Interfaith Celebration Highlights Solidarity and Sustainability

November 24, 2016

By Allis Druffel, California Interfaith Power & Light Southern California Outreach Director, also LA Diocesan Green/Creation Care Team Chair

On November 15, California Interfaith Power & Light held its 2016 Cool Climate Awards ceremony at Oakland’s Beebe Memorial Cathedral, and the feeling of interfaith solidarity in the room was palpable.  The video of Ken Chambers, and others shown that evening are now available, as is a list of all awardees and their efforts.   CIPL members from Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and Unitarian communities shared food, offered prayers and celebrated climate care and advocacy work being done by congregations all over California from Humboldt County to El Cajon.


CIPL’s annual awards ceremonies are always special, but this year’s gathering came at a time when many, especially climate-minded voters, are feeling discouraged following the results of the 2016 election. Many expressed profound concern and anxiety about the state of public discourse, the rise of intolerance and the devastating implications of any weakening in U.S. climate leadership. Attendees were encouraged to deepen their commitment to environmental justice by becoming more engaged, especially at the local level, where important climate policy and green job victories are possible. Focus on faith communities’ moral responsibility to raise consciousness about threats to the common good and to practice care for local and global neighbors was a common theme throughout the evening.

The Cool Climate Awards began with the sharing of a Sioux prayer offered in support of Standing Rock by Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll of Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley and founder of Green the Church. Presenters of the awards included CIPL Steering Committee members 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, co-chair of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

CA Catholics and IPL

From left, Alicia Kling, American Martyrs Catholic Church and School, Manhattan Beach; Matthew Chayt; Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Associate Minister of Bethel AME, Boston; Rev. Will Scott, CIPL; Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Pastor, Church by the Side of the Road, Berkeley; Clando Brownlee, Climate Luminary awardee, Ablaze Christian Fellowship, National City

The Catholic community was well represented this year with awards going to both St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Palo Alto and St. 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.

St. 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. St. 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 epitomized the local and global demand for climate justice and a just transition to clean energy. West Side Missionary, along with many other East Bay CIPL member congregations is continuing to work together for green jobs and climate resilient communities. 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.” Referencing the broadly shared 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.”

East Bay-based Cantare Cov Vivo Youth Ensemble poses with CIPL Steering Committee members

East Bay-based Cantare Cov Vivo Youth Ensemble poses with CIPL Steering Committee members.



Cardboard Cutouts Cof pictures from No Coal in Oakland rallies decorated the space

Cardboard cutouts of pictures from No Coal in Oakland rallies decorated the space

Allis Druffel
California Interfaith Power & Light
Southern California Outreach Director
789 North Altadena Drive
Pasadena, CA 91107
(310) 752-3436
[email protected]