Eco-Journey is the blog of the Environmental Ministries Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It includes a wide array of environmental topics: upcoming environmental events, links to interesting articles and studies, information on environmental advocacy, eco-theology topics, and success stories from churches that are going “green.”
Author Rebecca Barnes is the Associate for Environmental Ministries at the PC(USA). She is a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary with an MDiv and Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) dual degree.
Members at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Santa Cruz, CA, decided to take the leap of faith and apply for a loan to install solar panels on their church building. In an article about stewardship for the church newsletter, church member Russ Hobbs wrote about "solar coming to Trinity" as a brainstorm that began with replacing styrofoam cups with washable ones. As church members brainstormed the many ways they could care better for God's creation, after talking about water conservation and replacing styrofoam, they came upon the idea of solar panels and decided to explore it.
Hobbs wrote this about their church's process: "None of us knew much about solar power, but we put our project out to bid to three companies in the solar power business and attended several meetings with the solar companies to learn more. More discussion followed for the committee and we decided to pursue the project with Day One Solar--a local Santa Cruz Company."
"The committee set to work exploring financing. We looked into leasing verses buying and discovered we could qualify for a low interest rate (3.5%) loan offered by the Synod of the Pacific (the Presbyterian regional body that includes Northern California, Oregon, Nevada and Southern Idaho). We applied for a $38,000 loan which was approved."
"Based on a prediction of a 5% annual increase in utility rates we expect the initial expense for the loan, when netted against the limited amount of electricity that we must purchase, will be about $1500 for the first year. This difference will decrease over 9 years until it is even. Thereafter we will be saving money, up to $9,000 per year over the life of the panels. Panel life is estimated at 25 years."
"With this information the Session voted to move forward with fitting Trinity with solar panels. With a life expectancy of the panels at 25 years, we look forward to many years of solar powered electricity!"
The pastor of the church, Rev. Evie Macway wrote, "I want to add my appreciation and thanks to Russ for his work on this project and to our administration committee and session for their vision and faith in making this commitment to solar power for our community. As our stewardship committee is reminding us these days, Christian stewardship comes in many forms. I am grateful for the many ways we share in stewardship and faithfulness to God here at Trinity."
I join pastor Evie Macway in being thankful for the administrative committee's work, the stewardship committee and session, for all the church members who took the lead, and for the congregation who have decided to take this big step. As Presbyterians continue to act in the face of climate change, investing in renewable power is a critical step and a powerful story to share with others!