on global issues from our pews.

Download the pdf here – and remember to print it double-sided, flip on the SHORT edge.

What Does A Strike for Climate Look Like?

The Global Climate Strike (9/20 thru 27) was an opportunity for many people of faith to lift up their voices as witnesses to the critical moral issue of our time and accompany a generation of youth who are calling for the end of “business as usual”.  What does that look like? What are all the various expressions of this witness and action? Below are some illustrations and examples – send us what your congregation/circle is doing. 

Check out Kim Acker,  member at University Lutheran, Palo Alto explaining her reason for taking to the street – Watch clip here prior to their arrest as a result of civil disobedience. 

Check out some scenes from Lutherans on the streets:

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So We Can Restore Creation

While caring for the environment can feel overwhelming, it’s when we stand together, each doing our part, that we find hope, gain strength, and make a difference. Find a tool below to help celebrate God’s gifts to us!

Download (Click Here) the information shared from Portico and Lutherans Restoring Creation at Churchwide Assembly 2019 to celebrate our progress and map the long way we still need to go to restore creation.

Join Up

Adults, start by taking the LRC Personal Covenant.  In 5 – 10 minutes, complete your covenant with creation. You’ll start to receive LRC’s monthly Good Green e-News linking you to other Lutheran earth-keepers and helpful resources.

ELCA Retirement Plan members, invest consciously using Portico’s ELCA social purpose funds. Call a Portico Financial Planner at 800.922.4896 to learn whether you’re in the social purpose funds and how to make that choice.

Children, take the Child’s Pledge With Creation.  Print out this out and discuss with your family. Tip: Frame your completed pledge using a larger piece of cardboard like a cereal box and decorate it with magazine photos that are important to you.

Teens, take the Youth Pledge. Then, walk through the Your Day experience, reflecting on how your daily decisions can impact others with whom we share this planet.

Inspire Others

Rally your congregation to take the Congregational Covenant with CreationThen, use LRC resources to create an action plan with support from LRC mentors.

Active Earth-keepers, become a Green Shepherd in your synodAs your synod’s point person for LRC and ELCA Advocacy and Stewardship outreach, learn to identify, connect and motivate other “green sheep” in your synod.

 

Tools for Talking and Acting on Climate with Faith-based Language

Blessed Tomorrow’s Moving Forward Guide

ecoAmerica helps leaders from the local government, the public health sector, and faith-based cohorts figure out how to usher people into urgent action on climate change. This brief guide provides you with information and resources to reduce energy use, to build resilient houses of worship as refuges from a changing climate, and to encourage support for policies that better care for creation.

See especially the section: Roadmap to Clean Energy by 2030 for clarity on steps to make once your congregation affirms the need for urgent action.

Water discipleship tools – fresh from Vermont!

Vermont Lutheran Church partners with Interfaith Power & Light to Share the Various Ways to Revere Water:

In 2018, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) joined with local organizations to create a model for watershed stewardship, based on the experience of Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington, Vermont.  The Reverend Dr. Nancy Wright, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and Richard Butz, a member of the church, are co-authors of the manuals. Rev. Nancy Wright is also a chairperson of the New England Synod’s Lutherans Restoring Creation “Green Team”. 

VTIPL has created two manuals, one with a Christian emphasis, Congregational Watershed Discipleship Manual: Faith Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Christian edition) and another with an interreligious emphasis, Congregational Watershed Manual: Religious Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Interreligious edition).

Each one of these inspiring and practical manuals is available by free download from the pdfs on VTIPL’s website (www.vtipl.org) and this website.  Alternatively, if you’d like one copy or multiple copies of the printed and bound manual(s), you can fill out and mail in the order form (attached below).  These are high resolution print copies, spiral bound to conveniently lie flat.  If you’d like to order one or more copies online, you can do this through the website of the organization Voices of Water for Climate (VOW).  VOW is working with VTIPL to take orders and distribute printed copies of the manuals.  Donations to VOW for printed copies will cover costs incurred, including shipping and handling.  The link to order online is below.

www.vow4climate.org/store 

(Email info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org if you are interested in going in on a bulk order with others!)

This is Church and You Are Needed Inside & Out

Watch this message from our churchwide leaders and fellow members across the country who recognize the tough, uncomfortable work of being “called out” into the world.  It is an empowering 7 minutes – worth the watch for all of us, not just the voting members who will be sitting in the conference rooms.

For those wanting to embolden their sense of calling to Creation Care for All as ministry inside and outside the church – you don’t need to have a resolution ready,  join a march, or preach on climate (yet). Start here:

 

Public Witness: from hand-wringing to actively loving neighbor

The 2019 ELCA Advocacy Convening (April 29 – May 1)  gathered over 100 lay and rostered  leaders to be trained as advocates. The theme: “Prepared to Care: Our Advocacy in Light of Disasters Intensified by Climate Change.” Below are some highlights as I, Phoebe Morad, experienced them. Thanks to those who support Lutherans Restoring Creation and help get our voice on the scene and for sharing this information and inspiration with your congregations and communities.

April 29th, after an 8 hour train ride from Boston: (The passenger next to me said I was taking the train such a long way to “make AOC happy,” but I said I was doing it for my kids.)

Opening worship at the glorious new space of St. Matthew’s in DC set the stage. This part had to include a bit of hand-wringing; admitting that we are full of fear and that it paralyzes us.  Director of ELCA’s Advocacy office, Amy Reumann shared that message of moving past fear in her sermon.  Washington D.C. April 2019 Service (great hymns and sample litanies)

During dinner together we heard from Lutherans across the country and globe dealing with fires, floods, immigration and agricultural devastation.  A disturbing collage of stories that are all magnified (if not caused) by a changing climate.  The positive take-away from that evening: with our combined forces of ELCA’s Global & Domestic Mission, Disaster Response, Advocacy, AND the people power in the congregations (go LRC Green Shepherds!)  we are uniquely poised to attack these issues on all fronts.

It was also terrific to have Bishop Elizabeth Eaton serve us communion as well. Photo: South Dakota Synod

 

April 30th, day two, of our training was focused on forcing ourselves into other people’s shoes.  How do we talk to people who think differently, have difference perspectives/priorities? Ani Fete-Crews from ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow’s presentation on 15 Steps to Effectively Talk about Climate utilizes current statistics about what people actually hear (which isn’t always what you say).   Time spent learning and practicing Talanoa Dialogue offered a tool for church leaders to bring back to communities with disparate views and learn how to listen to one another and find common solutions.  Hearing from pivotal leaders from island nations surrounded by the threat of rising seas and our neighbors to the South fleeing from long-term drought made the current impacts on our neighbors very real.

Her Excellency Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne shares her concept of LIGHT from Saint Kitts & Nevis.

Conflict is not what many flee from in Nicaragua… a valley of drought for over a decade pushes families to find food.

The last day (May 1) of the convening we started out at a Mexican restaurant for (an awesome breakfast) and to be officially sent into the world – specifically to ASK our elected officials to consider the human toll of climate change.  What exactly did we ask for? Download the 2019 Advocacy Ask here which led us in conversation with our public servants.

Photo credit: Hunger Network-Ohio “Food security is tied directly to the environment and natural disaster. Droughts around the globe have led to conflict and our polluted waterways make the water impossible to drink. The Hunger Network is #Preparedtocare with ELCA Advocacy as we stormed Capitol Hill to meet with our Senators and Representatives to talk climate changes impact on our most vulnerable communities impacted by natural disaster.”

 

The energy was palpable in the ELCA DC Advocacy office as cohorts came/went to the Hill, and, it felt like  – at least for a day – we were being heard.  Bumping into other Lutherans among the offices and around the Capital was a thrill (maybe because I’m a public policy nerd).  However, the reality of complex conversations and endurance needed for collaborative work hung in the air after hours of meetings.  It was quite a refreshment to then be invited to a vibrant, grassroots reception in an inner-city church basement. With dozens of partner organizations invited to the Interfaith Power & Light’s event, we could be restored in each other’s company and be inspired by one church acting as a beacon of hope in the city.  Reformation Lutheran Church was a not only a host to this rejuvenating event, but also invited us to transformational experience called the Healing Blanket Exercise, facilitated by Prairie Rose Seminole,  ELCA’s American Indian Alaska Native Program Director.

Rooftop party with solar panels, the ELCA Advocacy Director of Energy and Corporate Responsibility and Rev. Mike Wilker.

In a contrast to the “bottom-up” mentality of the evening before, May 2nd offered a very hopeful glimpse of what is happening from the “top-down”.  Fortunately, our grassroots movement is in partnership with ecoAmerica which connects leaders from the health, policy, and religious realms so that we can leverage each other’s assets. There are MANY vignettes I would be happy to share in our next Connections Call, but if you can take the time to explore the recording below please do. Rep. Whitehouse (Dem-RI) shared a very clear understanding of what is the hold-up in his “habitat,” Dr.  Gail Christopher shared a staggering account of the impacts on health care costs, and Rev. Dorhauer talks about privilege as an impediment to the church.  If nothing else, let Shantha Ready-Alonso lead you through a guided visualization of why any of us do this work (start at minute 15 below).

Thanks again so much for being a part of this movement and helping ensure the concerns, efforts, and strengths that come from the Caring for Creation ministries within the ELCA are heard.  Meeting with leadership from all sectors of our church in person and focused on the urgent issues of climate was more effective than dozens of conference calls and hundreds of emails.  I returned home (via train of course) with a full plate of next steps and a full heart of hope.  

Johan Bergh: Luther as Environmentalist

Download, read, and share widely this brief reflection from active disciple, Dr. Johan Bergh.  In his piece, published in the Trinity Review (2013), Bergh relates the framework of grace and neighbor love with how we are to understand the role of public action in our church.  Read more recent reflections on his blog: www.greengracepostings.blogspot.com

“God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Download the six-page excerpt from Trinity Seminary Review here: Johan-Bergh-Published-Journal-Article-Luther-as-Environmentalist.pdf

Dr. Johan Bergh, ACC

Johan serves as Pastor for St. Philip Lutheran Church, Mt. Dora, FL., and is an International Coach Federation ACC Coach, ELCA Coach and Coach Mentor and ELCA Licensed Coach Trainer. He volunteers his service by coaching ELCA leaders and mentoring ELCA Coach-In-Training rostered leaders. He currently serves as Coaching Ministry Coordinator for the Florida-Bahamas  Synod and serves on the ELCA Churchwide Coaching Ministry Team as well as a level II Natural Church Development Coach. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2006 with a concentration in Discipleship and Leadership (M.Div., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH 1981). His Bachelor of Science, Natural Resources, Environmental Interpretation (The Ohio State University) degree provides an environmental studies background for his current work as a Green Faith Fellow (www.Greenfaith.org)

He and his wife Janet have been married 39 years and have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.  He enjoys golf, running, hiking, fitness exercise, reading, biking, spinning, and good friends!

-Life and Missional Coach: http://www.beinganddoingmatters.com

-Coaching Ministry Coordinator, Florida-Bahamas Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: http://www.fbsynod.com