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  • The Power and Potential of the Sun

    [Rather than fossil fuels and coal], I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!…”  Thomas Edison

    What if the sun is God’s gift to us – not just in terms of warmth, sunlight and the means for plants to engage in photosynthesis – but as renewable, abundant, clean energy?

    When growing up in Southern California, I would walk for hours – away from replicated housing developments, carefully manicured lawns and acres of blacktopped parking – to find an “undeveloped” parcel of land. Even if the plot of rocky soil was populated by scrub brush and tumble weeds, I would find myself breathing a sigh of relief and then, unceremoniously, plopping myself in the middle of it all. OK, it must have been perplexing for passing motorists to find a teenager sitting right in the middle of a scourged piece of undeveloped real-estate, but to me, I had finally arrived.   

    It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that God is in Richard Rohr’s words, in every single thing, meaning all of creation. Unlike pantheism, where God is identical with the cosmos, early church mothers and fathers perceived that God was revealed in and through creation, as biblically attested in the opening verses of Genesis.  States Rohr, “Creation was the First Bible and it existed some 13.7 billion years before the Second Bible was written.”

    The Eliot Church of Newton, MA installed solar panels on their slate roof, providing nearly 95% of their electric needs.

    Since investigating the use of solar for FCCW, we came across a quote attributed to one of the world’s most prolific inventors, Thomas Edison. Ninety years ago, and speaking to industrialized nations’ reliance on oil and coal, Edison said, “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!”

    What if the sun is God’s gift to us – not just in terms of warmth, sunlight and the means for plants to engage in photosynthesis – but as a source of renewable, abundant, clean energy? Seen from a prophetic perspective, what if taking Edison’s words about harnessing this inexhaustible resource spares us from undermining what preserves and protects us? Particularly now, as we reckon with the challenge of global warming.

    An early mentor of mine, used to say that “God is always the bearer of Good News – which does not deny but empowers us in the face of grave challenges.” As we grapple with the need to reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, could the Good News mean being able to harness the sun’s renewable power, God’s gift to us? What if the Good News as a “Sun-powered church and God-powered people” [1] is reducing ever-increasing utility expenses while decreasing our carbon footprint through the adoption of solar power?

    After much research, conversations with solar-powered churches and ongoing analysis, the Green Congregation Taskforce has concluded that solar panels can be applied to all south facing roofs of our church– including the slate over the sanctuary. Backed by research, our position is not unreasonable speculation, but we believe an audacious summons to live more consciously and intentionally as those called to nurture and protect God’s beloved creation.

    —The Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle, for the Green Congregation Task Force

    The world’s energy use is estimated at 16-18 trillion watts (TW) annually. The sun generates 23,000 TW of clean and free solar energy per year. Other sources of energy (such as coal and fossil fuels) have limited reserves. See the University of Albany’s Richard Perez’s helpful graphic here (page 2).

    [1]  Missional words attributed to Rev. Will Burhans where he challenged our congregation to seriously explore solar power at the 2019 Annual Meeting.