Heartland Regional Newsletter
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Zion Baptist Solar Project
One year ago Zion Baptist Church in Edmonton hit the switch on their brand new solar paneled roof. They estimate that over the course of each year, they’ll generate 100% of their electricity needs! In the summer, when the solar panels produce more electricity than they need, they’ll sell the excess and earn credits. On less sunny days they’ll use the credits to buy electricity the way they used to.
It all started when a small group expressed interest in renewable energy sources, and found out about a grant the church could apply for. With the support of the board, they applied for an Eco City municipal grant. No church had done it before, and it was a major process to provide the research required. But it was worth it – Edmonton awarded Zion a grant of approximately $38,000. The church decided to go ahead, and budgeted for the remaining ~$15,000.
Part of the grant required the church to do some renewable energy educating, so they had fun hosting some local classrooms to learn about how solar energy works. The whole congregation got involved too, and it’s turned into a fun learning experience.
Creation care has become a focus for the congregation. Last year they converted their lights to LED which has reduced their energy consumption by about 25%. And they have a community garden which has become an important connecting point for the neighbourhood.
The panels themselves are very noticeable. Last December, for example, with a snow covered landscape the roof remained clear, collecting solar rays on sunny winter days. The visibility of the project has enabled the church to develop connections with the green community in Edmonton, a door they didn’t have before. They’ve had a number of phone calls from other churches interested in how they could also install solar panels.
“Creation care is incredibly important,” Pastor Craig Traynor says. “It’s a hot topic in our culture, and when we as churches take that seriously it gets the attention of our city and government and province. It sets an example of being stewards. We’ll also save a lot of money in the future.”
On the last Sunday in October they hosted Solar Celebration Sunday, with a potluck meal and lots of invited guests to commemorate one year of solar power.
Meal for a Meal in Leduc
And the thing they’re fundraising for? It’s not what you might expect. The $1500 they raised will purchase food for another meal which the youth group will serve at The Mustard Seed. A meal for a meal, as it were.
Spaghetti feasts are something the Leduc Youth Group has done periodically over the years. This year it was their experience at SERVE in Kamloops that energized the kids to serve more.
“They just wanted to keep going,” Dean says. “They came home from SERVE and wanted to find ways to keep helping here at home.”
This year Dean says they’re starting a new core group of youth, since a bunch recently graduated., so there were a lot of younger kids there, relatively new to youth.
“Sometimes youth have ‘workitis’… when there’s work to be done, they disappear. But that didn’t happen. They all worked so hard, they just didn’t stop.” Dean says. “One girl who is pretty new, I don’t think she’s a Christian, but she heard about the dinner and came down at the last minute to help serve.”
The fundraiser dinner served easily a hundred people at two sittings. That’s a lot of garlic toast. Dean told the youth before each sitting, “It’s going to get crazy out there, but as you’re serving, think about someone downtown who might be going without food tonight. That’s what we’re doing this for.”
“There are moments when you just stand back and watch. I’m so proud of my kids,” Dean says. “They really got behind it.”
Reflecting Theologically with the Hungry
By Rupen Das, National Director, Canadian Bible Society and Gordon King, Westview Baptist Church –JMN Blog
Gordon taught a course on Christian ethics last year at Ambrose Seminary in Calgary. He covered a number of approaches to ethics that were helpful in framing the way Christians could think and talk about moral issues. “Right” and “wrong” seldom present themselves without a difficult fog of collateral issues, personal interests and economic considerations.
Rupen ended his international career in 2017 in order to become President of the Canadian Bible Society. During the previous decade his vocation had included leadership for food assistance programs in the Middle East and work with the European Baptist Federation in response to the refugee crisis. His book called Compassion and the Mission of God was published in 2016.
Our conversations in 2017 often included theological and ethical reflections that moved from places of relative power to social locations on the margins. We pondered a Biblical perspective that we called the “WOA” approach to ethics. WOA stands for the scriptural triad of the widow, orphan and alien. The three groups represented people that lived in the borderlands, or margins, of the community. They were often isolated, poor and vulnerable. The community of faith was called to identify with them, to protect their rights and to offer compassionate care for their needs.
We think that the WOA approach helps Canadian churches to think about hunger from the perspective of the hungry. The reality is that in 2018 we are seeing the number of hungry people climb for the third consecutive year. The official hunger count of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) now is 815 million people—11% of the world’s population. In Africa, 23% of the population receives insufficient kilocalories for their daily activities.
We believe these figures actually mask the truth of hunger. The FAO works with a definition of hunger that requires 12 consecutive months of inadequate nutrition before one qualifies for the hunger count. Furthermore, the measurement is based on the kilocalorie requirements of a sedentary person. In semi-retirement, Gordon’s lifestyle could be described as mostly sedentary. In contrast, a woman farmer in Rwanda, a male laborer in El Salvador or a high school student in India have the nutritional needs of an active person.
How do we think theologically about hunger from the perspective of sisters and brothers that live in the borderlands of poverty, disease, and violence? How do we prayerfully consider the meaning of righteousness in a global context?
We would like to make a few suggestions for our thoughts, conversations, and praxis:
- Hunger is largely a matter of geography. 98% of the world’s hunger people live in the Global South and the Middle East.
- The hungry ask about root causes. One of the causes is poverty. Food follows money. Look at our grocery stories in middle class suburban areas.
- Hunger is related to conflict and violence in 18 countries of the world including Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, and Somalia. The hungry cry out for peace.
- Hunger is affected by environmental issues. The number of extreme climate-related disasters, including extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms, has doubled since the early 1990s. The hungry attribute blame to the lifestyles of citizens of the Global North.
- Hunger is primarily a rural issue. There is a tragic irony that the places that produce crops are often the locations of highest under nutrition. The hungry ask questions about just rewards for the food they produce.
Moving our theological reflections to the margins encourages us to think of food as a human right rather than a simple economic commodity. We submit that there is something inherently different about food, water and air because they are a common good to be shared by all people. We encourage individuals and congregations to struggle with St. Paul’s teaching about a fair balance (NRSV) or equality (NIV) between the hungry and the food-secure in first century churches.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 2 Corinthians 8:13 (NIV)
We suggest that the Biblical virtues of discernment, generosity and courage are needed in facing this issue from the perspective of those who hunger and are asking God to intervene on their behalf. We need discernment to determine actions that are effective rather than alternatives that simply make us feel good. Generosity will enable a transfer of resources toward those who are most in need. Courage is required to raise our voices about the importance of working to end conflicts, tackle climate change and increase aid budgets.
Most importantly, we are called upon to pray alongside the hungry that God’s kingdom will come, His will be done, and that all people will have the daily bread that they require for a full and meaningful life.
Copyright © 2018 Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, All rights reserved.
Making Connections is the Monthly Newsletter of the CBWC. The senior editor is Zoë Ducklow, who works under the executive editorial direction of Rob Ogilvie and the Communications & Stewardship committee. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email Zoë at firstname.lastname@example.org.