In 2015, Pope Francis released his encyclical “Laudato Si,’ On Care for our Common Home,” which emphasized the importance of caring for the environment.
It inspired concrete action from parishioners at St. Henry, and eventually led to their faith partnership with the Nashville Chapter of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, who will celebrate Faith Climate Action Week April 22 through May 1.
“In response to Pope Francis’ encyclical, the Faith and Justice Ministry of St. Henry was born. Since 2015, this ministry’s efforts have been through prayer, education, advocacy and action to make Laudato Si’ our cornerstone,” said Sandra Smith, parishioner of St. Henry and a Faith and Justice Ministry member. “In doing so, we began to work with other faith traditions and spiritual practices, which also embrace a deep concern for the Earth.”
“I so appreciate that there are people right here in our own parish who are interested in caring for this world that God has given us and that they are partnering with other people,” said Father Mark Beckman, pastor of St. Henry. “I do think it’s a problem bigger than one church or one parish, so we have to work together with people of good will from every possible background.”
That reached its height in 2018 when St. Henry’s Faith and Justice Ministry began its faith partnership with Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light and will continue during the celebration of Faith Climate Action Week.
Focusing on the theme of “Sacred Trust: Our Children’s Right to a Livable Future,” Faith Climate Action Week includes multiple activities including showings of the documentary “Youth v. Gov,” which features “the story of the Juliana v. The United States of America constitutional lawsuit, and the 21 American youth, ages 14 to 25, who are taking on the world’s most powerful government,” according to the documentary website; A Climate Change and Children’s Health webinar, featuring Carol Ziegler, a professor at Vanderbilt School of Nursing, and Vanessa Lynch, a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force in western Pennsylvania; and more.
To register for the A Climate Change and Children’s Health webinar, which is at 1 p.m. CST Tuesday, April 26, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAoceuvrz8pEtNfcRB3FSe5wagYS8rMaj2h.
St. Henry is hosting an Earth Care Celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1, to close out the week.
“By participating in Faith Climate Action Week, and in particular the Earth Care Celebration on May 1 at St. Henry, Catholic voices are heard in support of protecting our common home,” Smith said. “I am optimistic that other Catholic voices will accept an invitation to go beyond their parish doors and join in solidarity with other faith traditions to express their love and concern for the Earth.”
Interfaith Power and Light
Interfaith Power and Light is a national organization founded by an episcopal priest in California in 2000, and now can be found around the country, said the Rev. Paul Slentz, chairperson of the Nashville chapter.
“Interfaith Power and Light is made up of different religious groups, including Christians as well as Jewish and Muslim and Eastern religions like Hinduism and so forth,” Rev. Slentz said. “The focus is on caring for the earth from a perspective of faith with a special kind of emphasis upon the challenges related to climate change, both in terms of the threats posed by climate change and also in terms of working for solutions to that threat.”
Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light currently has more than 50 faith partners, four of which are Catholic churches and congregations in Middle Tennessee, including St. Henry, St. Stephen Catholic Community in Old Hickory, Holy Name Church in Nashville and the Sisters of Mercy, who will all also participate in Faith Climate Action Week.
“We feel a real strong connection with the Catholic community in Nashville, just a great source of support and energy and good ideas and great theology. All those things have been wonderful,” Rev. Slentz said. “I really am so grateful to the leadership that Pope Francis has shown around this. His leadership has been amazing, particularly with his encyclical ‘Laudato Si.’’
“We share Pope Francis’ conviction that people of all faith traditions must work together to care for our common home,” he added.
‘A common basis’
The coming together of so many different faith traditions is what Greg Wathen, member of the St. Stephen faith partner, said he enjoys most about being involved with Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light.
“We are all part of God’s creation, and, therefore, we have a responsibility, and God wants us to take care of that creation not only for ourselves, but also for future generations that will come after us,” Wathen said.
Being involved with Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light “really broadens our understanding of humanity’s role in creation. It’s taught me that many other faith traditions have the same regard, same respect, same love for creation as we as Catholics do,” Wathen said. “It helps give us a common basis to really promote living in a way that we respond and respect and love that creation and all these natural gifts that have been given to us.”
For more information about Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, visit https://www.tennipl.org/.
For more information about Faith Climate Action Week, visit faithclimateactionweek.org.
To learn more about the week’s activities or becoming a faith partner, e-mail Rev. Slentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.