Have you given any serious thought to that sermon you gave, or heard, on creation care? Maybe it was last Sunday, or several weeks ago. But didn’t it make sense that we are all called to be stewards of the earth’s resources, as well as our financial resources? But on “Monday morning” in the “real world,” what can you even begin do about global pollution, climate change and the higher energy costs in your house of worship?
It turns out there are a multitude of organizations, websites, programs and businesses out there ready to help with scriptural, technical and financial guidance and resources. Energy Star Congregations freely provides much of what you need to get started, as well as links at www.energystar.gov/congregations to other organizations offering everything from denominational and interfaith perspectives and success stories to equipment specifications and utility rebates.
First, you should find out who else cares about this aspect of stewardship. It’s a good bet that your business administrator cares about saving money and your facility manager and/or buildings and grounds committee care about taking care of your facility’s systems and physical features. After all, this is God’s House, and it is the members’ responsibility to keep it safe, comfortable and well-maintained. Care and maintenance of your house of worship will help to foster an atmosphere of peace and worship. So, facility stewardship contributes to both stewardship of financial and natural resources.
If your clergy, business administrator or facility manager have not yet initiated a strong energy efficiency program that involves members’ time and talents, they will welcome your leadership. You may be the one called to bring people together in this effort. The youth group is a natural pool of environmental concern, enthusiasm of hands-on projects and a desire to make things better. So find the best way to gather a creation care team, and be sure that everyone understands that stewardship of the house of worship and stewardship of energy resources are all natural extensions of traditional financial stewardship. Wasting energy not only pollutes unnecessarily, but it wastes members’ hard-earned pledge money.
Your creation care team will find “action lists,” the “Sure Energy Savers” chapter of the online guide “Putting Energy into Stewardship” and the success stories of national award-winning congregations at the Energy Star website. You can even e-mail questions to Energy Star technical staff, which supports this taxpayer-funded, unbiased national program.
Energy audit? A good thing if done well at an affordable price or if provided free-of-charge by a skilled person. However, many energy efficiency actions are of a “just do it” nature and do not require much analysis. Remember, an expensive audit accomplishes no savings, itself, and the same money can be immediately invested in many low-cost, high-return products and actions. This is where the online guide and “Sure Energy Savers” come in, and members’ time and talents come in handy. You may find special technical skills in your congregations or within a community volunteer group. Ask your congregation’s electrical and HVAC contractors for free analysis and recommendations. Call your utility company and state energy office and ask if any free services or financial incentives are available. Search for product rebates at the Energy Star Products web page.
But the first step is to assemble at least 12 months of house-of-worship energy bills, and “benchmark” your energy use. This data is available in the office or easily attained directly from the utility company. It will tell you the baseline or typical energy use and costs, and if you enter it into Energy Star’s free Portfolio Manager software, it will rate your energy use compared to all other U.S. houses of worship, so you can measure improvements and document savings.