“Cool Congregations” Hope to Keep Churches Warm for Less

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Representatives from area churches attend a “CC” meeting.

Representatives from area churches attend a “CC” meeting.

Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition has been around since 2006 — educating and raising awareness of ways our area can curb global warming “by bringing about a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, both those originating in the Roanoke Valley, and those that originate elsewhere as the result of the use of electricity in our community.”

This past April, a spin-off of Cool Cities, “Cool Congregations,” was organized to initiate a focus on area faith groups, bringing them together to discuss ways they could address energy usage and reduce high bills in their places of worship. Under the mantra “There is more that unites us than divides us,” the group has held several brown bag workshops open to all faith groups.

According to Chad Braby, Chair of Cool Congregations, the idea of working together to find ways to “save money and to address a greater mission of creation care” has wide appeal. By their very nature, congregations have a concern for the moral responsibilities inherent in caring for their buildings as well as in having an influence in the surrounding community.

Many area congregations are housed in large, older buildings that quickly feel the impact of mounting energy bills, particularly with the extremes in weather last winter and this summer.

Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church hosted the most recent workshop, which covered the process of performing a comprehensive energy audit. A follow up workshop is planned for November 17 and will look at “results from energy audits and discuss strategies [to] make small changes to achieve large impacts.” In light of uncertain billing rates in recent years, this could not come at a better time.

Rev. Josh Robinson, Associate Pastor at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church, had this to say in response to Rev. Fulbright’s question about what fears the attendees have with regard to creation care in the world: “One of my biggest concerns is that environmentalism isn’t being taken seriously.  Even if this whole global warming stuff is a conspiracy and a bunch of hype, at the very least, we have an obligation to be good stewards of God’s gifts, and our congregations should be leading the way in making sure this message is understood in terms of our environment.”

Looking to 2011, the group hopes to get specific and address issues like energy efficient lighting,  energy efficient appliances, HVAC challenges and will also evaluate overall return on energy conservation  investment. According to Wendy Mellenthin, steering committee co-chair, congregants “want to donate money for programs related to what their spiritual focus is,” not for energy bills.  We want to start where we can have the greatest impact — that’s with lighting.”

For more information and to register for the Nov. 17 brown bag lunch, contact Chad Braby at [email protected] or call 540-798-2576. Visit rvccc.org for more information on Cool Cities and Congregations.