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Religions Unite Over Global Warming

by: PRNewswire    3 October 2006

4,000 Congregations Across The Country To View Hard-Hitting Documentaries

Faith leaders across the country have joined together to mobilize a religious response to global warming. During the first week of October, in churches, mosques, synagogues and halls of worship across the nation, congregations are participating in an unprecedented inter-religious screening and discussion of educational films about global warming, featuring Paramount's An Inconvenient Truth, HBO's Too Hot Not to Handle and the independent documentary Lighten Up.

The event, called "Spotlight on Global Warming" is being organized by Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) a nationwide movement to engage people of faith in the urgency to address global warming.

"Global warming is harming God's creation: first the poor of the world and eventually all of us and all life," said the Reverend Sally G. Bingham, founder of IPL and an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA.

"With these screenings and discussion, we hope to inform and inspire people of faith to take personal and collective action to reduce global warming emissions," said Rabbi Daniel Swartz at Temple Hesed of Scranton Pennsylvania's oldest synagogue.

"I have spent my life fighting for civil rights and human rights," said Pastor Gerald L. Durley of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia. "After I saw The Great Warming and An Inconvenient Truth, I have taken on yet another mission. We are destroying our earth. We can't protect human rights if we aren't here."

"Everyone has a stake and a role in reducing global warming emissions. Working together we can change history," said Souleiman Ghali, a Muslim leader and founder of the Islamic Society of San Francisco.

From Dallas, Texas to Brunswick, Maine, faith leaders are gathering hundreds of thousands of their followers to view the films. In every state, they have compelling stories to tell about the power of the religious response to global warming and the potential for change through the work of congregations and congregants. Here are some of their stories:

* In Georgia, Dr. Gerald L. Durley, pastor of the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, well known for leadership in the civil rights movement, and initiating ground-breaking outreach programs to strengthen the African American family and community, is enlisting Atlanta's Imams, Rabbis and other faith leaders to work with him on global warming. He plans to hold multi-faith screenings in some of Atlanta's diverse religious communities. Providence has inaugurated an environment committee to design a plan for reducing church energy use as well as educating congregants on ways to reduce individual global warming emissions.

* In Pennsylvania, Rabbi Daniel Swartz of Scranton's oldest synagogue, Temple Hesed, has worked for social justice throughout his career and helped to found the IPL in Washington, D.C. He will hold a screening and conscious conversations during Yom Kippur. 186 congregations across Pennsylvania are showing global warming documentaries.

* In California, Souleiman Ghali, founder of the Islamic Society of San Francisco, is an avid proponent of dialogue between the faith communities and Imam of the largest mosque in the Bay Area. His mosque is currently transforming their energy use by employing new conservation measures. The Reverend Sally G. Bingham of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral has worked with congregants across the country to transform their religious buildings, as well as their homes to reduce global warming emissions. She launched the Spotlight on Global Warming week in San Francisco with a morning Eucharist on Crissy Field in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and a sermon at Grace Cathedral. They will screen the film with parishioners on October 3rd.

* In Iowa, Sister Mira Mosle and the Sisters of Charity are in the midst of a total renovation of their 1892 motherhouse, turning it into a green building complete with geothermal heating and cooling system. The nuns drive hybrid cars. They will screen An Inconvenient Truth on Friday, October 6th. 96 congregations in Iowa are screening the films this week.

* In Michigan, Imam Ach Mat Salie of the Muslim Unity Center is a passionate environmental steward who works closely with Michigan Interfaith Power & Light leader Father Charles Morris, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish outside of Detroit. Father Morris led his congregation to win the ENERGY STAR® for extraordinary efforts in utilizing clean energy. He conducted an energy audit at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church where they invested $150,000 in changes such as a new boiler, energy efficient lighting and appliances, window insulation, and a solar thermal hot water heater. Their investment has provided a savings of $20,000 a year, which is a 50% reduction in their annual energy budget. His church has solar panels and a wind turbine. Morris launched an online service to provide energy efficiency devices to congregations at discount rates.

* In Washington D.C., the National Cathedral held a screening of The Great Warming and An Inconvenient Truth on Saturday, September 30th, and on Sunday, October 1 at 11 am the Reverend Dean Lloyd delivered a sermon on the biblical charge to care for the earth and challenge the faith community to do its part to respond to this environmental crisis. Over 160 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C. area are screening the film this week.

During IPL's "Spotlight on Global Warming" week, participating congregations are conducting a series of activities:

* Screening films Too Hot Not to Handle, The Great Warming, Lighten Up and/or An Inconvenient Truth

* Providing congregants with global warming educational kits

* Conducting "Conscious Conversations" or discussions following the screenings

* Giving sermons on the issue of global warming

* Holding Morning Eucharist

* Conducting Moment of Prayer

* Organizing children's educational activities

* Leading congregants in sample energy audits

* Installing energy conservation measures

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that if the estimated 307,000 places of worship across the United States reduced energy usage by 25 percent, they would prevent more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide (global warming) emissions -- the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from the road -- and each year congregations would save a total of approximately $500 million on power bills.