Robin Blakeman: My Vocational Journey

The theological foundation for my current vocation is Genesis 1:31: NIV

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

What I do: as an ordained minister may seem really strange since I have worked in the nonprofit environmental and energy efficiency advocacy sector for most of my career. Here’s why: I am an eighth generation West Virginia resident, but – like many of my generation – thought that moving away from this state was the best way to seek a career. After working in both Kentucky and Ohio as a professional counselor and becoming a co-founder of a therapeutic horseback riding program in the early 1990’s, I made the decision to go to seminary. I have been a Presbyterian all my life, so finding a seminary that would further this connection was a priority for me. 

 Attending Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for four years – from 2000-2004 – was a life changing experience, wherein I was introduced to liberation, feminist, and womanist theologians; much of their teachings and writings also included a concern for preservation of God’s good creation. This resonated deeply with me because I have encountered God’s presence most deeply in natural environments, especially at the remote church camp in West Virginia that played a huge part in my personal faith foundations. 

In 2006, while serving a church in Central Ohio – I found out that some of my family’s property in WV was being encroached upon by a large strip-mining coal operation. Through the process of helping my parents deal with this situation, I became aware of the work of a nonprofit organization in West Virginia called OVEC – the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; this organization helped families like mine connect with the community leaders and – in our case – provided legal counsel that would help advocate for best outcomes for the environment and the people who live there. I witnessed the power of the connections in this organization, and literally felt called to find out more about it. Another quirky thing happened through this time: I felt compelled to return to West Virginia and did in 2007. By 2009, I was working for OVEC as a community organizer and project coordinator, and I truly believe there was a Divinely networked call process that led me into those roles, and sustained me through state and federal legislative campaigns, organizing around water and air pollution problems, (associated with fossil fuel extraction and burning), and creation of allied networks, including West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light. 

In 2021, a different opportunity arose: becoming the Director of Energy Efficient West Virginia – a smaller and younger nonprofit, with an entire focus on increasing the use of energy monitoring and energy efficiency upgrade planning in West Virginia – a state with some of the lowest energy efficiency ratings in our building stock in the whole nation! Thus, I have been immersed in and preaching the “gospel” of energy efficiency ever since; what I have found out is that over 30% of the green house gas emissions that are responsible for Climate Change come from BUILDINGS, and construction processes! 

Thus, anything we can do to retrofit existing building for greater efficiency and/or design new ones for net zero energy usage readiness WILL help preserve God’s good creation. I find a great deal of hope in the federal policies that have been passed during the past two years – the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the so-called IRA, or Inflation Reduction Act – which will have rebate programs and direct reimbursement incentives for faith communities and nonprofit organizations to take advantage of. PLUS (up to $14,000 for electrification and energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrades for homeowners). This is a once in a lifetime, revolutionary opportunity. Let’s get to work – answering our original call – to keep, or preserve, God’s good creation!

My name is Robin Blakeman; I prefer to be called “Robin” and use she/her pronouns. My partner/wife, Connie, and I live in the OH/KY/WV “Tri-State” area. I have one adult daughter – Anna – who works as a music teacher in a nearby school system. We also have multiple pets – 4 cats and 2 dogs. I am an eighth generation West Virginia/Central Appalachian resident. 

I am an ordained PCUSA pastor (with MDiv and ThM degrees from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary), currently doing supply preaching in both UCC and Presbyterian communities. I also serve as a Stewardship of Creation resource person in the Presbytery of WV. I also have an MA in Professional Counseling from Marshall University. 

My current full-time job is Director of a nonprofit organization called Energy Efficient West Virginia. We help encourage adoption of state & local policy that enhances the energy efficiency options available to municipalities, schools, business leaders and individuals in WV. 

I am on the Steering Committee of WV Interfaith Power and Light – an affiliate of the National Interfaith Power and Light organization. For the past fourteen years, I have worked in the nonprofit environmental advocacy sector in West Virginia – helping preserve and protect our water, air, and soil, and helping to promote clean energy and more diversified economic transition options.