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Connecting the Puzzle Pieces

Executive Director, Rev. Brian Sauder, shared his reflections on doing puzzles with his grandmother as a reminder of the important role that each of us plays in creating a bigger picture at our Annual Celebration and Fundraiser events in November and December 2018.

The table setting at the 2018 Annual Celebration & Fundraiser
The table setting at the 2018 Annual Celebration & Fundraiser

Grandmas and puzzles! This time of year, I think of them both.

On your tables in the centerpiece are some puzzle pieces in the jar. I invite each table to take the puzzle pieces out and give each other two pieces along with a pen. I’ll give instructions later for what to do with those two puzzle pieces.

While you continue to get settled with your puzzle pieces, I want to tell you what I learned from doing puzzles with my Grandma:

As a little boy, I’d climb into a chair pulled up to the folding card table (she didn’t play cards! That was a sin! But she had the table. For puzzles!) I’d be so eager to join her and try to connect two pieces of the puzzle! I can smell the puzzle and Grandma’s White Shoulders Dusting Powder, just remembering. Can you?

I greatly desired to solve just a bit of the puzzle.

But, I confess, I was a typical kid – I’d get bored, frustrated, and want to give up as I tried to find two pieces to fit together. Grandma would tell me, “Patience, the picture is coming together.”

In her wisdom she’d point to the picture on the box, propped in a location where you could see it regardless where you sat at the card table – “See this is what we are building. Use the picture on the box.”

“Patience, the picture is coming together.”

Rev. Brian Sauder speaks at the 2018 Annual Celebration & Fundraiser.
Rev. Brian Sauder speaks at the 2018 Annual Celebration & Fundraiser.

As people of faith we are always gathering around tables – in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and outdoors. We gather, keeping an eye on the picture on the top of the box – the vision of kindness for ourselves and for each other. It is this reference point, known throughout our spiritual ages as love, which enables us to be whole with ourselves, each other, and the Earth around us.

And like wise Grannies, we encourage each other: “Patience, the picture is coming together.” A world that works for everyone is coming together. It takes each of us putting in our piece to make the shared vision for environmental justice a reality.

At Faith in Place we are equipping people of faith all across Illinois to be leaders in the environmental movement.

Each individual we connect at each house of worship is a piece of the puzzle that creates a collective picture of faithful people, caring for the Earth.

Faith in Place works to bring each piece in relationship with other pieces of the puzzle, together building a picture of environmental justice for our world.

We are connecting across geography, religion, and race. In a year of when there were plenty of opportunities to respond with frustration, and even, at times to consider giving up, I found hope and saw the vision of this interconnectedness at our annual Green Team Summit, hosted by the Field Museum in September. More than 500 people from across Illinois gathered for workshops on food justice, solar and energy efficiency, art displays on water justice, and further tools to connect your Green Team to a deeper impact in your community.

We believe that when people of faith lead the environmental movement it is a cause focused on justice.

Faith in Place currently serves 110 Active Green Teams across the state, equipping them to do justice programing in Energy & Climate Change, Water Preservation, Sustainable Food & Land Use, Youth Programs, and Advocacy.

With your support we are growing towards coaching 250 active green Teams by 2022.

Attendees write their names on a puzzle piece.
Attendees write on a puzzle piece.

But it takes each piece connected to all the others to create this inspiring picture.

And so I invite you to take one of the puzzle pieces in front of you and to write on the painted side one or two words about what motivates you in this work. One the other piece, write your name.

You all have been given a section of the puzzle. At each of our Annual Celebration and Fundraisers, everyone has participated in this project. At the end of December, we will be able to connect all of the puzzle pieces from Lake County, the North and West Suburbs, Chicago, and Central Illinois.

Once when I was a boy, I hid one of the pieces, just so I could be where you are now – the one to shout “Ta Da!!” But this is just a symbol.

The real puzzle of environmental justice is an ongoing one. And if we live to be as old as my grandma, maybe some of us will be lucky enough to hear our grandchildren shout “Ta Da!”

The sections of the puzzle are coming together!
The sections of the puzzle are coming together!

But now – every piece matters. Each piece, each name, each passion is an important part of creating the vision. Every bit of support for the work of Faith in Place is vital. Together, we create a world that works for everyone. And every one of us is connected in that holy work.

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