My name is Sarah Ogletree and I am the new Program Coordinator of NC Interfaith Power & Light (NCIPL). I am grateful to work for an organization so committed to climate justice and the creation of a more sustainable world. I am also grateful for our incredible network across the state (you!) who make our work possible. That said, I wanted to take the time to introduce myself. I look forward to learning from you as we embark on the journey of climate action together.
Many aspects of my upbringing prepared me for work at the intersection of faith and ecology. For one, I was raised in the Great Smoky Mountains just west of Asheville, North Carolina. Growing up in such a profoundly beautiful place connected me to environmental work at a spiritual level even as a child. I encountered God in the ridgelines that surrounded me as often as I did within the church where I was raised. This connection to God in nature seeded in me a desire to care for the Sacred outside the sanctuary. The teachings of the church also influenced me deeply.
My parents and Sunday School teachers taught me the importance of “loving my neighbor” at an early age. Climate change is an issue that seriously hinders our ability to love each other well. In my classes at Appalachian State University, I learned that people in poverty bear the brunt of environmental degradation and climate change. I learned that more severe storms are already killing people. I learned that children, families, and elders are being forced from their ancestral homelands, and hometowns, as a result of climate change. I learned that that is happening right now—today. Ultimately, I learned that climate change is an issue of justice.
I came to understand Jesus’ call to neighborly love as a physical, bodily, call to care for all that sustains—proclaiming that we cannot love our neighbor without loving the air they breathe, the water they drink, and ground in which their food is grown. These realizations led to a bridging of my faith and my studies at Appalachian. I partnered with the United Methodist Women (UMW) and the Creation Care Alliance of WNC. I worked locally within my community to foster conversations around the importance of climate change as a moral issue. Eventually, after some discernment, I began theological work at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
My time at Wake Forest brought together the many threads in my life weaving me toward a vocation of climate action. Wake Forest granted me the opportunity to deepen my theological understanding of creation care as I studied the relationships between food, faith, and climate. Furthermore, I found myself in an incredibly diverse ecumenical community, sparking my passion for interfaith initiatives and ministry. I graduated with my Masters of Divinity (MDiv), and a concentration in Religious Leadership & Ecology, this past May.
I believe people of faith have an incredible role to play in the movement for climate justice. That is why I have dedicated my life to this work and that is why I am so excited to be working with NCIPL. Walking with people of faith as they engage the sacred task of loving God, each other, and all of God’s creation is truly a blessing. Additionally, I am immensely grateful for the ability to work as a part of a vibrant multi-faith community. I count it a sincere privilege to work with representatives of various faith traditions as we strive to protect and preserve our only home. I truly am so grateful.
So now you know at least a piece of my story. I wonder if you might share yours? One of our first initiatives going into this fall is a listening tour focused on our network. We would love to know why you care about climate change, how (or if) your faith influences your work around the climate, and what you or your faith community are doing to address the current climate crisis. What are your success stories? We want to celebrate with you! What has been difficult? We want to process with you.
To begin this conversation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The purpose of our listening tour is to better support the environmental work of the congregations and individuals in our network. Your feedback, and stories, are invaluable. We can’t wait to get to talking.