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Small group leads big solar projects at Kansas church


Village Presbyterian Church outfits several facilities with solar as part of broader Creation care work

October 2, 2021

Solar panels on the roof of Village Church Child & Family Development Center in Overland Park, Kansas. (Photo courtesy of Village Presbyterian Church.)

The numbers are eye-popping.

  • A total of 207 solar panels installed over four phases in as many years
  • They generate 64.575 kilowatts of power
  • 364 megawatt-hours of energy annually
  • That offsets 70.33 tons of carbon or 1,624 trees.

The solar panel project at Village Church Child & Family Development Center in Overland Park, Kansas is a head-turning endeavor for a church, but not surprising when considering other environmentally conscious projects Village Presbyterian Church in neighboring Prairie Village has undertaken over the years.

Village’s first solar panel project was in 2007, when it put them on its food pantry and the church also had a hand in solar installations on several buildings at Heartland Center Camp in Parkville, Missouri, a half-hour northwest of the church.

The church has been involved in numerous environmentally conscious projects, including installing motion-sensitive lights at its main campus, installing electric car charging stations at the pantry, incorporating Creation care into youth education (children made “turn off the lights” signs for Advent), having electronics recycling, installing a pollinator garden, and other endeavors. On its Facebook page, the church has a series of videos with members talking about their commitments to environmental care and it presented a series of lectures on “Just Creation” by the Rev. Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological Seminary.

For 11 years, Village has been a certified Earth Care Congregation (ECC) by the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and members have been actively involved with Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC), a para-church organization. It was at a PEC conference that church member Al Pugsley got the idea to fund solar panels at churches.

“My whole concept was the fact that churches don’t get any tax credits for installing solar,” said Pugsley, a member of Village’s Environmental Action Committee. “Homeowners do. Our companies do. So, the whole idea was to help these facilities go green where they didn’t want to spend the money out of their normal budget to do that.”

Pugsley has helped fund solar panel projects at churches as far away as Hawaii.

Presbyterians can look to programs such as a Restoring Creation Loan from the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, which supports efforts to make church buildings more energy efficient with projects such as high-efficiency HVAC and roofing systems, insulation and solar panels. In addition to Pugsley’s funding, Village raised more than $145,000 from around 30 families over the course of the project.

“There’s a well-known quote by Margaret Mead about the power of a few dedicated individuals, and I think that’s what we have here,” said EAC member Jerry Rees. “Our Environmental Action Committee is maybe 10 people or less. A lot of people are aware. Not everybody, but I think there are kindred spirits. They may not share our sense of urgency, but they’re aware and they kind of support our efforts.”

Pugsley has a deep interest in environmental responsibility having, among other things, converted a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck to electric power in 2006. One of the Village EAC’s annual events is an electric and hybrid car expo in its parking lot.

To Pugsley and Rees, the benefits to the Earth care work are multifaceted, from the financial benefits of not having to pay for electricity and therefore funding other work to decreasing demand for fossil fuels needed to generate electricity, which inevitably benefits the environment and people.

“I think it was four summers ago, we had two youth interns, Earth-care youth interns,” Rees said. “And they came up with a survey. And one of the surprising results of that survey was the answer to the question, ‘do you think people will be attracted to a church that involves Earth care in its mission and ministry?’ And 85% responded yes. That blew me out of the water that many would believe that.”

Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, said, “More and more we hear this from congregations. Caring for the Earth and then making public outward demonstrations, like installing solar panels, tells a broader audience an important truth about the values of your congregation, even if you haven’t spoken to them.”

Rich Copley, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Solar projects

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Kelly Abraham, Executive Director, Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM)  
Susan Abraham, Associate, Board Meeting Support & GA Coordination, Executive Director’s Office, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

God of grace, we trust in your provision for us and all creatures. Help us to answer your call to work for life for all Creation. Amen.

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