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  • Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: One Meeting and 13 Years Later -4.27.23

I first got involved in environmental justice in 2010 when I sat in on a meeting for my husband. Jess was teaching at Penn State University and was part of a group of folks from the community and university who were planning a conference on religion and climate justice. I jumped in for what I thought was one meeting and have been involved ever since.

The meeting led to the conference. The conference led to the formation of a local Creation Care Coalition and to the creation of a state climate justice organization called Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. As founding members, Jess and I participated in climate justice marches, and helped organize more conferences and events. I wrote climate justice songs and led sing-alongs and prayer services and book studies about care for the earth.

It all led to our family exploring ways that we could practice better care for the earth and understand creation care as a matter of religious ethics and spiritual practice. We switched out our lightbulbs for energy efficient ones and had our house assessed for energy leaks. Jess even challenged us all to ride our bikes more than we drove the car, and for a few years we tried mightily to “beat the beast” by racking up more bike miles than car miles annually. Inevitably, the combined bike miles would take the lead until Christmas, when the mandatory 300-mile car trip to visit family in Ohio would put the car over the top.

When we moved from State College to Philadelphia, we helped form a Climate Action Team at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and I joined the board of PA IPL and became its president for a time. More meetings, more conferences, more calls and visits to legislators to advocate for climate care legislation, and more treks on the bike to raise funds and awareness about climate change as a moral issue.

All of that is to say that we never know where one meeting might take us, or what might grow from a small group of people gathering to raise a moral issue and to spread the word. From those early days of steering committees and local activities, PA IPL has grown into a substantial state organization with chapters throughout the state, including Philadelphia. It has engaged numerous faith communities of all traditions in activating their own power as people of faith to protect the earth’s climate and its atmosphere.

The Climate Action Team at St. Martin-in-the-Fields has issued a challenge to St. Paul’s in Chestnut Hill and to us at St. Peter’s to join them in the participating in PA IPL’s annual Bike and Hike fundraiser. Jess and I will again take to the bike to support this important cause. I hope to do some walking as well. If you’d like to join us in racking up miles by bike or foot, email me and I’ll get you signed up. If you’d like to contribute some funds toward the effort, you can do it directly here.

Looking to the future, I’d love St. Peter’s to develop its own climate care work. If you are interested in being part of an effort that will help our faith community engage in learning bout climate change, engaging in spiritual reflection on earth stewardship, creating more sustainable practices at our parish, and advocating for policies that protect the earth, please contact me at and we’ll get something started. PA IPL would be a great partner. There are others as well.

Thirteen years after that first meeting, I can say that whatever shape the work of climate care has taken, it has fostered the supportive community and the tools I need to remain hopeful at times of grave climate disruption. It is work that engages all ages from child to elder, families and individuals alike. It helps us to steward the earth that God put in our hands. And it can’t be done alone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rev. Barb

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