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Multiple Pennsylvania churches make a big, surprising change for a brighter world: ‘It is our calling’

The Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Harrisburg will reportedly save $10,000 annually through the switch.

The Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Harrisburg will reportedly save $10,000 annually through the switch.

Photo Credit: iStock

Throughout history, the concept of light has been integral to numerous cultures and religions, and a number of churches in Pennsylvania are now reportedly harnessing the sun to demonstrate their devotion.

According to Karen Hendricks of StateImpact Pennsylvania, the Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Harrisburg will reportedly save $10,000 annually by switching to solar power, which provides 90% of its energy.

“Everyone is convinced about the cost savings — it wasn’t seen as a political issue,” Rev. Richard Geib told Hendricks, adding that taking steps to take care of the planet is “a positive expression of our faith.”

Akron Mennonite Church is saving almost $1,000 each month after using its own funds to add as many solar panels as possible. 

“If we are responding to disasters, why wouldn’t we try to prevent disasters?” Pastor Rachel Nolt said, per Hendricks. “… It’s part of our understanding that, as people of faith, as Christians, it is our calling, our duty and expectation that we are to care for the Earth.”

Hendricks noted that more than 100 churches in Pennsylvania are members of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL), a nonprofit aimed at empowering people to take meaningful action to protect the environment. 

“Churches are massive holders of land and resources — some of the biggest land-holding or asset-holding groups in the world,” PA IPL executive director Katie Ruth told Hendricks while highlighting their importance in transitioning away from dirty energy like oil and gas, which have been linked to health concerns such as asthma and disrupted the habitat of numerous creatures. 

Solar power, on the other hand, is good for the planet because it doesn’t release any pollution or heat-trapping gases, and it keeps getting more affordable and accessible. According to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency obtained by the United Nations, the industry also created 4.3 million jobs alone in 2021. 

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, another congregation in Pennsylvania that has started utilizing solar, hopes its experience could create a ripple effect of positive change, per Hendricks. 

“We realize one tiny church in the center of rural Pennsylvania isn’t going to solve the climate crisis, but if we can help 100 other churches … ” congregational council leader Maggie Chappen said.

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