Shelley Tanenbaum image

Shelley Tanenbaum

How does your faith help you in times of struggle, change, and new beginnings?

It helps to feel confident that I am on the right path, even when the goals seem daunting. It also helps to be aware that I am part of a larger movement towards positive change, and that change may take more than my lifetime to ever be accomplished. I am sharing this journey with faith-based and other change-makers, most of us working on different threads of action, all based in love.

How does your faith describe the relationship between all living things, the Earth, and the Divine?

Quakers have traditionally summed up our faith as ‘there is that of God in everyone.’ Some of us are expanding that view of the world to ‘there is that of God in everything.’ That translates into being respectful of all beings, and living in harmony with the natural world.

What does your faith tradition teach about material consumption and simplicity?

Quakers value using only what is needed, living simply, and appreciating basics rather than extravagances.

In what ways does your community provide you with a guide to life?

In my Quaker community, we are active in different ways, but we share core values. The work I am doing as an earthcare advocate is valued and appreciated. My community provides spiritual grounding that both inspires me to take bolder action and sustains me in this work. I feel called to work on climate change – my faith gives me the strength to face this enormous challenge and the confidence to stretch myself to do this work.

Are there particular texts that inspire you to act for change?

Rufus Jones wrote about the power of the mystical experience. He valued a direct experience with spirit for strength and guidance, leading to action. His life and his writings were important to me, especially when I first discovered the spiritual depths of Quakerism.

What have you done to improve the sustainability of your diet, transportation, and/or energy use?

I have been actively engaged with Quaker Earthcare Witness for about 7 years – first as a board member, and now for the past 4 years as the General Secretary. Ironically, this work involved much more travel than I was used to, as part of our outreach to the larger Quaker world and for internal meetings (we use video conferencing for most of our committee meetings, but still meet face-to-face twice a year as a North American organization). I have committed myself to train travel rather than air travel as much as reasonably possible, and I piggy-back trips so that I am sometimes on the road for 3-6 weeks at a time. I am writing this from a train as I travel east from my home base on the west coast – enjoying views of San Francisco Bay as I take the time to write this response.

How would you describe the experience of making these lifestyle changes?

Train travel has ups and downs. I enjoy the scenery, the slower pace, the time for reading, reflecting, and writing. I also enjoy the conversations when I feel like it and the solitude when I don’t. However, time away from home and lack of sleep in noisy, uncomfortable spaces is draining. I find that I can travel this way for most, but not all, of the trips I take. I am also working on cutting back on some of those trips.

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