One Raleigh church has taken a big step forward in its mission to care for the earth.
Community United Church of Christ has dedicated its solar array – a group of solar panels arranged as a group so they catch a maximum amount of sunlight that can be converted into usable energy. The array is on the roof of the church building on Dixie Trail and was a natural outgrowth of the congregation’s commitment to conservation.
“In 2007 we began to recognize that climate change was happening, and that its biggest impact was going to be on those with the least income,” said Gary Smith, a church member. “We started something called the Justice in a Changing Climate Task Force.”
Smith chairs the task force, which focuses on the needs of members of the community with the fewest resources to adapt to climate change. As part of one project, volunteers go out into the community to prepare low-income homes for new heating or cooling systems that are more energy efficient.
By 2012 the congregation had started exploring the possibility of harnessing solar energy at the church.
“We realized about half of our electricity in our main building could probably be replaced by solar power and that was well worth pursuing,” Smith said.
Church members researched fundraising opportunities and discovered special tax credits available in North Carolina for donors who contributed to solar arrays at nonprofits. So church members began raising money.
“The congregation approved our funding mechanism and we went to the community and two-thirds of our donors came from the wider community, and that was really exciting for us because it meant that the community was engaged,” Smith said.
The project cost $37,000. Community United Church of Christ raised more than was needed and has been using the extra money to seed other energy-conscious projects at churches and nonprofits.
The congregation expects the solar array will cut its yearly electricity bill in half, and the money saved can be funneled to other ministries in the community.
The special tax credit expired in December, and church members are urging legislators to renew it to help make solar power more attainable for nonprofits.
Community United Church of Christ has also worked to lower its carbon footprint through projects like new windows, a more energy efficient water heater and spray foam insulation.
Jane Smith, who serves on the solar project team, said more faith communities are looking carefully at climate change.
“Our congregation is a little different in the way we think about justice issues,” Jane Smith said. “But what we share in common with all kinds of people of faith is making sure that people in our community who are suffering or struggling are taken care of. While not every congregation has approached that problem through the lens of climate change yet, I think that it’s coming.
“We’re hearing more and more from congregations of different faiths and different perspectives, and they are making the connection between climate change and the people that they are in the trenches serving.”
Hearts in Unity Dinner
Unity Church of Raleigh will host the third annual Hearts in Unity Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20.
This family-friendly fundraiser and musical night out features a lasagna dinner and a DJ, along with raffles and auctions. The children will be treated to PJs and Pizzas along with games and a movie.
The cost is $15 for adults, $5 for the first child and $2.50 for additional siblings. Tickets can be purchased online at unitychurchofraleigh.org. Proceeds will go to the church’s building fund.
Unity Church of Raleigh meets at 11101 Creedmoor Road, on Amran Temple Drive.
Cellist Emanuel Gruber will perform at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21. Gruber is the former principal cellist of the Israeli Chamber Orchestra.
The concert is free and open to the public. Hayes Barton United Methodist Church is located at 2209 Fairview Road, Raleigh.
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at firstname.lastname@example.org.