Reverend Fletcher Harper sits between rows of solar panels on top of a church. | Photo credit: GreenFaith.
Over a megawatt of solar installations on faith-based sites; a major multi-faith climate march in Rome this June to thank Pope Francis for his encyclical; a congregational green certification program that has reached faith communities in 30 states; a fellowship program that has trained the vanguard of the religious-environmental movement nationwide; and a new international campaign that’s lifting up Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and other faith voices for climate action.
That’s one big list of achievements for GreenFaith, a multi-faith environmental coalition with offices in New Jersey and team members from Philadelphia to London to Hong Kong and beyond. Since 1992, GreenFaith has been at the forefront of the religious-environmental movement.
And they’re not slowing down anytime soon. This fall, we caught up with GreenFaith’s Executive Director, Reverend Fletcher Harper. The Rev. Harper has been at the helm of the organization since 2002 and has played a critical role in driving the climate successes for which they’re best known.
A unifying tenet of many traditions is one of care for the earth: Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and secular people alike believe in community stewardship of earthly resources. This shared tradition means that GreenFaith’s mission resonates across the world, and breaks down barriers. “Our spiritual message starts from the perspective of religion in its many forms as positive, personal, and collective,” says Rev. Harper. “We bring diverse religions together, to help people become more faithful followers of their own tradition.”
GreenFaith’s work centers on the building and education of environmental leaders, in both congregations and congregation members. On the organization’s website, all visitors are encouraged to take an inclusive climate pledge: “I pledge to make my life a blessing for the earth.”
Although GreenFaith’s headquarters is in Highland Park, New Jersey, their work is global in scope. Rev. Harper believes New Jersey offers a clear example of the creative issues facing the climate movement today. “We’re a very diverse state,” he says. “I think of New Jersey as a microcosm of the world, both socially and religiously. We have incredible religious and cultural diversity, a tragic gap between rich and poor, and a host of environmental threats stemming from the region’s industrial past.”
Rev. Harper and his 12 team members, along with countless volunteers, have become an integral part of the climate movement, through their 3 focus areas: stewardship, spirit, and justice.
“We try to be creative and courageous in our work,” says Rev. Harper. “We bring an artistry to our programs, and a smart use of digital media to reach the audience that needs to hear what we have to say.”
GreenFaith believes deeply in the power of a small group, even when the group is at odds with the institutions in power. One of the most successful examples of this work centers on the issue of fossil fuel divestment. When GreenFaith helped convene a small team of Episcopal leaders to call on the church to divestment from the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies, they initially met with resistance. But the group persisted in bringing the issue to the national Episcopal General Convention this past summer, and convinced the church to agree to divest by a 3 to 1 margin. “The team that made this happen included leaders from Connecticut to California, and from New York to Nebraska,” says Rev. Harper. “They did a remarkable job.”
A congregation gathers together to celebrate the installation of a community solar farm. | Photo credit: Reverend Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith.
GreenFaith connected in with Groundswell to help as part of their larger strategy to move New Jersey community members towards everyday actions that make a difference. “For years, we’ve encouraged and helped our members swich to clean power,” says Rev. Harper. “Groundswell is helping us improve our capacity to reach out to more of our community with some great pricing for a group purchase of 100% wind power. We are excited to be working on this opportunity together.”
GreenFaith’s programs have supported energy efficiency and sustainability projects within New Jersey, across the U.S., and around the world. | Photo credit: Reverend Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith.
Through the successes of their programs over the years, Rev. Harper feels that the climate movement is making deep strides. “The solutions are there,” he says. “We seek to be an energizing force. So many people today feel negative about climate change. We help people put their beliefs into action, to offer resources to all people who want to do something.”
Reverend Harper speaking to a congregation. | Photo credit: Steve Galpin.
We at Groundswell are proud to partner with GreenFaith to help individuals and institutions across New Jersey switch to 100% wind power. GreenFaith’s commitment and legacy in the climate action movement inspires us to push the movement forward, and to be both creative and courageous in our quest for solutions to climate change.
Kelsey Ryan is Groundswell's Brand & Content Manager. She’s a linguist, fledgling Tolkien scholar, knitter, Oxford comma proponent, and firm believer in the use of stories for social good. Explore her website, or connect on Twitter: @kryanlion.