Church sets example in energy efficiency

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111280335529070.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1112803393991.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘The Disciples United Methodist Church, Mt. Morris, implemented energy-saving strategies. ‘);

Architects who designed new church facilities in the 1950s did not build them for energy efficiency. Heating costs were low during the mid-50s through the 1980s because oil and electricity were at an economical rate.

However, during the past 10 years, costs to heat a large church building even part of the week became astronomical. Experiencing these extremely high costs for heating, the Disciples United Methodist Church in Mt. Morris, Ill., the trustees became alarmed. How were they to lower costs of energy use for the church? Churches are usually good financial stewards of monies that come in, and the Disciples congregation was no exception.

Earl Martin, chairman of the Trustees Committee, met with his constituents to speak to a need for conservation of energy. The committee was aware of the increasing costs of energy. They were agreeable to addressing this situation. With Martin’s leadership, they engaged in a plan to lower the fuel costs by using conservation methods.

Martin, along with Pastor Bill Bergstrom, approached Mary Jane Shoemaker, a member of the church, and also a member of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association. She suggested that Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl make suggestions about what the church could do to cut their energy costs.

The Vogls conducted a study of the Disciples Church with Martin, and they made several suggestions, including:

1. A new efficient boiler be installed (the old one was installed probably in the 1950s).

2. Insulate fully in every nook and cranny in the building, including between roof and ceilings.

3. Install inside storm windows in the Narthex, choir hall and the educational wing.

Using bequested funds, the trustees oversaw the installation of insulation in the attic space above the Sunday school wing and other areas in the church. Additional storm windows, also using bequested funds, were ordered for the south half of the building and other areas.

Conservation policies for use of the church and a heating schedule were also introduced and put into action in 2003, and continued in 2004.

Included were the educational wing at 55 degrees seven days a week; the sanctuary will be kept at lower temperatures, except Sunday morning for worship; since the fellowship hall can be warmed more quickly, Pastor Bergstrom will decide if the Sunday worship service could be held there rather than in the sanctuary.

Earl Martin said: “I was very impressed with the work to date. We believe in working with the businesses in our local town, and they have performed admirably. We have developed a good working relationship here in our community where our church serves Mt. Morris citizens.”

Pastor Bill Bergstrom, impressed with the work of the Trustees Committee, also gave credit to the congregation. “I am pleased with how supportive the congregation was with steps taken to be good stewards of the facilities and the use of energy resources. Especially the trustees, who responded to the need of what we could do now to ensure lower costs for the church now and in the future.”

Shoemaker brought the question to the pastor, “What steps can we do to be good stewards in energy conservation in the future?”

Some thoughts will be given to programmable thermostats, if the technology is possible with the heating equipment we have.

Inside storm windows installed in other areas of the church, e.g., offices, fellowship room, and the sanctuary.

There are also small areas of heat escaping that could be caulked and some decorative windows that could be made more energy efficient.

As a member of the board of directors for IREA, Shoemaker responded to the work completed in the Disciples United Methodist Church.

“As members of the United Methodist Church, we are stewards of all the environment and to find my own church willing to talk the talk, and walk the walk in conservation of energy has warmed my heart,” she said. “We are the church whose motto is ‘Open Hearts—Open Minds and Open Doors.’ Perhaps we can lead other religious settings to conduct energy audits and conserve energy.”

From the April 6-12, 2005, issue

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