Grant helps congregations go green

This is the first installment in a weekly series that highlights a grant provided by the Foundation.

This year, Earth Day and Easter Sunday are just two days apart. For Cricket Hunter, that’s made it a very busy week.

Hunter has combined her faith in God with her passion for taking care of the Earth through her role as executive director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PA-IPL). She says global warming and climate changes are moral issues.

“This is God’s creation that we’re living in,” Hunter said. “We’ve been living as if it’s there for us to use up. But when we care for Creation, we make it easier and more comfortable for other human beings to live on this Earth.”

Through a grant from the Centre County Community Foundation, the PA-IPL was able to offer energy efficiency audits to three local congregations. They sent out 160 letters to congregations in Centre County at the end of last year. Audits were made available to Trinity United Methodist Church, Houserville United Methodist Church and Philipsburg First Presbyterian Church, because they were the first to respond enthusiastically to the idea.

Approved congregations must become a member of PA-IPL and must commit to taking a variety of eco-friendly actions, like taking part in the audit and talking about global warming during sermons.

Though ice storms delayed the audit process somewhat, Trinity United Methodist Church had its audit last week. The Reverend Brian Vasey said they were already thinking about becoming more energy-efficient, so when they received a letter from PA-IPL, it seemed like the right time to move forward.

“We have an older building, and we surmised that we probably weren’t as efficient as we could be in terms of our use of energy,” the Reverend said.

During site visits auditors make observations and ask congregation members how their building is being used. They take that info, digest it and after looking through years of utility bills, prepare a report about how to improve the building’s energy efficiency.

Once auditors have completed their report on Trinity United Methodist Church, they’ll present their findings and suggestions to the church’s leadership. Then it will be up to the church to institute those suggestions.

Vasey said creating a more environmentally friendly church is the responsible thing to do.

“It’s a trust from God in terms of using the Earth and its resources as best we can,” the Reverend said. “We want to make sure that the energy and the Earth will be there for future generations.”

Hunter hopes that the churches undergoing audits now will serve as examples to other congregations that wish to increase their energy efficiency. She hopes this initiative will inspire individual congregation members to use green initiatives in their own lives as well.

“There are various groups of green sheep in congregations,” Hunter said, and she encourages them to ask their religious leaders to go green.

But if their house of worship isn’t quite ready for that step, they can also go to PA-IPL’s website ( and become individual members of the organization.

“We really want to help faith communities make this part of their daily lives and the daily lives of their congregants,” Hunter said. “It energizes worship and it connects us more closely to each other.”

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