Mennonites bring Ash Wednesday ritual to PECO
PHILADELPHIA -- On this Ash Wednesday, members of Germantown Mennonite Church decided to celebrate the annual ritual that begins Lent in a more challenging way: they visited electric utility PECO’s headquarters to pray for jobs and clean energy, and to offer Valentine's Day cards to PECO employees. Associate Pastor John Bergen explained, “Lent is a time to deepen a spiritual commitment to justice. Anyone who has missed work or school because of asthma knows that dirty energy like PECO’s fuels injustice. In our country, Black, Brown, and poor communities are far more likely to suffer from bad air and the risks of climate disasters.”
PECO has been under pressure by the interfaith campaign Power Local Green Jobs to use clean energy opportunities to bring jobs and local community wealth to areas in need.
The small group of Mennonites were incongruous in the brightly-lit corporate lobby of the PECO building, but Pastor Amy McGloughlin blessed each one with ashes in the traditional ritual for reflecting on how one’s life aligns with moral ideals.
"Our faith leads us to action. We cannot be silent while people lack good-paying jobs and our children face a world of increasing climate destabilization. We believe that PECO can, and must, do more," said Jude Smithey, a congregation member.
Previously, members of the interfaith campaign walked 100 miles through PECO’s five-county region to talk about the benefits of local solar jobs, and have vowed to keep pushing PECO to leave fossil fuels behind. By focusing on solar electricity from rooftop panels in urban communities, PECO’s leadership could result in thousands of well-paying jobs for solar panel installers. PECO has responded with hosting solar meetings and floating legislation to directly own solar generation.
In 2017, the City of Philadelphia agreed with scientists on the need for a rapid change to 100% clean energy, but PECO has not committed to support that future.
Power Local Green Jobs is a faith-based economic justice campaign led by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Begun in 2015, the campaign uses nonviolent direct action to pressure PECO, the largest utility in PA, to spur job growth through solar expansion in areas with high unemployment. Learn more at www.powerinterfaith.org and www.eqat.org.