Colin Tomb of Pace awards the 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
On a sailing ship, a bosun’s whistle was used to convey instructions to the crew. Over the roar of the sea it could better be heard than a human voice.
One such instruction was “all hands on deck.” Crews of ships were divided into two or three groups with one group working or “keeping watch” at a time. “All hands on deck” meant that everyone — both those actively on watch as well as those at rest — were to report to the main deck for important, often life-saving, news.
In church, one can understand “all hands on deck” as a way of saying that the participation of everyone onboard is needed in order to accomplish the task at hand. The task before us is to raise our sails by raising $890,000 for our 2017 operating budget.
As we call for all to participate in our pledge campaign, we ask that you:
- make giving to St John’s the top priority in your charitable giving
- ask God to help you grow in giving by pledging or giving more than last year
- endeavor to give weekly, monthly, or quarterly if possible in order to assure a steady cash flow for the church
- endeavor to meet or exceed a minimum goal for giving: either 5% of your gross salary or the national average pledge of $2,626
Pray First ...
Gracious God, you are the giver of all that I have and all that I am. I lack for so little and yet yearn for so much. Continue to teach me to trust in your goodness, that you will provide all I need. Help me to share what I have. Inspire me to give freely and generously to your work in my church. Amen.
Fill out a pledge card. We’ll make them available by US Mail, email, on our website, and in the pew racks in church. Complete one and place it in the offering plate or email it or US mail it to our Parish Administrator Diane Wells. You can also fill out a pledge card on our website. (Click here ). Our secure site will convey your electronic pledge card to us.
Pay manually by check, cash, or credit card. Or, set up secure automatic payments thru our affiliation with PushPay. You can arrange for a recurring charge to your credit card or a recurring deduction from your checking account. Using PushPay is easy; it’s the way our busy clergy make their monthly pledge payments to our church. To set up PushPay payments click on the link below. Be sure to tell us if you wish to pay weekly, monthly, quarterly, or on some other schedule. Please also let us know (by checking the box on your pledge card) if you wish to receive information about remembering St John’s in your will with a legacy gift.
- Continue Saturday night worship service: Acoustic Prayers for Evening
- Continue twice monthly Choral Compline worship service
- Fund Solas Celtic worship services
- Further develop social media and web presence, including website redesign & video communications
- Support seminary intern for 2016-17 program year
- Convert unused classroom to household products pantry for Whittier Elementary families in need
- Provide additional staffing for Sunday School & Choristers
- Build a fund to enable the remodel of the chapel restrooms
- Provide for staff & clergy COLA raises
- Direct more staff & clergy time toward new member ministries
- Establish a guest speaker fund to bring in speakers on spiritual and social justice topics
- Restore funding for social action and people in need
Social & Environmental Activism
- Solar Panel Array—went “live” in April
- Gun Violence Prevention Ministry
- 49 Bells Prophetic Witness Project
Growing in faith & holiness of life
- St John’s Intentional Community
- Christian formation for ages 3 to 103
- Centering Prayer ministries
- Daughters of the King prayer ministry
- Bible study groups; EfM; Foyer dinner groups
Caring for people in need
- BHWI—empowering homeless women
- Community Table & Common Cathedral
- Soup Kitchen
- Pastoral Care ministries
- Funerals, grief support, and Caregiver Support Group
- Healing Prayer Team at Sunday worship
- Whittier Elementary partnership: Reading Camp, Children’s book drive, tutoring
- Habitat for Humanity
Offering sanctuary & community
- Acoustic Prayers for Evening (Sat.night)
- Choral Compline; Solas Celtic Service
- Contemplative Evensong
- Five weekly services of Holy Eucharist
- Choir, Choristers, Verger’s Guild
- Sunday serving ministries
- Coffee hour; Newcomers ministry
Church campus as historic icon
- Gardens, Labyrinth, Columbarium
- Community groups using our facilities
There are many ways to worship God. Simply by showing up on Sunday mornings we are offering ourselves — our bodies, hearts, and minds — to God to use, inspire, and transform as he deems best.
We worship God by lifting our voices together in song. We worship God by praying in community as one body, either silently or aloud. We worship God by hearing and pondering his word proclaimed in Scripture and illumined in a sermon. We worship God by reaffirming our faith through reciting the Nicene Creed, and by confessing our sins and receiving absolution. We worship God by sharing the peace of Christ with one another and by partaking of the sacrament of Communion together.
We may not think of putting money or a check in the offering plate as an act of worship. We may not think of texting a donation via a smartphone app or setting up an auto-pay deduction as acts of worshiping God but they most certainly are.
In that spirit then, throughout this campaign (Oct. 2, 2016 through late Nov.) we’ll let you (and God) know each Sunday during the worship service (at the Offertory) how we are doing at raising the sails on our ship.
God delights in our generous and joyful sharing of our blessedness. God is honored when we pay tribute to him by giving.
There’s a wry old saying that “a boat is a hole in the water surrounded by wood into which you pour money”.
That’s NOT the case with this “boat” we call St John’s! Every dollar goes to further the mission of our church, and we know where every dollar goes. Our Treasurer, Finance Committee, vestry, and staff track expenses monthly. Staff-persons submit detailed budget requests each fall and from those the budget for the coming year is built.Copies of our financial statements are available on request.
Below is an overview of how each dollar you give is spent.
- clergy leadership: worship, teaching, pastoral care, administration
- office and administration: staff and supplies
- buildings and grounds: staff and supplies
- children & youth: staff and supplies
- music: staff and supplies
- ministries & other
- worship supplies
- parish life, fellowship & pastoral care supplies
What it costs to run our parish
Parishioners sometimes say, “I’d be more willing to pledge to the church if I knew exactly where my money goes and how it is spent.” Did you know that our budget is a matter of “public record” in that it is shared with and explained to the parish at our annual meeting each January? Our monthly Finance Committee meetings are open to any parishioner who wishes to attend, as are our monthly vestry meetings. The budget and stewardship are discussed at every meeting.
But if you are not a numbers person, reviewing a financial statement can be more confounding than elucidating. So here is a more narrative look at what it costs to run our parish, according to our 2016 budget.
- Buildings & Grounds $0.14 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Administrative & Office $0.14 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Clergy Leadership $0.27 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Music & Worship $0.09 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Outreach $0.13 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Christian Education $0.15 of every dollar you give goes to this.
- Miscellaneous $0.08 of every dollar you give goes to this.
(A) BUILDINGS & GROUNDS The cost of maintaining the church campus each year, including:
- The (full-time) caretaker’s salary, pension contribution, payroll tax, and benefits
- Our contract with a security service that patrols our campus nightly
- Utilities—water, sewer, heat, electricity
- Property insurance
- All parts and supplies used by the caretaker in cleaning and maintaining the campus
- Any specialized cleaning and repairs needed, such as steam-cleaning the kitchen, servicing the elevator, furnace boiler repairs, and so on.
- Landscaping and landscape maintenance
Benefit to you: The worship spaces, classrooms, offices and meeting spaces, kitchen and bathrooms are clean and well maintained. They are heated or cooled for your comfort, according to the season. The lawn is mowed and the gardens are planted with flowers. Trees are pruned and cared for. Trash is picked up. Snow is shoveled and surface ice removed. Our integrity of our beautiful historic structure is preserved. The campus is patrolled and protected against theft, vandalism, and catastrophic loss.
(B) ADMINISTRATIVE & OFFICE The cost of maintaining the administrative center of the church each year, including:
- The salary, pension contribution, payroll tax, and benefits for two staff positions: the (full-time) Parish Administrator and the (part-time) Communication Assistant
- Contract with the bookkeeper
- Contract with the payroll service
- Copy machine lease and service contract
- Postage machine lease and postage
- Telephone and Internet services
- Office Supplies
- The cost of an annual financial audit
Benefit to you: Worship bulletins are created and printed for you, newsletters are created and sent to you, phones are answered and appointments scheduled for you, pastoral visits and funerals and weddings and baptisms arranged, new members are integrated into the life of our faith community, ministry meetings and activities planned, records kept, bills paid, mailings sent out, meeting rooms are rented to community groups, and many more things!
(C) CLERGY LEADERSHIP The cost of providing clergy leadership for the parish each year, including:
- The salary, pension contribution, payroll tax, and benefits for two full-time staff positions: the Rector and the Associate Rector
- Supply priests, when such are needed to fill in for Sunday services
- Contract clergy, who lead a weekly bible study and make some of the many regular pastoral visits St John’s undertakes to the elderly and homebound
- To reimburse the (non-stipendiary) parish deacon for mileage and other business expenses
Benefit to you: Worship is led on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, as well as on special occasions such as Holy Week and Christmas. Funerals, weddings, baptisms, and the Service of Reconciliation are conducted. Sermons are prepared and given. Classes are prepared and taught. New members are met with. The parish is represented in the community and in the diocese, vision and strategies to inform and deepen the spiritual lives of 1500 members are developed and implemented, 40+ ministries are overseen, pastoral counseling and grief counseling are offered, the poor are assisted and mentored, the staff is hired and supervised, reports to the vestry and communications to the parish are written and disseminated, volunteers are recruited and thanked, community building and fellowship events are conceived, hospital visits and nursing home visits are made, clergy are available for pastoral emergencies 24/7, and many more things.
(D) MUSIC & WORSHIP The cost of providing professional musicians, music, and worship supplies for the parish each year, including:
- The salary, pension contribution, payroll tax, and benefits for three part-time staff positions: the Music Director, the Principal Organist, and the Associate Organist
- The cost to maintain the organs and other musical instruments of the church
- The cost to maintain the sound system in the main sanctuary
- The cost of sheet music and vestments for the choir
- The cost of producing special services such as Choral Compline, the Solas Celtic service, and Contemplative Evensong
- The cost of any worship supplies not covered by the Altar Guild.
Benefit to you: Music enhances worship on Sundays, Wednesday evenings, and special occasions such as Holy Week and Easter. Music enhances weddings and funerals as requested. The adult choir and the children’s choristers are recruited, led, and nurtured. Classes are developed and taught. Guest musicians are integrated into the worship services. Special services such as Choral Compline, the Solas Celtic Service, and Contemplative Evensong are developed and presented. The musical instruments and sound amplification system are maintained for your enjoyment and ease of hearing. You are the beneficiary of the rich tradition of Anglican liturgical music offered by talented musicians who are faithful members of our parish. Altar furnishings and vestments are beautiful and well-cared for. Candles and wine and wafers for Communion are well-stocked. Supplies for lay Eucharistic visitors are provided so those in hospital or homebound can receive the sacrament.
(E) OUTREACH The money that is given away in the course of a year, including:
- To the poor and needy, for emergency help with transportation, housing, etc.
- To the poor and needy, for emergency help with medical prescriptions
- To the more than twelve charitable local institutions that are St John’s outreach “partners”
- To the Diocese of Colorado, as our tithe to help run the diocese and to contribute to the national church
- To the Front Range Region of the Diocese, to help provide grants to smaller, less financially robust parishes
- To help with some of the expenses of Soup Kitchen
- To help with some of the expenses of Community Table, Common Cathedral, and the Boulder Homeless Women’s Initiative
- To contribute to special fund-raising appeals for foreign missions
Benefit to you: Your parish provides resources for those in emergency need, and all recipients are screened so your money is responsibly spent. Through partnerships with charitable institutions, such as Bridge House, BOHO, Attention Homes, and more, your parish provides financial support and an opportunity for you to give back as a volunteer. Through your parish’s gifts to the Front Range Region, small parishes in our area receive financial assistance. Through your parish’s tithe to the Diocese of Colorado, the diocesan staff and resources are available to all Colorado Episcopalians.
(F) CHRISTIAN EDUCATION The cost of providing clergy and lay staff, and Christian education programming for the children, youth, and adults of the parish each year, including:
- The salary, pension contribution, payroll tax, and benefits for two part-time staff positions, one clergy and one lay: the Assisting Priest for Family Ministry, and the Director of Faith Formation
- Stipend for three part-time Sunday School program assistants
- Nursery staff
- Purchased curricula and supplies for our two children’s Sunday School programs, our middle school program, our youth program, our young adult program, and our adult formation programs
- Supplies for periodic volunteer teacher appreciation and planning gatherings
- The cost of background checks and administering the Safeguarding God’s Children program.
Benefit to you: Your infants and toddlers are safely cared for during worship and other church events. Your children ages 3 to 18 (over 100 children in all) are provided programs for Christian learning and fellowship. Young adults and adults each have multiple opportunities for Christian learning and fellowship. Kid-focused and participatory worship services are planned and offered. Pastoral care, community building activities, and help on raising kids of faith are provided for young families.
(G) MISCELLANEOUS The amount and specifics can vary from year to year. The 2016 budget includes:
- Support for Coffee Hour—although the coffee is donated by a parish couple and much of the food is also
- Welcome Table supplies
- Food and supplies for new member gatherings
- Supplies and some food for parish potlucks
- Fees associated with social media and website
- In 2016 some of the (what is now the) Communication Assistant position costs were charged to this category
Benefit to you: The benefit of having a professional-looking and up-to-date website is enjoyed not only by parishioners but is an important evangelism tool for those seeking a church home. Coffee hour provides an opportunity for fellowship and community building.
A few explanatory notes may be helpful. Clergy salaries are set by the diocese based on the size of the parish and the position held by the clergy person. St John’s clergy salaries are in the lower to mid portion of the range for our size parish. Lay salaries are not set by the diocese. As such, our HR Committee engages in periodic salary studies to assure that St John’s is paying its lay employees fairly and competitively. Certain benefits (such as pension and insurance) are mandated by law or Episcopal Church canons. Payroll tax is likewise a non-negotiable expense. Property insurance (and certain minimum coverages) is mandated by Diocesan canons.
The amount (percentage) of a parish’s tithe to the diocese and to the region is set by the diocese. Historically, St. John’s has not contributed the mandated amount. We did so last year and will continue to do so in future budgets.
Certain capital improvements take place when a donor leaves money in his or her will for that purpose. We are not as free to spend undesignated gifts on parish operations. In other words, money in our parish endowment is not necessarily available to pay our bills if the parish stewardship campaign fails to raise the amount needed to cover our budgeted expenses.
What can I do to leave a legacy to St. John’s?
Regardless of the size of the gift, you can leave a legacy to St. John’s by designating a portion of your assets to go to our parish when you pass away. These gifts ensure the continued vitality of ministry at St. John’s and are a final witness of faith.
How to I make this final witness of faith in support of St. John’s?
By including St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder, CO in any planned gifts listed on the Legacy Form .
How do I modify a will or other instrument for this purpose?
Contact your attorney, financial advisor, or insurance provider. Often, remembering St. John’s with a legacy gift is as easy as adding a codicil to your will or listing St. John/s Episcopal Church, Boulder, CO as a beneficiary.
If I have already remembered St. John’s with a legacy gift, what should I do?
You do not have to do anything. However, our Rector, the Rev. Susan Springer or Fr. Ted Howard would appreciate being notified that you have done so by filling out the Legacy Form and returning it to the Church Office. You do not have to specify the amount of the remembrance.
What if my financial circumstances change?
Remember, it is the act of leaving a last gift to your faith community that is significant, not the amount. Please know that you can update your gift, at anytime, to better align with your circumstances and your wishes.
What if I have questions about how to designate my legacy gift?
Please feel free to contact either Pastor Susan or Fr. Ted at 303-442-5246 to set up an appointment to discuss your wishes for your legacy gift.