Interfaith gathering promotes awareness of environmental issues

Sunday, March 29, 2009 | 12:07 a.m. CDT; updated 3:58 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 29, 2009
Columbia citizens gather to watch the lights of Jesse Hall to go out to commemorate the second International Earth Hour on Saturday. Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 to bring awareness of climate change and encourage people to reduce their environmental impact, and last year became an international event. "Regardless of what your position is on climate change, the things that would address it are good things to do anyway," said Monta Welch, event organizer and founder of Columbia Climate Change Coalition.

This story has been updated to correct * the title of Terri Williams, who is the chair of the Interfaith Care for Creation Earth Hour event. It also has been updated to correct ** the name of Center Beth Shalom.

COLUMBIA — Columbia's second annual Earth Hour ended Saturday night as members of Columbia's faith organizations gathered shoulder to shoulder in the cold, the rain and the semi-dark outside Missouri United Methodist Church on Ninth Street.

Earth Hour combined two events: the darkening of the lights on the dome at Jesse Hall led by the MU and Columbia Climate Change Coalition and a multifaith Earth Hour service led by the Interfaith Care for Creation Organization.

The event was an effort of multifaith cooperation toward environmental awareness and sustainability efforts.

"Coming together is one of the gifts this challenge that we face can bring," said Monta Welch, president of Columbia Climate Change Coalition.

Representatives from groups such as Columbia Water and Light, the Sierra Club, Center Beth Shalom, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri and the League of Women Voters attended.

"It's really all of us working together to make a difference," said Terri Williams, *chair of the Interfaith Care for Creation Earth Hour event.

Williams cited experiences she gained on a recent trip to Kenya where locals who used to fight over available water have come together to fight fierce droughts.

Examples of local interfaith efforts to promote sustainability are the use of church property for community gardens to grow food for the needy and interfaith activists working at the government level for power and light policy changes, Williams said.

Mark Haim, chair of Missourians for Safe Energy, emphasized a pragmatic approach to sustainable energy. "The take-home message here is that we need to be doing better — not that we need to be doing without," he said.

Vellore Copalaratnam, president of the executive board of the Hindu Temple, mentioned his own congregation's efforts to live more sustainable lives and asked for help and advice from others who were present.

"Locally, we've tried to follow many of these principles" from Hindu scripture that encourage environmental sustainability, he said, "...but one of our biggest culprits in our temple is the use of Styrofoam cups and plates."

Jim Krueger, president of the board of directors at **Center Beth Shalom, encouraged attendees to volunteer at the center's temple garden. 

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Ray Shapiro March 29, 2009 | 3:44 p.m.

I just closed my eyes to the whole thing. It was dark. Does that count?

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