All of us at some point in our lives wonder – what is our legacy? Long after we’ve departed this earth we wonder, will our lives have made a difference? Will we, through our words and our actions, have helped sustain the earth and all its people?
In this time of dramatic climate change, persistent poverty, and global connection, the congregation I serve has pledged to future generations, that starting right now we will live responsibly on God’s earth, that we will dedicate our lives to correcting those natural, corporate and human systems that have placed our planet and its people in such precarity, and to raise our youngest generation of Christians to do likewise. To this end we have not only divested our congregation’s financial investments from fossil fuels but have invested ourselves in renewable energy: four months ago, we installed 167 solar panels on the roof of our education building and our chapel.
By getting our energy directly from the sun, rather than burning fossil fuels, we will be saving 48,000 pounds of CO2 emissions a year, the equivalent of taking five cars off the road every year, or preserving 3.5 acres of trees. For those more financially minded, it’s a savings of more than $12,000 a year. The solar panels will pay for themselves in a little more than seven years and will, over the life of the panels, yield an almost 14% return on investment. And a little short-term gratification has come in the form of our congregation’s Con Edison bill in October was $0.
Solar energy is not just a green thing to do, or good thing to do, or a financially sound thing to do. The Apostle Paul would have us see it in the largest terms possible, as nothing less than the arrival of the Sons and Daughters of God, participating in God’s work of redeeming the world.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we await our redemption.
Next month HRP Green will launch SOLARIZE HRP, to offer solar energy to every congregation in our presbytery easily and at lower cost. This offer is not only for our church buildings, but for every one of our members’ own homes, members of nesting congregations, as well as groups active within our churches like nursery schools, twelve-step groups, and community programs. Members who own commercial property or multi-family residences can also take advantage of the SOLARIZE program. Invite your neighbors to a Sunday Solar Gathering (which HRP Green will help you organize) and it applies to your neighbors as well. SOLARIZE campaigns are designed to significantly increase solar installations by making the process supremely easy and affordable. A core team from HRP Green has already interviewed solar providers, researched technology, explored incentives and funding options, and is confident that we are offering the very best to our presbytery.
Let history say that we understood the precarious moment we are in, where earth’s very ability to sustain itself hangs in the balance. Let history record that we invested in a future that is not dependent on the fossil fuels that have so squeezed our planet’s resources, but that we invested in renewable energy – not simply because it was cost effective but because it was necessary for our earth’s survival.
The Call to Restore Creation, adopted by the PC(USA) in 1990, reminds us that “God’s work in creation is too wonderful, too ancient, too beautiful, too good to be desecrated. Restoring creation is God’s own work in our time.” May future members of our churches and communities say, “they did all they could to repair the damage that was done. And they built a better future.”
Jeffrey Geary is the Pastor of the White Plains Presbyterian Church.