A Green Vision

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 11.46.06 PM“Who knew that our roof could make money for our church with energy from the sun?” commented Ken Clevely, a member at Trinity United Church in Acton, Ontario, about the church’s solar panels. The installation was an important step in implementing our vision, Greening Trinity United Church in Acton!

In 2013, we undertook a green audit through Greening Sacred Spaces, an interfaith network, which provided us with valuable, third-party research. Faced with the cost of replacing the church’s asphalt roof, we decided to install a permanent steel roof. We imagined solar panels on the south-facing profile of our church. Trinity’s treasurer, a retired chief engineer with Halton Region, worked closely with Halton Hills Hydro and accumulated a huge binder of data with estimates for energy output. He was able to show a return on investment after only five years of operating the panels. Trinity now receives monthly cheques from electricity generated by the panels, which is directed toward church expenses.

To implement the audit recommendations and achieve our greening vision, we needed enthusiastic leadership and the support of our congregation. Transforming our vision into action required a positive attitude, honouring concerns raised by members, and patience. While the enthusiasm for our vision and the organization required to deliver it came from Keith Black, our Property Committee chair, our whole church shared in the leadership.

“To put a vision into action is much like moving a train—once the vision train starts to move, it is essential that the train is kept in motion,” says Keith. “As the project moves forward, it is important to communicate and to celebrate each stage in some way.”

We shared with the congregation visual models of the projects to be undertaken and involved people in decision making. Our treasurer identified financial solutions in advance. Our team contracted with a professional company known for the quality of its installations and provided realistic timelines for achievement. We took the time to celebrate results as the project took shape. Our minister, the Rev. Hyuk Cho, provided excellent leadership, our official board and various church committees remained enthusiastic in their support, and Northern Waters Presbytery and the Toronto United Church Council have provided ongoing encouragement.

Enthused by the success of the solar panel project, Trinity has invested in additional energy-efficient appliances, such as a new water softener and dishwasher for the church kitchen. Along the north wall, argon-insulated, triple-paned windows have recently been installed in the sanctuary and the multiuse rooms downstairs. Renovations to the church office and a washroom included efficient thermostats, water-use innovations, and an automated hand dryer.

Our custodian, Bruce Luoma, has been instrumental in maintaining Halton’s waste recycling and green system at the church. The solar panels have motivated a local community church to follow our example. The congregation is optimistic about making further greening improvements, and our wider community sees that making positive change for the environment is possible.

In recognition of our greening initiatives, the Community Environmental Alliance and Greening Sacred Spaces presented our church with a Greening Sacred Spaces Award in June 2014. This achievement continues to inspire our congregation. We are a small church with a dedicated congregation that feels embraced by Jesus’ love. By working together as team leaders, we can “live with respect in Creation,” in the words of A New Creed.

Ken Crozier is Sunday school superintendent and chair of worship at Trinity United Church in Acton, and has recently decided to become an ordained minister.

This article was printed with permission from the United Church of Canada’s, May 2016, Mandate Magazine.