Faith in Place, is the Chicago based interfaith organization that is featured in RENEWAL’s Food for Faith story. It is dedicated to giving people the tools to become good stewards of the earth.
In addition to its many state-wide interfaith stewardship programs, Faith in Place serves as the active affiliate for the Illinois chapter of Interfaith Power and Light.
Rev. Clare Butterfield, Director of Faith in Place, and her staff have created an excellent Discussion Guide to two of Renewal’s stories - Food for Faith and Interfaith Power and Light.
The Discussion Guide is posted on this website.
Learn more about Faith in Place’s inspiring work by visiting http://www.faithinplace.org/
Faith In Place Discussion Guide for Two RENEWAL Stories
Renewal Discussion Guide Facilitator Notes
Thank you for volunteering to lead a discussion about the important role that people of faith can play in preserving the environment for future generations. The following is a brief resource designed to help you facilitate conversation about Renewal. As designed, it should take approximately 70 minutes to complete. However, feel free to modify it to fit your purposes.
A few days before the discussion, please take some time to view the two segments that you will primarily be discussing (“Food for Faith” and “Interfaith Power and Light”) and read over this guide. Also, photocopy the final Faith in Place page for your participants.
I. WELCOME, OVERVIEW & PRAYER (5 minutes)
Extend a brief welcome to those gathered. Explain that you will be watching and discussing parts of a new documentary called Renewal in order to help generate ideas about how your congregation (or organization) can become more environmentally sustainable. If participants do not know each other very well you may want to include time for brief introductions. Depending on your congregational culture, you may offer an opening prayer.
Spend a few minutes talking about the work of Faith in Place (FIP). FIP is an interfaith nonprofit that gives religious people the tools to become good stewards of the earth. It partners with religious congregations to promote clean energy and sustainable farming. Since 1999, FIP has partnered with over 400 congregations in Illinois—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Baha’i and Unitarian. It is also affiliated with the national Interfaith Power & Light campaign. For more info, please visit www.faithinplace.org and refer to the attached FIP Overview page.
II. “FOOD FOR FAITH” (25 minutes: 15 to watch + 10 to discuss)
Before showing segment #3, encourage people to pay attention to the wide variety of overlapping issues that make up the problem of climate change.
The segment is very inspiring so don’t feel like you need to force conversation. You can begin by asking people to share their thoughts and reactions. Ask what jumped out to them. If you need help stimulating or focusing the conversation, try one (or all) of the following discussion questions:
1. What do you make of Farmer Floyd’s statement that “our spiritual link with the soil and our food has been lost as a result of supermarkets?” In what ways do you think it can be regained?
Some possibilities include planting a vegetable garden at home or your place of worship, supporting local farmers/farm stands, purchasing a community supported agriculture (CSA) share, shopping at your local farmers’ market, and mentioning the many individuals who grow and transport food in your prayers/blessings of food.
2. What was your reaction to the “factory farm” footage? What differences did you see between the treatment of animals on the farms that Floyd and Dennis operated? As people of faith, how important is the humane treatment of livestock to you? In what other ways is food production an environmental issue?
Some possible aspects include fertilizers/run-off into water supply, health risks of pesticides for farm workers and consumers, importance of crop rotation for soil quality, and the high environmental cost of trucking produce across the US (and world).
3. What experiences have you had with food breaking down barriers?
After about 10 minutes, bring the discussion to a close, promising that you’ll have more time for discussion following the second clip.
III. “INTERFAITH POWER & LIGHT” (20 minutes: 10 to watch + 10 to discuss)
Again, invite people’s responses to the segment. Suggested discussion questions for this section:
4. What do you think Rev. Sally Bingham means when she calls global climate change a moral issue? Follow-up: In what ways is it also a religious issue?
Some possibilities include a scriptural basis, an ethical basis, and a prophetic basis. See if participants can think of any sacred scriptures that support the need for environmental stewardship. (e.g. Qur’an 24:41-43 & 22:34, Gen 1: 27-28 using ‘dominion’ more as ‘responsibility for’, Col 1:15-20, Dhammapada 4:49, etc.).
5. Interfaith Power and Light emphasizes the crucial need for policy changes in addressing global climate change. What role can congregations/people of faith play in encouraging elected officials to make the environment a priority?
Some suggestions include making advocacy visits to the offices of your elected officials, making phone calls to elected officials, attending local council meetings and advocating for sustainable policies, writing personal letters to elected officials or holding a letter writing event (letters have a real impact), and inviting elected officials to an event your congregation hosts. Note the impact the Georgia delegation’s visit had on Congressman Scott.
6. This segment demonstrates that many religions are starting to make climate change a priority. Which local congregations (perhaps of different denominational or religious affiliation) could you partner with to enhance your efforts?
You may want to do some research into what other local congregations are already doing on the issue of climate change/sustainability. Call Faith in Place to find out what’s already going on in your community.
IV. GENERAL DISCUSSION & NEXT STEPS (20 minutes)
As a way of transitioning to more general discussion, the following questions ask participants what themes jump out to them when they consider both segments.
7. In “Food for Faith” Shireen cites some of Islam’s imperatives to care for the earth. What do(es) your faith tradition(s) say about Creation care?
*Before you facilitate the discussion, look up what your particular faith tradition/denomination says about these issues. For quick results, visit http://environment.harvard.edu/religion/religion/index.html. Encourage people to reflect on how their faith/spirituality might support them in advocating for environmental justice.
8. Both segments discuss the critical need to practice our faith by putting it into action. What are some ways that you can honor Creation as an individual? As a congregation?
This question is designed to help stimulate conversation about how to move forward as individuals and as a congregation. You may want to take notes for this part. Some ideas include: doing what one can to conserve energy and reduce waste through reusing containers, biking and walking more (i.e. driving less), recycling, composting, carpooling, using more efficient light bulbs (CFLs) and appliances. Encourage participants to make one commitment to living more sustainably. Similar options exist at the congregational level, an area in which Faith in Place has expertise.
9. In what ways would this group like to join the religious-environmental movement? What are the next steps for making this happen?
Wrap things up by shifting the discussion to talking about next steps. It is important that participants feel empowered to take action, however big or small. To help prompt discussion, hand out copies of the FIP sheet which follows this one. If people want to take collective action, set up a future meeting time to either view the rest of Renewal or to discuss future congregational action.
V. CLOSING PRAYER If it is customary for your congregation to end in prayer.
Thank you again for your time and leadership. We hope you and your group were inspired to action by Renewal. Please feel free to contact Faith in Place if you have any questions or would like more information about tools for improving stewardship of the earth.
About Faith in Place
Faith in Place gives religious people the tools to become good stewards of the earth. Since 1999, we have worked with more than 400 congregations in Illinois—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian. Our mission is to help people of faith understand that issues of ecology and economy—of care for Creation—are at the forefront of social justice. Here are a few of our accomplishments:
• Screened “An Inconvenient Truth” at 150 congregations statewide
• Assisted 15 congregations in purchasing wind power from an Illinois wind farm
• Helped Resurrection Lutheran Church become the first in Chicago to go solar and the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview be the first mosque in the nation to do the same
• Helped 100+ congregations conserve energy by selling discounted Energy Star products on our website and distributing free CFLs to Chicago congregations
• Created a cooperative called Taqwa Eco-Halal so Chicago area Muslims could purchase sustainably-raised lamb, chicken and beef from local farmers, slaughtered according to Islamic law. Over 70 families (Muslims, Christians and Jews) buy regularly from Taqwa.
• Provide organic communion bread to churches around the region
• Encourage congregations to buy Fair Trade coffee and other fairly-traded goods for holiday gifts
• Partner with after-school and summer programs around Chicago to teach 120 low-income youth each year to grow food, compost with worms, tend beehives, and explore the world they live in
• Brought two dozen religious leaders to Springfield to meet with state legislators about pending environmental legislation
To learn more about how your congregation can improve its environmental practices or to sign up for our monthly e-mail list, contact us. We look forward to partnering with you firstname.lastname@example.org