Connecting to Faith for Environmental Justice
Lorena Lopez shared her partner story at the Chicago Annual Celebration and Fundraiser Breakfast in December 2018. As a former Outreach Coordinator with Faith in Place and now the Community Engagement Specialist with The Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center, she reminded us of the importance of connecting with our faith and acting for justice for frontline communities.
Good morning good people!
My name is Lorena Lopez. I am Catholic and I respect all faiths.
Some of you may have known me as an Outreach Coordinator with Faith in Place from 2013 to 2018.
I have been working in the environmental field for over 14 years. Currently, I’m the Community Engagement Specialist with The Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center.
Photo: Lorena educated thousands of people of faith
about using smart meters to better track and conserve energy.
When I first started with Faith in Place in 2013, little did I know my life would be opened to a new way of organizing.
See, at that point of my life I had not yet been exposed to already-organized groups like faith communities and the real impact our faith communities have for social justice.
Photo: Lorena helped facilitate a tree nature walk with St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic Church in Chicago in May 2018 with Openlands and the U.S. Forest Service.
Before that time, I was working intensely as a grassroots environmental community organizer in Little Village, fighting for environmental justice and open space. I spent half of my time on the ground, going door to door, organizing to remediate a highly contaminated Superfund site and convert it into a public park.
When I started at Faith in Place, what resonated the most to me was the FAITH!
Four years prior to working at Faith in Place, I had been in a crisis. I had my daughter extremely premature and I was not exactly sure how God was going to play a role in this situation. During this time in the hospital, my faith was put to the test. How was I going to respond to this crisis? I had to do something!
For me, faith is action! Faith is taking the hard road. And I chose faith! By asking questions, showing up every day to see my daughter in the NICU, by learning how to take care of her special medical needs. Because of my relentless faith, my daughter is here and in perfect condition.
Photo: Lorena, her daughter (front center), and members of Amor De Dios United Methodist Church speak with a legislator at the Illinois State Capitol during Advocacy Day 2016.
Now I know God gave me my preemie daughter as a test of my faith! God made plans for me, little did I know this would set up for my 5 years with Faith in Place.
The way I see it is that God is testing us, and we need to act on climate change with our whole faith, our whole heart, and our work!
It’s not that complicated – you can open the doors to your faith communities to an organizer like me. You and your fellow members can work in many exciting ways. Ways that don’t cost you anything, for example, a free Level One energy audit, a Story Circle, a Nature Outing, or just a letting Faith in Place come and talk during a coffee hour.
This can give you, your faith ministries, your Green Teams, and the families of your house of worship the opportunity to get connected.
Photo: Lorena and Pastor Rodriguez of Amor De Dios United Methodist Church at a native plant giveaway to help houses of worship plant pollinator gardens.
Open up the pulpit to organizers who are on the ground working for a better environment for all.
We all know how we have degraded our planet and that the majority of people affected by climate change are people of color. People like me who live in frontline communities are most affected by these environmental problems.
How can you help? It’s simple, our faith needs us to act now! Your faith is the key!
During my time at Faith in Place, we did over 40 Level One energy audits. Alongside my awesome energy doctor, Jim Cavallo, we went into some of the smallest to some of the biggest Houses of Worship in Illinois.
Jim shares his time with us because he has faith, that WE can do this! It doesn’t matter what faith denomination or race you are, Jim shows up, Jim gives his time and work. Jim has faith!
Photo: Dr. Jim Cavallo (third from left) and Lorena (center) conduct an energy audit at Lincoln United Methodist Church in Chicago.
Because of these Level One audits, Faith in Place has made a real impact for a more sustainable future.
Imagine if our buildings becoming a beacon of sustainability. Can you imagine providing light to a low- income frontline family who spends 40% of their income just to pay the energy and gas bills?
Can you imagine giving the free, natural, God-given power of the sun to your neighbors who need it most? And depending less on fossil fuels and saving much-needed money along the way.
As people of faith, we have the infrastructure, we can be a place of environmental knowledge, and we can become a place for opportunity. A beacon of real possible change.
Photo: Lorena tells her partner story at the Chicago Annual Celebration and Fundraiser Breakfast in Chicago, December 2018
Imagine some of our buildings sharing with their local community some of the most essential needs WE ALL NEED AND USE.
Again, my faith led me to have a healthy, thriving daughter. We can do the same for our common environment, our common home.
So, let’s get connected, let’s open the doors to faith, and remember to open your doors to people like me and those who are on the frontlines so we can all benefit from a real impact! And like me, use your faith to curb climate change for the benefit of generations to come.