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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Going green by going solar


University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio celebrates its fifth year as an Earth Care Congregation

July 2, 2024

University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, has seen significant savings in its energy bill following the installation of solar panels. (Photo courtesy of University Presbyterian Church)

Being an Earth Care Congregation brings a sense of joy that exudes to anyone you speak to who serves their respective congregation in this capacity.

Since 2020, University Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, Texas, has been an Earth Care Congregation. In 2019, the congregation began to discern what it would mean to embark on this journey. The application process invites congregations to ponder worship, facilities, education and outreach. In 2021, the church invested in solar panels, which greatly reduced the amount of electricity the church was using. Solar panels were installed in the carport, with the panels serving as the roof, and for shade from the hot Texas sun. Church administrator Anastasia Bernal said that using a local manufacturer helped boost the local economy with manufacturing, construction and engineering jobs.

Leaning into being an Earth Care Congregation has led UPC to think more intentionally about how to use its resources. The checklist helps to look at all the areas of church life that can help people become better stewards of the environment. Some of the initiatives that have been relatively easy to implement include joining a recycling program, installing LED lighting throughout the campus, adding bike racks and reducing paper consumption.

The solar panel installation at University Presbyterian Church featured this one over the church’s carport. (Photo courtesy of University Presbyterian Church)

Sandy Nicholson, chair of the church’s Earth Care Ministry Team, provided data to demonstrate how effective being an Earth Care Congregation can be. In 2019, the church’s total energy usage was 165,920 kWh. The year following the installation of the solar panels, the total energy usage was 30,320 kWh, an 82% reduction. The transition shaved $15,000 off the church’s energy bill.

The PC(USA)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy continues to do the work of environmental justice in many ways. Sue Smith, co-chair of ACSWP, says in the ACSWP report “Lithium Mining,” “We believe that God is calling the Church to this difficult work as we lift our vision of an environment renewed, better health outcomes, and clean air and water.”

A recent Earth Day celebration at University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo courtesy of University Presbyterian Church)

This is also a great opportunity to remember the work that Mission Responsibility Through Investment continues to do. In the midst of proxy voting season, Director Katie Carter and Associate Simon Doong note that “as Presbyterians and congregations look for creative ways to protect our Earth, one surprising and overlooked opportunity lies in advocacy in the corporate board room. The PC(USA)’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment releases a set of proxy voting recommendations each year. The publication outlines shareholder proposals that faith- and values-based investors filed, and MRTI recommends supporting hundreds of companies on a variety of justice issues. The recommendations help Presbyterian individuals and entities ensure their investments are aligned with denominational policy. If an individual or entity owns shares in any of the companies listed in the guide, they are encouraged to consider voting aligned with the recommendations and in support of the proposals that are listed.

“Of the 366 resolutions mentioned in the 2024 guide, almost 100 relate directly to climate change or environmental health. MRTI recommends voting in favor of these proposals as a simple but effective way to fight climate change and help preserve our planet.

“There can be power in numbers. When enough shareholders are aligned with the voting guide, a company’s management often takes notice and considers changing course to be more aligned with PC(USA)’s stance and policies. What better way to protect the Earth and celebrate it than supporting the advocacy to change the actions of publicly traded companies, some of the biggest contributors to climate change?”

Shani E. McIlwain, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Today’s Focus: University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio celebrates its fifth year as an Earth Care Congregation

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Tony Lewis, Operations & Accounting Associate, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation 
Mary Lidtke, Grant’s Administrator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

Dear God, we all get caught up in the busyness of our own day-to-day lives. May we all look for ways to share ourselves with others by showing love and compassion. Amen.