Thinking Out Loud

March 13, 2010

Redefining “Giving Back” To The Community

Filed under: environment, issues — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm

St. Sargis Armenian Orthodox Church, Yerevan, Armenia

It could be something as simple as setting up a soup kitchen and serving lunch one day per week.   Or it could be spending $100,000 (CDN) to put solar panels on the roof of the church to give electricity back to the power grid.

Hillcrest Mennonite Church in New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada is one of many churches around the world doing the latter:

This year, the congregation plans to install $100,000 worth of solar panels on the church grounds, said Rob Yost, the congregation’s green advocate.

Energy from the panels, covering an area of nearly 57-square-metres (613-square-feet), will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority.   “It (the solar power system) should pay for itself in 10 years…”  [full article]

It’s the same story in the UK, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams weighs in:

Considering the effectiveness of the solar panel project, Dr Williams told the Standard: “I think it works amazingly well. They have used the natural advantages of the church roof in the best possible way.

“It is really a model that I hope a lot of places will be following. I was in Grimsby yesterday and at one church there already they were thinking of doing the same thing on the model that has been done here.   It is a pioneering thing.   [full article]

In the U.S., Bethel Lutheran Church in Cupertino, California is part of the trend:

The new panels will also give children in the church’s school the opportunity to learn about solar energy, as a website that shows the congregation’s energy usage will teach the kids about its importance.

And in a move that benefits the entire town of Cupertino, Bethel successfully petitioned the city council to lower solar permit scheduling fees for non-profits from $5700 to $1500.

According to Pastor Randy Pabst, this is just the beginning of the church’s plans— the congregation wants to double or triple its present solar capacity in the future.

Why solar? “We’re being good stewards of the world God has given us,” said Pabst.   [full article]

And in southeast Europe, solar panels blend with classical architecture (see picture, above)  in Yerevan, Armenia:

One can agree that it is a very rare phenom to see solar panels on the top of the roof of the house of God. Moreover, when solar energy panels are seen on the roof of an Orthodox church, known for its conservatism, the challenge to reconsider your view on Orthodoxy and its approach to stewardship of creation becomes irresistible. [full article]

The capital outlay for solar panels is huge, with churches not expecting to see the financial break-even point for at least ten years.  So you could argue that this is another example where the rich [churches] get rich and the poor [churches] get poorer.

However, it can clearly be argued that the churches that are doing these projects are not doing so to see increased attendance, or make a profit, but are truly giving something back to the communities where they live.

The more electricity generated in this manner, the fewer highly-capital-intensive projects that need to be undertaken to build electrical generating stations powered by wind, fossil fuel, water or nuclear energy.

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