KAIROS Regina invites you on a journey of faith, one that challenges our comfortable lives and the buildings we worship in. On October 15, they will host “Creation Care in our Places of Prayer: Energy Retrofits and other Faith-based Climate Action.” This is the third article offered in the lead up to that event, to prepare our hearts and minds for the deep transformation that is needed. Authors: Verna Mang and Laura Stewart, Climate Justice Working Group, KAIROS Regina.
Our previous blog posts called on faith communities to be fearless and ambitious in tackling emissions. This week we offer some examples of communities that ventured into the unknown, finding a path the rest of us can follow, knowing we are not alone.
At Lumsden Beach north of Regina, a United Church camp cut its energy use by replacing old freezers and lighting, and adding rooftop solar panels. The facility now produces more electricity than it uses.
Many church roofs make great locations for solar panels, with large flat areas, often south facing, with a steep pitch that sheds snow and intercepts lots of sun. With a roof like that, it’s entirely possible to match or even exceed the building’s annual electricity use with solar energy.
Unlike a summer camp, though, church buildings with year-round use also have the challenge of winter heating, and until recently that usually meant using gas as well as electricity. Yet the Westmount Presbyterian Church in Edmonton found a way to get rid of their seven furnaces and still keep their electricity bills near zero. Not only that, their project also created new housing for immigrant families, with minimal utility bills for the residents. Here the key was to replace their old church with a smaller building, and provide excellent insulation and air sealing throughout the new church and apartments. With much smaller heat losses, and heat pumps drawing energy from the ground, they could then supply almost all the energy needs of the two buildings with solar panels.
The housing partnership helped Westmount finance their project. Their example inspires us to be creative and persistent as we seek to electrify our energy use and put our buildings on the path to drawdown (as we discussed last week). If we take a more conservative approach, putting off ambitious retrofits and making small improvements to keep an aging building in service, we should keep in mind that we are also keeping emissions flowing from its furnaces. Our faith calls us to be bold in our pursuit of climate justice, knowing that nothing is impossible with God.
At the same time, we can also remember the parable of the mustard seed, and start our bold journeys with small steps. Next week we will share ideas for small beginnings that can grow to big successes.