We’ve had solar panels and a water-thrifty landscape at Trinity United Methodist Church for several years now—long enough that some might not “see” their value to us.
In 2005 the pastor from Community United Methodist Church in Caliente came by to talk informally to the Church Council about his experience living “off the grid.” Eventually, the Board of Trustees, led by Board President Joe Holden and later John Eccles, contracted to install 608 solar panels and their associated inverters. 217 panels are on the roofs of the four buildings that surround the courtyard. Three carports have an additional 391 solar panels. The inverters are near the main entrance and on the south side of the Education Building.
Trinity was among the earliest adopters of solar power on non-profit campuses.
Trustees are now planning to repair or replace inverters and solar panels. Solar panels turn energy from the sun into direct current electricity but eventually become inefficient. Inverters convert the direct current into alternating current that can be shared on Nevada Energy’s electrical grid.
Because we have solar panels and inverters, Trinity receives a monthly credit for power sent to the electrical grid. We have several refrigerators/freezers on campus. Most hold food we give to families in need who come by our campus every week. We could not have covered the cost to run that equipment without the solar energy credit we get on our power bill.
At the same time, the Trustees were working on a solar panel installation, they also turned their attention to creating a water-thrifty landscape. That involved a difficult decision by the congregation to remove all the turfgrass between the Café Trinity building and the north parking lot. Under the leadership of Board President John Eccles and with the help of project leader Ann Jarrell, the Trustees contracted to convert over 21,000 square feet of turf grass to a water-thrifty landscape in a two-phase project.
The xeriscape design features plants adapted to the desert southwest. Most were purchased with generous giving from the congregation. The first phase is anchored by a stylized heart; the second by a meditation spiral. The heart echoes a logo used by the congregation and the Society of St. Stephen. The meditation spiral features engraved pavers purchased by congregation members over the years. By 2014, the full landscape project reduced the amount of water used on Trinity’s landscape by 47%. That saved money was used in other programs at Trinity.
I’m telling you about these two large investments the congregation made in the last decade because we tend to see them as practical financial decisions. But they are good things we have done to care for creation, too.
The next step for our congregation might be this:
I became a commissioned United Methodist Earth Keeper in 2019. My project was to advocate for establishing a community garden at Trinity UMC. I also joined Provident Community Garden to learn how a community garden operates. Trinity still does not have its own community garden, but Provident now shares excess produce with Trinity’s Food Pantry and Food Rescue programs. In 2021 I joined a Western Jurisdiction group of United Methodist Earth Keepers with a passion for environmental, climate, and creation justice action. I’m part of the Earth Care Task Force in the Desert Southwest Conference.
That Earth Care Task Force has been asked by the Appointive Cabinet of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference to suggest how the Desert Southwest Conference might commit to the work of The United Methodist Interagency Just and Equitable Net-Zero Coalition. It is “… the most systematic, comprehensive, global emission reduction effort in the history of The United Methodist Church.” https://www.resourceumc.org/en/topics/creation-care/net-zero-commitment
The Earth Care Task Force suggested that the Annual Conference find out what every congregation in the Desert Southwest Conference is doing for creation care, environmental advocacy, or creation justice. The Annual Conference and each congregation can calculate its carbon footprint and establish a benchmark for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are generated. Then the Desert Southwest Conference will have some sense of what the next steps must be.
I invite Trinity United Methodist Church to join in this work. Here’s the link to the free online tool that can help Trinity UMC set a benchmark: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/resources_audience/congregations
There is, of course, a formal United Methodist Social Principle that helps us understand why we should care about this effort:
The Natural World: Global Climate Stewardship, 2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶160.D
We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. These “greenhouse gas” emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come with severe environmental, economic, and social implications. The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individuals and nations least responsible for the emissions. We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions.
The Net-Zero effort is long-term. It is for tomorrow. Our job is to set Trinity’s work in motion.
Grace and laughter from the Mojave Desert.