Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light invited Mennonite Creation Care Network’s Jennifer Schrock to speak at a Renewable Energy Lobby Day at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The assignment was to explain why renewable energy is important to us and what our faith has to say about the need to transition to it. She also spoke with her state senator. 

Here is the content of the talk:

My name is Jennifer Schrock and I represent two organizations: Mennonite Creation Care Network and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College. Both of them are affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA. We Mennonites endeavor to root ourselves in the way of Jesus Christ, and we understand nonviolence and peacemaking as central to that journey.

I’m here today, representing my community because I believe that a swift transition to renewable energy is a matter of life and death. The evidence that our climate is changing in response to human carbon emissions is clear. Every tenth of a degree matters. Renewable energy is one of many strategies we need to employ to ensure a livable planet now–and in the future–and we need legislation that removes political and financial roadblocks.

 I will spare you the long list of climate impacts that come by me in my line of work. Let me simply say that I’ve seen Midwestern farmers struggling because rain comes in downpours instead of trickles; I’ve listened as my intern from California describes what forest fires do to the air quality in her state, and I’ve spoken with an Ethiopian pastor who said to me, “The rains are coming later and later. If the rains don’t come, we die. Does anybody care?”

Christian faith teaches us that all of these people are our neighbors. Minimizing the use of fossil fuels is one way that we—and many other people of faith–live out our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves. Here are a few ways my denomination has worked at it:

  • Our seminary, our colleges, our denominational headquarters, our development agency, our thrift stores have all invested in renewable energy.
  • Everence, our financial institution, names addressing climate change as a priority in its shareholder advocacy.
  • Congregations in our network are using the money their solar panels save them to support local non-profits or plant trees in deforested nations. In my town of Goshen, the majority of MCUSA churches have solar panels.
  • Some of our churches are benefitting from a series of retreats where pastors can wrestle with climate change and the denial and despair that it raises. I’ve been to three of these retreats, and I’ve always come out feeling better than I went in. It is so freeing to talk together, admit our fears and help each other find responses. I wish all of the leaders of our country and all of our frightened young people could have that experience.

Two millennia ago, Jesus of Nazareth was hiking across Palestine spreading healing and hope at a time when his people were experiencing despair. The Gospel of Mark sums up what he said:

The time is now. Lives of well-being and peace–with each other and with creation–are within your reach. Turn your lives around and believe the good news.

Was he speaking only to people long dead? I don’t think so. Those words have come rattling down through the centuries to land on us here and now in the middle of climate change, and they are still calling us to decision.

The time is now. It is a time for vision and moral courage and sacrifice. It is a time to focus our lives on what matters most; to cherish the beauty of the earth and to build friendships across dividing lines. When it comes to climate change, we are all in the same mess and all on the same team. There are no emissions free gas pumps for Democrats or hurricane exemptions for Republicans. There is still a way forward if we choose to take it, and renewable energy is a part of that.

For those of us who pray, it is also a time for prayer. This is a paper chain from our family Christmas tree. Like a rosary, it is a form of intercession and a physical aid to prayer. And on each link of this chain is the name of a state or national leader. I like to light a candle and—despite all evidence to the contrary—I imagine our leaders linked; working together shoulder to shoulder, helping to pull our planet to safety. May it be so.