from Father Al Fritsch
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church
Catholic Bishop John Stowe of Lexington blessed the array of 32 solar panels on the Parish Hall at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Ravenna on Saturday afternoon December 17, 2016. The installed device furnishes electricity for the entire parish plant. It is significant, for the town of Ravenna was established in 1915 as the largest coal switching or “Classification” railroad yard in America, and was a fossil fuel center until a few years ago. Fr. Al Fritsch, pastor, said this is the sign of things to come in Eastern Kentucky, with a hope that ex-coal miners will be able to shift to the fast changing renewable energy economy.
Why Church Involvement — Al Fritsch, SJ
As we move to a renewable energy economy we wonder how much the churches themselves should participate in this needed movement. Here are some reasons for installing solar photovoltaic panels on church buildings:
1. Stewardship. First, they are signs of the parish practicing stewardship of church resources. The solar application will save electricity costs with a payback in a decade or so — and then add funds for other expenses.
A Long-term payback makes any use of surplus funds in churches a good mark of stewardship (from 7 to 10 percent per year payback); this is what we see when solar is installed as at ASPI in Mount Vernon, KY some fifteen years ago; these panels have worked well and most likely are good for at least another 15 years. With no mishaps, expect at least three decades of service — a real stewardship gem.
2. Community inspiration. Solar panels are a notice that each institution within a local community should contribute to the transition to a renewable economy, and that it should be done ASAP for the sake of the planet’s immediate health.
3. Church witness. Solarizing the buildings becomes a testimony to other church groups in the community to do the same, and thus becomes a means of preaching without being pushy or self-righteous in the manner of presentation.
Churches accelerate change. The American Revolution started at church levels and penetrated the rest of the community. It should not be a singular example, but include the first of which the entire community of churches and other houses of worship (mosques and synagogues as well) are expected to follow.
4. Renewable advancement. In regions where fossil fuels have in the past been a mainstay of the economic system, solar panels can be seen visibly as a movement to a new economy that offers employment for those installing the devices.
A new economy is difficult, but begins at the public level and requires new job opportunities. Just as blacksmiths in the horse age did not become the auto mechanics at the start of the 20th century, neither can we expect all coal miners to be installers of solar panels. However, great efforts should be made to obtain new employment opportunities for fossil fuel workers, though it is a difficult transition. Generally, renewable economies can and will hire more than the fossil fuel ones.
5. Ecclesial catalyst. By advertising the presence of this solar application in religious periodicals and other media, this becomes a prod for broader church groups to undertake similar projects; they are invited to affirm that the words of church leaders are being implemented in concrete ways.
Church vitality is a catalyst, a moving forward to a renewable energy economy; this is in contrast to a fossil fuel economy that is spilling greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and endangering all of creation. The right to life is a universal mandate because life is so precious and must be conserved and enhanced. Renewable energy strengthens the vitality of planet, animals, plants, and people. These solar units speak of the use of God-given sunlight minus air or water pollution of other energy sources.
6. Theological message. Utilizing solar energy speaks of the care for creation without simply stating this in word, and then failing to act accordingly — and thus be blamed for some form of mere preaching without action to follow.
God’s word in action is a living theology — for we are all in search for the divine presence. Christ comes to save the world and is savior. However, we are commissioned to enter into that saving action by taking what has been initiated and bringing it to all creation. We are called more in this age than any other to save our threatened Earth; this becomes a mandate for all believers.
7. Sign of Beauty. The visibility of the solar panels are a form of beautification, which some naysayers will attempt to disparage; however, the parish says this is the new ecological fashion worthy of demonstration for all the world to see as human-made beauty.
Created beauty indicates our participation in the rising quality of life in the world around us. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we can come to appreciate the wonders of what the human spirit can devise and acquire a deepened sense of what is beautiful. Thus the shining model of human ingenuity is found more in a solar array in sparkling sunlight than in a blast furnace or cooking stove — though everything of benefit has artistic value.
8. Affirmation. By being a leader, especially in areas where solar is not readily utilized by institutions, the building’s solar arrays tell a secular world that our church is on the side of progress in changing to a renewable energy economy.
Preaching to secular world is a difficult task that will be all the harder in the coming years as more and more of the “no religion” portion of the population expands in a ever more materialistic society. Expressing faith must be done in more than words, since we have today a glut of verbiage on the social media and networks, and much of this is of a secular nature. People need to see that the panels on a church building is a positive way to tell the world what we stand for. Salvation of our planet is a sacred mission of which we Christians are to take a lead.
9. Uplift of spirit of members. The parish is willing to take a first step in areas of improvement, and thus the parishioners themselves can take pride in being catalysts for change in the community. Fossil fuels will no longer be used to light this property, and we find this to be part of our wider faith profession to save and properly use our God-given resources.
Congregational pride is needed for ongoing enthusiasm by those who install and maintain solar units, and for those who benefit from the electricity generated by the photovoltaic arrays. In what we do together we can experience a personal sense of achievement; we are energized to other works of mercy and proclamation. In fact, inner spirit or enthusiasm should become contagious and spread out from the local community to the rest of the world – and this becomes a saving deed in which we participate.
Contacts: Al Fritsch, SJ (606) 723-4705; Facebook Janet Powell. firstname.lastname@example.org; or YouTube Mark Spencer (859) 893 5398.