Sally Bingham is the director of The Regeneration Project. She is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of California and the environmental minister at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Monday, 25 Mar 2002
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.
When you are an active priest in the Episcopal Diocese of California and the director of a not-for-profit business, there isn’t much time for R & R. Luckily, my work is inspirational and exciting. Let me tell you a little about it.
My weeks begin on Sunday, which I always spend at Grace Cathedral on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. Yesterday’s Palm Sunday service was beautiful, with sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows as the choir sang and the congregation waved palm branches. Our liturgies almost always include elements of the natural world. For me, the Holy Eucharist symbolizes not only Christ’s presence, but also our dependence on nature; without bread, water, and land, we could not survive.
It was that belief that led me to pursue my environmental commitments within the context of the Church. I didn’t believe that we should be baptizing with polluted water. It made no sense to me to wash people of their sins with water that itself had been sinned against. To say it differently, I believe that the people in the pews are the ones who should be leading the movement to care for creation. We are the people who profess a love of God and God’s world. As such we must be stewards and caretakers of the Earth — but to date, we have not done a very good job.
To try to remedy that, Benjamin Webb and I founded the Regeneration Project in 1993. One year later, Ben moved to Iowa, where he is the rector of St. Luke’s in Cedar Falls. In 1997, Steve MacAusland and I started Episcopal Power and Light, which became the focus of the Regeneration Project and remains so today.
The project fills my life in extraordinary, unimaginable ways. Preaching and teaching about the faith community’s environmental responsibility is important work, and I’ve found that most congregations respond favorably. I’ve been invited to speak all over the country and gained international recognition as a leader in the promotion of renewable energy. This recognition has humbled me and shown me that people are ready to buckle down and change the way our society has come to view nature and natural resources. Episcopal Power and Light has become an agent of change. We have set up a model for our churches — one that others can use or modify for their own purposes.
There are currently Interfaith Power and Light Programs in eight states, with more on the horizon. The California IP&L takes up most of my time these days. My office is in the Presidio in San Francisco. We have two small rooms (with great views), and I recently hired a project manager, Lee Gilmore, who is making my workload much more manageable.
This week, however, Lee is out of the office, so when I get in today — after walking the mile between home and work — I will spend most of the day on the phone and the Internet. The first thing on my calendar is a conference call with the steering committee of the California Interfaith Power and Light group. We will be brainstorming about the best ways to raise awareness about our program and recruit members. Later, I’ll return phone calls and talk to a Spanish-language radio show from Chicago about the award we just won in Austria.
My typical workday brings many surprises. Sometimes they are requests to travel and preach or run a workshop, but often people just want information on how they can purchase green power in their homes and churches, or how to save electricity — and money. We have become a clearinghouse for connecting potential customers with the companies that install renewable energy systems.
Meanwhile, although it’s Holy Week and I have liturgical obligations at Grace Cathedral, the Regeneration Project must go on, so I’ll be writing sermons late in the evening. You see what I mean about no time for R&R!