TVUUC goes solar!

by Gene Burr, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church(TVUUC)  Green Team member

Rev. Chris Buice and Lay Leader Gene Burr powering up the solar panels

A year ago, we had essentially given up our dream of in-stalling a solar array on our building. Shortly after FLS Energy and Green Earth Solar submitted our application to the Tennessee Solar Institute, we learned that the grant funds allocated to Tennessee ($9M) had been committed to other projects. We were advised that only in the event that other applicants dropped out would our project be funded. But, that’s what happened, and the solar panels have been installed—117 of them! We are still holding our collective breath, trying to accept what is hard to believe— that we would have this opportunity to demonstrate what we believe about using clean energy while investing in a more sustainable future for TVUUC.

The 28.7 kW solar energy system being installed on our roof will generate 37,663 kW-hours annually, and offset 27 tons of CO2 per year. We have used an innovative model to finance the array, one of the first “third party ownership models” in Tennessee.

The total cost of the system is $163, 419, for which FLS Energy is receiving a $57,400 federal “stimulus” grant (from American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009) on our behalf. TVUUC has paid $22,500 as our share of the cost—the balance of the total cost being absorbed by FLS and “third party investors” which receive a 30% fed- eral tax credit that we could not access as a non-profit or- ganization. TVUUC also receives a $1000 grant from TVA for participation in their Generation Partners pro- gram. A bonus that we are to receive from the Knoxville- Knox County Community Action Committee, in return for energy conservation steps we have undertaken over the past five years, is a $15,000 solar grant that will offset our initial investment of $22,500, leaving a net investment of $7,500 by TVUUC.

The future sustainability that TVUUC will benefit from is an offset of approximately 40% of our electric utility costs ($3,500 annually) during years 6-10 of our ten-year part- nership with FLS Energy. At the end of our agreement, we will have the option to renew and continue to receive the solar income from FLS Energy, or we may choose to own the system outright, at a depreciated cost. The solar panels carry a 25-year warranty

143 arrested at Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Over 300 people gathered today in Lafayette Park across from The White House to participate in the Tar Sands Action civil disobedience.Today was interfaith day.  The Key Stone XL Pipeline is something that will affect everybody in the United States and beyond our borders.  Rose Berger and Tim Kumfer brought together people from various faith traditions (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Franciscan priests, and Unitarian Universalists) to show that faith communities are concerned about the environment, the inter-connected web of life, and the environmental injustices this pipeline will cause.

The day started out with a Jewish Song Service.  The leaders of this service explained to us that in Jerusalem, traditionally, the Jews and Muslims, gather to sign together in the square before going to their respective worship services and wanted this to be a reflection of that.  Singing happened for about 45 minutes – Rev. Craig Roshaven led the group in “We are a gentle angry people.”  This was followed by a short interfaith service.  Unitarian Universalists (UUs) were represented by Barbara Ford.

Then the rally started – Bill McKibben spoke as did James Hansen about how important this action was today and how brave people were being.  “What started out as a protest has become a movement” McKibben stated.  And all those there today and the previous 7 days are a part of this movement.

The group lined up in front of the White House, and, after “refusing to follow a lawful order”  (standing in front of the White House) around 143 people were arrested.  Today’s protest has become the largest day of arrests at the pipeline protest.

UUs were well represented among the protesters.  Approximately 40 people were there on behalf of their faith community.  14 UUs were arrested, while 11 others served as observers and support people, and one chaplain was present and available for pastoral concerns.With the faith community being so large, the tone for the protest was peaceful and involved lots of signing.  James Hansen, climate scientist, decided he wanted to be arrested with “religious folk” and gave a shout out to the Methodists.

The police systematically arrested the women and then the men, putting them into vans for transport to Anacostia Detention Center.  It was a long hard day for all involved.  UUs started their day at 9am and were all finally released (after post-and-forfeiting $100) by 3:18pm.  Most were tired, exhausted, and a bit dehydrated.  At the same time, they all seemed proud, changed, and glad that they represented their faith community and its values by witnessing for it.  Several UUs commented that they also appreciated seeing UUA staff support at the Tar Sands Action Rally.

I’ll be following up with individual stories over the next week or two so make sure you check back to learn more about what inspired each of the 14 arrested UUs to participate in this act of non-violent civil disobedience.

How you can support the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Last week, Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, UUA Witness Ministries Director, and Barbara Ford, UUMFE member and past-President, asked UUs to join them in non-violent civil disobedience on the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day .

Since then, a number of UUs have contacted Robin Nelson, UUA Environmental Stewardship Manager, to indicate that they will join Craig and Barbara in risking arrest. We are so excited to see the momentum for this movement building and encourage others to join and support us in whatever ways they can.

The Tar Sands Action started on August 20th and will continue until September 3rd.  On Saturday, August 20th 75 people were arrested and 50 of those were held over the weekend awaiting arraignment on Monday.  Bill McKibben, author, educator, environmentalist, and one of the driving forces behind the Tar Sands Action, passed along a statement from the central cell block where he was held since Saturday through Monday saying “Hello everyone! We don’t need sympathy, we need company. It’s clear to us that police were hoping to deter this action, and it’s equally clear to us the opposite will be the result.”

Terry Tempest Williams said this about Tar Sands: “The act of civil disobedience is the act of taking our anger and turning it into sacred rage. It is a personal and collective gesture of resistance and insistence….We can travel to Washington, D.C. mentally, create an image of support to those who can be there on the front lines physically…. We can participate in building this climate change movement, each in our own way, each in our own time with the gifts that are ours. We can become the fire of hopeful action that burns through corruption and complacency. We can be the river of concern that cools our sweltering planet. And we will be the voice of resistance that says yes to a more compassionate way of being in the world and face those who say no with the force of our steady gaze.”

Ways in which you can support Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day and the UUs who are participating:

  • Attend All Souls DC service at 10:15am on Sunday, August 28th where Tar Sands Action participants will be recognized.
  • Join Tar Sands Action folks for lunch after the service to show your support.
  • Attend the rally at Lafayette Park on Monday, August 29th around 9:45am to show support for those risking arrest.
  • Risk arrest by participating in non-violent civil disobedience on Monday, August 29th – a required interfaith gathering and training and legal briefing for our witness will take place on Sunday, August 28th from 4-9 p.m.
  • Sign the Stop the Tar Sands Petition. The petition will be delivered to President Obama during the Tar Sands Action.
  • Sign the Religious Tar Sands Petition.
  • Write an oped to  your local news editor. (Check out the editorial in Monday’s New York Times.)
  • Talk with your friends, neighbors, colleagues, congregation members, etc. about the Key Stone XL Pipeline and how it is a danger to our environment and get them to take action.
  • Make use of the End Big Oil subsides tool kit.
  • Make a donation to the UUMFE or become a member.  The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) is a non-profit organization whose supporters envision a world in which reverence, gratitude, and care for the living Earth is central to the lives of all people.

 For Earth,

UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) Board
UUA Environmental Stewardship
UUA Witness Ministries

Nancy King Smith, Co-Chair UUMFE
Irene Keim, Co-Chair UUMFE
Barbara Ford, UUMFE member and past President
Terry Wiggins, Former UUMFE Treasurer
Pamela Sparr, Environmental Justice Consultant to UUMFE
Robin Nelson, UUA Environmental Stewardship Manager
Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, UUA Witness Ministries Director
Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
Rev. Terry Ellen, Executive Director of UUs for Social Justice
Jo Ann Bachar, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee
Linda S. Cooper, First UU Society in Burlington, VT
Lynn Dash
Wes Ernsberger, UU Congregation of Binghamton, NY
Celeste McCollough Howard, Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Washington County, Hillsboro OR
Vincent Pawlowski, UU Congregation of North West Tucson, AZ


Join us for the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Dear friends,

We want to invite you to join us in an effort to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  The UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE), All Souls Unitarian in Washington, DC and other national and local UU groups are joining with interfaith leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Christian, and Buddhist communities on August 28th and 29th to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (the proposed pipeline to transport Tar Sands to the US for refinement).

The Keystone XL Pipeline will be built from the Tar Sands in Canada, across the US, down to Texas refineries.  First Nations communities in Canada and Native American tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction of their sacred lands cease.  People impacted by the construction and the “state of the art technology” predicted to leak every seven years don’t want to see it built.  People of color and the poor are at a significantly greater risk of health impacts from dirty fossil fuels, and are amongst the first to suffer from the impacts of climate change.  Concerns about the Tar Sands Pipeline include the risky extraction methods, the dangers of the pipeline itself, and the long-term climate change consequences.

The Tar Sands Action rolling wave of civil disobedience (or “divine obedience”) is shaping up to be the longest civil disobedience on climate change in U.S. history. The Obama Administration has the sole authority in deciding whether or not the pipeline will be built which is why folks across faith communities are participating in a rolling series of demonstrations, including risking arrest, from August 20th – September 3rd.

More than a dozen UU’s from around the country are coming to DC to participate. We invite you and members of your congregation to participate if you feel called in one or more of the following ways:

  • Join the religious contingent (including UUs) and risk arrest at the rally on Monday, August 29thA required nonviolence civil disobedience training and legal briefing for our witness will take place on Sunday, August 28th from 4-9 p.m.
  • Attend the rally at Lafayette Park on Monday, August 29th at 9:45am to show support for those risking arrest.  The legal witness in Lafayette Park will begin mid-morning, probably around 10 a.m. Look for the Green Sanctuary Banner in Lafayette Park to stand in solidarity with other UUs.
  • Sign the Stop the Tar Sands Petition. Those who can’t join the rally can join the movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline by signing the petition that will be delivered to President Obama during the Tar Sands Action.
  • Join the UUMFE.  Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth is a non-profit organization whose supporters envision a world in which reverence, gratitude, and care for the living Earth is central to the lives of all people. As a 501(c)3 organization, contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
  • Please contact Robin Nelson, Environmental Stewardship Manager for the UUA, if you or people from your congregation will be attending the rally, especially if you are intending to risk arrest (Rnelson at uua dot org, 617.948.4251). Robin will be providing a support role and organizing UUs.  Watch for more timely information on the UUMFE Facebook page.

In faith,

Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, Witness Ministries Director
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Barbara Ford, UUMFE member and past President


UUA & GreenFaith Announce Environmental Collaboration

GreenFaith Contact:
Rev. Fletcher Harper
revfharper at greenfaith dot org | 201-390-0094
Unitarian Universalist Association Contact:
Robin Nelson
RNelson at uua  dot org | 617-948-4251

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, GreenFaith
Announce Environmental Collaboration
UU Leaders to Enter GreenFaith Fellowship Program

BOSTON, MA and HIGHLAND PARK, NJ — On March 30, the UUA and GreenFaith announced a collaboration to enroll UU leaders from around the US in the GreenFaith Fellowship Program.  This unique program helps leaders from diverse religious communities become effective religious-environmental leaders through an 18-month education and training experience.

Tuition Subsidies for Lay and Ordained UU Leaders
To support the collaboration, GreenFaith will underwrite 50% of the tuition of 4 UU Fellows annually during 2011, 2012 and 2013.  “The UU community has been at the forefront of religiously-based environmental leadership for many years,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith’s Executive Director.  “We look forward to helping the next generation of UU leaders reach their potential as religious-environmental leaders.”  Application materials are now available.

Resources to Support UU Leaders
This new offering represents an addition to the substantial existing environmental resources offered by the UUA.  In July 2008 at the UUA’s General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, the UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) symbolically handed off the Green Sanctuary banner to UUA leadership to represent the shift of the Green Sanctuary Program to the UUA. (more…)

The Green Seminary Initiative

I’ve recently learned about a new resource for greening seminaries.  The Green Seminary Initiative fosters efforts by theological schools and seminaries to incorporate care for creation into the identity and mission of the institution.

The Green Seminary Initiative has much in common with the Green Sanctuary program – the former is for theological schools and seminaries whereas the latter is for congregations.  Both programs make it clear that environmentalism and theology are integrally linked, social/environmental justice and ecological problems are intertwined, building community is important, and that it is important to celebrate your accomplishments.  The 20 Guiding Principles to Greening Your Seminary are also good to keep in mind when creating a Green Sanctuary at your congregation.

Currently there are only 7 seminaries who have submitted Green Profiles.  UU seminarians, I challenge you to get your school on-board with this effort and have it added to the list by Earth Day 2012!

Up for Adoption, The 10 Tree Challenge

Guest Author, Rev. Phil Schulman

IF YOU ARE A LOVER OF TREES… this could be your opportunity to make a profound contribution to our UU religious tradition and to GAIA (Earth).

Up for adoption, is the “10 Tree Challenge,” a simple project that resulted in 40+ churches (and 50-100 other orgs.) planting over 3,000 trees. Beyond the tangible results, an exceptional spirit emerged across the UU world as a result of this project. UUs grasped the simple idea, and then brought it to life in a myriad of creative ways that fit their particular congregation.

UU’s are still hungry for meaningful ritual. Tree Planting proves to be both a powerful symbolic ritual and a way that UUs could make a visible contribution to their communities. UUs of every ilk, young and old, intellectual, political, spiritual all embrace this project.

I initiated, encouraged and facilitated the project, and watched it take off. Then other aspects of my ministry intervened. I was serving two congregations, and offering trainings in “Compassionate Conversations” (aka nonviolent communication). I wasn’t able to remain focused on the “10 Tree Challenge.”

The right person could help this project spring back to life like a tree after a season of dormancy. I would be glad to advise, coach, encourage and share some ideas. Or perhaps your creativity will be what makes the difference. (more…)

Tell Congress: “The air we breathe is not up for negotiation.”

From The Rev. Cannon Sally Bingham, Interfaith Power and Light

“The House and Senate leadership appear to have reached a temporary two-week budget extension, thankfully, without the EPA attacks in the House spending bill. But the longer term budget battle is only delayed, and so far, the House leadership is refusing to back down on their spending bill that guts core environmental safeguards. Please let your representatives hear from you today. The House-passed bill poses a reckless threat to the air we breathe. It represents skewed values that favor polluters over children’s health.

The House spending bill cripples the EPA by slashing its budget by 30%, while fossil fuel subsidies continue. It bars the agency from curbing carbon pollution, and cuts clean energy research and development that is crucial for job creation and economic revival. The spending bill even blocks the air pollution standards aimed at cleaning up toxic pollutants, like mercury.

People of faith have a responsibility to speak out against this attempt to hold our environment and our health hostage to special interests and sacrifice 40-year-old environmental safeguards. The moral voice of the faith community needs to be heard now more than ever.

Will you help me stop this dangerous bill in the Senate? The fossil fuel industry’s lobbyists are walking the halls of Congress at this moment. It’s up to us to defend our families, neighbors, and future generations.

Please tell your elected officials that the air we breathe is a God-given human right, not a political bargaining chip.


The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham
Interfaith Power & Light”

Green Sanctuary Responsive Reading

This is a Green Sanctuary Covenant/Responsive Reading that was written by First Parish in Needham‘s Intern Minister Molly Housh Gordon.  Molly led the congregation in reading their Green Sanctuary Covenant at a Sunday service after announcing that the Green Sanctuary resolution (an intention to proceed with the Green Sanctuary accreditation process) was unanimously passed by the Parish Committee.

Green Sanctuary Covenant/Responsive Reading
by Molly Housh Gordon, First Parish in Needham

Setting ourselves to the task of Greening our Congregation, together we promise these things:
Most simply, we will each do our small part to care for the earth around us.
We will start with one step forward toward the thriving world that we envision.
Then we will step again, and again, setting forth together in this community.
Deep problems call for religious answers. Recognizing the depth and urgency of the environmental crisis, we must answer the earth’s call to our spirits.
We will bring the concerns of the earth to live deep in our hearts and in the heart of this congregation.
Realizing that we have been too concerned with consuming things now, we must turn our attention to the future.
We will take up the needs of the generations to come: clean water to drink, sweet air to breathe.
Acknowledging the earth most basically as our home, we must set about the task of restoration.
In this our congregational home, we will find small and large ways to remember the environment in our worshipping, our learning, our celebrating,  and our justice-making.
Aware of the urgency and complexity of our environmental crisis, we end by promising simply this:
As people of faith, we pledge ourselves to work toward a planet transformed by our care.

Ground for Hope – Religious Education & Training on the Environment

Dr. Larry Rasmussen Keynotes Nov. 14-15 Event

On November 14-15, GreenFaith, the Theological School at Drew University, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church in North Plainfield, and the Green Seminary Initiative are presenting Ground for Hope – a premier religious-environmental event for New Jersey-area religious leaders.

Click here to register for the event.
Seminary students click here to register.

The 2-day program will include:

  • An environmental health and justice tour in Newark.
  • Multi-faith eco-worship.
  • presentations on ‘green’ facility management, religious education and preaching on the environment.
  • a free evening keynote and panel on environmental justice advocacy featuring nationally-recognized environmental justice advocate Dr. Nicky Sheats.

Dr. Larry Rasmussen is the keynote speaker on November 15. One of the world’s foremost Christian environmental ethicists, Dr. Rasmussen has mentored a generation of religious leaders in eco-theology and “green religion.”  He has published more than a dozen books, and is currently directing a 10-year project on Earth-honoring Christianity at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. (more…)