When Rev. Sally Bingham steps up to the pulpit at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, her mission isn't just to save souls, but to save the environment. The environmental minister (her official job title) is converting Episcopal congregations across the nation to the life of energy conservation. "No institution is better suited to preach clean air, water, and land than the institutions that profess a love of God and God's creation," Bingham said.
Along with Steve MacAusland, Bingham founded the Episcopal Power and Light ministry in 1997. The group persuaded 27 California churches to install solar panels and 61 churches to switch to a renewable power company called Green Mountain Energy. By consolidating the purchasing power of the state's churches, EP&L was able to secure green energy at a bargain price. Unfortunately, deregulation of California's power industry forced Green Mountain Energy to pull the plug on its California customers. In turn, churches had no choice but to again power their sacred spaces with fossil fuels. "We carry tremendous guilt knowing that we are polluting our neighbor's air every time we turn on the lights," said Bingham. "We have been forced into sinful behavior that frightens us."
But as the following interview made clear when it appeared, Bingham was still full of hope, redoubling her efforts in the wake of the California energy crisis. Freelance writer April Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) spoke with Bingham at Grace Cathedral in August 2001. Thompson wrote about the environment, spirituality, and community issues for such magazines as The World and I, Native Peoples, and Natural Home .
April Thompson: Now that renewable energy companies like Green Mountain Energy have shut their doors in California, what do you see as the next step? How should churches be responding to California's energy crisis?