Faith in Action
St John's Social Action Ministry
On April 24, 2016, a grateful congregation celebrated the installation of new, energy-saving solar panels on St John’s campus while our Rector, The Rev Susan Springer - precariously tethered to the roof - gamely blessed the project. These high-efﬁciency panels will save the church approximately $100,000 over their lifetime, reduce our carbon footprint and help save the planet!
Many of us were so inspired by the mega-gathering on climate change in Paris and the Pope’s 2015 encyclical on ecology that we have experienced a whole new level of global consciousness. And, despite the President’s recent withdrawal of the United States from those Paris Accords, Boulder, along with hundreds of other American cities, will continue to honor these worldwide actions.
In their latest sobering “Fast Facts about Global Warming”, Interfaith Power and Light warns us that “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least 800,000 years; that our food, water supplies and oceans are at risk; our forests and wetlands are overwhelmed; and 75% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened, all of which is primarily human-induced.”1 By installing solar power, St. John’s will signiﬁcantly reduce our carbon footprint by keeping hundreds of tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere every year.
Now, as we witness near-Biblical droughts and ﬂoods in the United States and watch violent instability abroad - with large areas of developing countries suffering crop failures and mass starvation due in large part to climate change - we have become ever more conscious of the interconnectedness of all life sharing this Earth, our common home. We know this is our time to act, and to “show in [our] lives what [we] profess in our faith”2, Climate change is a moral issue that is calling all of us as stewards of creation to learn, pray and act so that we can be an energy-saving role model for our own faith community and an inspiration to others for a cleaner, healthier world now and for future generations.
To learn details of the Planning and Financing of this solar project, click here.
1.Interfaith Power and Light: Fast Facts about Global Warming, 2017
2. BCP pg 223
Inreach: Congregational Care
At St. John's we have a dedicated group of ten ministers trained and licensed by the diocese who go out weekly after Sunday services of Holy Eucharist to take Christ's body and blood to those who are either temporarily or permanently unable to attend church. An EV comments, “We go to them to bring them to us.” If you would a visit from a St. John's Eucharistic minister or more information about home communion, contact the church office.
St. John’s Hospital Visitors minister to parishioners who are in the hospital. The trained visitors check in daily with Boulder Community Hospital downtown and at the one just off Foothills Parkway on Arapahoe. These ministers provide active listening and prayer to parishioner patients. Many of them are also Eucharistic Ministers as well and can give communion to the patient right at the hospital. Often a hospital visitor continues to minister to a parishioner if they are temporarily transferred to an assisted living facility. These visitors advise the clergy of all visits. Parishioners are encouraged to notify the office ahead of time of any scheduled hospitalizations.
“The ultimate test of a moral society
is the kind of world it leaves its children”
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Social Action and Outreach at St. John's
St. John's has expanded the traditional concept of Outreach to include a special type of Outreach that we are calling Social Action Ministry (SAM). This ministry, with its focus on social justice, offers opportunities for all of us to engage Christ’s love with service to our community and a hurting world. SAM also provides a platform for us to carry out our Baptismal vows to “love our neighbor as ourselves...and...strive for justice and peace among all people”. [BCP, p 305]. It is our hope that through these diverse non-proﬁt ministries that need our hands-on volunteer work as well as ﬁnancial support, we can nourish our heart’s yearnings to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
St. John’s is called to encounter Christ in the world by extending His love in giving and service to others and seeks to engage parishioners as directly as possible with those who are served. In 2012, St. John’s was recognized by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado as one of 29 Jubilee Ministries in the state because of a long history of outreach and servanthood. Currently, St. John’s outreach consists both of ministries that are run primarily by the parish and partnership support in giving and service to 10 non-profit agencies.
St John's also periodically holds donation drives and carries out special projects to benefit those in the community. Recent events have been a warm clothing drive for the homeless, a fleece scarf making event for the homeless, a children's book drive for children of low income families, and a reading camp for low income children, being planned for June 2013.
The St. John's Solar Project
Pastor Susan blesses our new Solar Panels
A video about PACE (Partnership for Clean Environment)
Colin Tomb of Pace awards a check to Fr. Ted of St. John's
See a real time graph of St. John's Energy Usage
Getting Solar Power St John’s
A small group of motivated parishioners was looking for a way our church, St. John’s Boulder, could be solar powered. We wanted to set a visible sign of our faith by providing a piece of the solution to our world’s glowing climate crisis. We wanted to be good stewards of Creation, now and for future generations.
As low-cost as solar photovoltaic had become, installing an array was still a capital investment, which could be a tough hurdle. And with St John’s being an historic site in Boulder, there was concern about an installation being even possible. Could we even put up panels? Did we have enough space on the newest part of our building?
With the blessing of the clergy, St John’s created a Solar Study Group of parishioners who embarked on a fact-finding mission about solar. We quickly learned from a local installer that we could fit 25 kilowatts on the roof of the new wing of our building, helping us to get past the regulations of our historic designation. We learned about the different kinds/generating capacities of panels and their costs.
One of the biggest financial incentives for installing solar is the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), based on the total cost of installation. Any church, being non-profit, cannot take advantage of this tax credit. As we considered this, we found that another local church, Christ the Servant Lutheran, had created a Limited Liability Company (LLC) of parishioners to be the purchaser and owner of their array. The LLC, as a for-profit organization, could make use of the Federal tax credit, and could then sell clean power to the church each month. This allowed the parishioner-investors to put solar to the church and get their money back after a few years.
After the sixth year of ownership, the financial incentives for investors exhaust due to the depreciation schedule, and the church will buy the array from the LLC, at the depreciated value. Thereafter the church will enjoy even higher savings on their power, depending on the financing costs of the purchase. The investors will get their money back plus a return, depending on whether they have “passive income.”
Those investors who have passive income, such as from rental property, can see the highest tax shelter and highest return on investment. Other investors without passive income can see a minor gain, as well as get their money back when the church buys the array from the LLC. This latter group may find the investment a compelling value regardless of rate of return if they truly want to benefit both their church and the environment in an investment that pays back like a low-interest loan.
The risks that the investors face include failure of the church to pay its electric bills due to a collapse of the solvency, or failure of the church to find financing for buying the array from the LLC at year six. We listed 10 other risks to investors in our document, “Solar LLC Investor Information.” We discussed these risks and decided they were low probability – and that the overall value of our project was compelling enough to justify continuing. The money savings for the church, the benefits of clean power, the potential returns to investors, all combine to make this a project that others should consider as well.
There are also a number of grant programs that help nonprofits and religious organizations to afford renewable energy or energy efficiency programs. We heard about, investigated, and applied for two grants available to us, one through a local gov't-business partnership that supports energy efficiency in businesses, one through Interfaith Power and Light. We are scheduled to receive the grant from the local organization. In our case this money will go to the investors, since they are the owners of the array. The Interfaith Power and Light award is part of a competition, and if St John’s wins, the award will go to the church.
The Solar Group worked a communications plan through the summer and early fall of 2015. We sought and received the approvals and encouragements of our lay leaders, our congregation, the Colorado diocese, and the City of Boulder Landmarks Board.
In November 2015, St. John’s created our own LLC, comprised of 11 parishioners. Our LLC purchased 77 high efficiency panels to generate about 40% of the church’s annual electric needs. Our church will see about $100 per month in savings at the outset.
Realizing the Vision
Final design work took place near the end of 2015, and the construction permits were received in January 2016. Installation began the first week of February, and within two weeks, the array was complete and ready for connection to the church and the electric grid. It takes an additional 2-3 months for Xcel Energy to connect the panels to the grid. See our construction video here and photos here
Sharing the Work
We at St John’s encourage other churches and nonprofits to follow in our footsteps and copy our documents as desired for your organization’s use. DISCLAIMER – the documents are for use as examples and templates, and your organization is entirely responsible for seeking professional advice on all facets of your project. St John’s accepts no responsibility for others’ projects or use of these documents
A snapshot of our sequence
The list below details how we went about executing our project, and includes links to documents, photos, and presentations we used to develop, communicate, and approve our project. You are welcome to copy our documents as desired for your organization’s use.
Apr 2015: Sought blessing from our clergy, then formed the Solar Study Group to investigate the technical, financial, aesthetic, and spiritual factors of installing Solar PV Panels. Our clergy also supplied names of key people to invite onto the committee. View the emails here (in pdf format).
- Jun 2015: Formed our project goals:
- That our church should be a visible, vocal and faith-filled steward of the Earth
- That any renewable energy projects provide financial savings to the church
- That the beauty of our historic campus be preserved
- Jul 2015: Got information and budgetary bids from solar installation professionals. View the proposals here
- Aug 2015: Informed the Vestry (board of lay leaders) and got initial approval. View the vestry presentation here (in MS Powerpoint format) and the quick "elevator" pitch here (in MS Word format).
- Aug 2015: Went to City of Boulder Landmarks Board to seek approval to install on the non-historic portions of our building. View the Photoshop'd images here.
- Sep 2015: Investigated renewable energy grant programs, and applied for 2 grants available to us. View the PACE meeting notes here.
- Oct 2015: Applied to Xcel Energy (our utility company) to reserve financial benefits (RECs - Renewable Energy Credits); this put us “in line” with Xcel to be considered for these credits.
- Oct 2015: Communicated about our project to the parish, to seek support and investors. See the Rector's note to the parish here, and the information packet given to the parish here (in MS Word format).
- Nov 2015: Got formal approval from the Colorado diocese. See the Executive Summary given to the Standing Committee here.
- Nov 2015: Recruited the investors, formed the LLC (by filing an online web form and paying $50) and created a bank account. Investors then paid their contributions, $9500 each for 11 investors. View the LLC Participation document here, the LLC Operating Document with St. Johns here, and the Cash Flow Projection spreadsheet here.
- Dec 2015: LLC signed the contract with the solar installer and paid deposits
- Dec 2015: Signed the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the LLC and the Church. See the Purchase Agrement here.
- Jan 2016: Final design submitted, construction permit granted
- Feb 2016: Our solar installer started construction Feb 3, 2016 and finished ten days later. It takes an additional 2-3 months for Xcel Energy to connect the panels to the grid.
An alternative for churches that do not have parishioners who are ready or able to invite - http://villagepower.com/
Consolidated List of Documents
- 1. Emails initiating the team
- 2. Solar Goals Development Process/Spreadsheet
- 3. Solar Installer Proposals (pricing removed)
- 4. Presentation to Vestry seeking approval.
- 4.1 Elevator Pitch
- 5. Documents for Boulder Landmarks Board
- 6. PACE Meeting Notes
- 7. no document
- 8. Pastor Susan’s "Rector's Pen"
- 8.1 Solar Project Packet for Parishioners
- 9. Executive Summary for Standing Commitee
- 10. Solar LLC Participation Information
- 10.1 Operating Agreement for St Johns Church Solar LLC
10.2 SJ Solar Cash Flow Projection
- 11. no document
- 12. Power Purchase Agreement (between LLC and St John’s)
Real-Time Graph of St. John's Energy Usage
Volunteer! Ministry Opportunities
Matthew 22:36 - 40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Participation is vital to every community. Participation results in synergy, synergy being the magic that is created when you bring your particular essence (and all of the skills/talents/gifts associated with you) into direct contact with other particular essences (and all of the skills/talents/gifts associated with each and every one of those “others”.) Every Sunday when we are each invited to share in the Body of Christ at the communion rail, we are participating in the corporate worship that is vital to Christian communities. It is the most direct experience we have of Jesus coming to us, of the love of Jesus coming into us. This is the quintessential expression of loving God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind. But this is only half of the Christian equation according to Jesus. The other half of the equation is loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is the action component of the equation, where we take our heart-full-of-love and pour it out into the world in service.