Peoples Chapel Church Earth Day Celebration 2011
After years of searching the countryside for best practices in rural ministry, I found in my own little neighborhood the creative genius that is resident in every community of struggle. The genius is forged in the fire of the struggle, and the solutions appear wherever people are solving their own problems and neighbors are helping neighbors.
From the beginning, God has entrusted the care of His planet to His people. The church is a gathering of people in clusters all across the planet.
My home church, Peoples Chapel, has always tried to find ways to improve the quality of life in the community we live in and the places we can help through our outreach activities. Our church has the good fortune of having several members who are very gifted in their work with renewable energy, fabrication, construction, and community organizing. John and Kathy Prusa, two of our members, are pioneers in home electric, heating, and vehicle fuels solutions, and now the “green team” of our congregation is helping to bring their practical, money-saving, environmentally friendly solutions to our church and community.
With a willingness to share these ideas and training with other communities, the organization New Vision Renewable Energy was birthed. New Vision is using time-tested practices of community development and the power of renewable energy to reweave the social fabric of communities that is frayed around the edges. What started out as a quiet investigation has turned into a small movement of groups trying to figure out together how to convert our neighborhoods from being energy consumers to energy producers.
Many families of our church constantly battle having too many bills and not enough money to cover everything. In the absence of the creation of new jobs that put more money in the pockets of families, helping them save or better steward their income seems to be a wise option. We believe that, with a good bit of effort and creative thinking, we can help families take advantage of solar energy options to reduce and eliminate their electric bills.
Our church’s solar energy system was finished in 2011 and will save the church between $600 and $800 a year on our electric bill. The greatest benefit is that our members, along with other friends in the county, produced the system, so we know how to maintain and add to the system in the future. The project relies on people maximizing their God-given abilities.
We believe each congregation has a common calling to worship and serve God. At the same time, each church is made up of a unique group of people and a limited set of resources. We prayed about how to best invest our people and financial resources, and we concluded that a small group of our members should focus on helping the church and families in the community explore renewable energy solutions to meet their basic energy needs.
There is a lot of talk about renewable energy but not a lot of practical examples of how families and communities can tap into it. We have the directives from God to care for people and creation, and we have smart, willing, and capable people. We can either sit back, wait, and be behind the culture in developing renewable energy solutions, or we can get involved and help lead communities and families to celebrate the power of God’s sun to brighten up people’s lives and reenergize our congregations and communities.
We start the New Year excited about connecting with rural ministries across the country with the hope that, together, we may get the chance to put the skills of our community in play and make a difference. We are misquoting John Kennedy a bit these days: “Don’t ask what we can do for you; ask what you can do for your community.”
If any CCDA rural ministries are interested in developing a plan to make renewable energy a new tool in your tool kit, we encourage you to give us a call, and we can talk through possible steps to making that happen. We are launching a national campaign, “Just Clean & Green,” to develop the resources to assist communities in their efforts to “Re-Energize their Communities.” We appreciate your prayers, support, and suggestions on how we can succeed together.
Ruston Seaman is the Executive Director of New Vision Renewable Energy and can be contacted at P.O. Box 425, Philippi, WV, 26416; P: 304.457.2971, ext. 24; Email: [email protected]