artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
The General Synod of the Church of England met today; one of the things they discussed was environmental concerns (often lumped under "stewardship" on Planet Church).

For a few years I've been grumbling under my breath "Well, there are something like 14000 south-facing church roofs in the C of E alone, too bad English Heritage can't let us put solar panels on most of them." My own church is a Grade II Listed building in a conservation area, and our chances of putting solar panels on our roof are approximately nil.

Now, I'm not suggesting that ancient roofs that are of particular interest (maybe thatched or something) should be replaced by shiny shiny solar panels. But being serious, the vast majority of church roofs are not anything special: their function is to keep the rain off, and that's about it. But because of the way the listing of older buildings works, we can't differentiate between the roof and the walls, the windows and the drainpipes; and while there is something to be said for architectural harmony, many modern solar panels are very unobtrusive anyway.

But I'm not the only one grumbling about this. It's just that it gets lost among the messages about using less packaging, and encouraging people to cycle more rather than drive, and eating less meat... all good and noble things to do, but not something most church communities are going to be able to get behind in an enthusiastic way. Similarly, divesting from fossil fuels is great, but as far as Yer Average Churchgoer is concerned, not something that affects the day-to-day running of the place. And as for solar panels at home, well, I rent, and so do many people I know, and solar panels on a private home are nearly as large a project as solar panels on a church, with many less people to lend a hand with the work.

So I wonder... could a campaign in the church at many levels shift government policy on listed buildings to allow installation of solar panels on most churches? If we just focus on the solar panels, might we make more headway than if we talk about all the little lifestyle changes we all need to make? Getting solar panels (whether hot water or photovoltaic) on a church roof is something a lot of churches *can* move toward, with help, if it's made legal; and campaigning to have it made legal in all or most places might be something people can get behind.

There is always the danger of seeming a bit hippie-middle-class-ish, but the reality is that solar panels on churches in the poorest communities will save money for those churches (or even act as a source of income) and help them help the wider community more.

And, of course, a church with solar panels on the roof is making a strong statement: that this is a community which can move with the times, which takes seriously our stewardship of the planet on which we live. It makes our cruciform, east-oriented buildings with all their south-facing roofs a visible and practical symbol of our role and commitment to that role. It makes our buildings indicate a sacramental presence, if you will. It is a way of looking at the earth, as God did, and seeing that it is good -- and then showing that we'll put our money where our mouth is and act on it.

I think this project needs:
-a lot more thought
-a snappy name (probably not SPORC for Solar Panels On Roofs of Churches, for what it's worth)
-maybe a canon lawyer
-someone who is good at grassroots campaigning
-general admin time
-a fair bit of untangling of situations where churches can *already* install solar panels (in some places it really is possible)

I think we might want to talk to:
-other denominations, especially if they have lots of listed buildings
-Friends of the Earth
-Transition Towns (these are quite locally based so it might be easier to make links at a local level)
-Green Christians


artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)

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