Ethics of Stewardship

I am honored to be invited to write for the “Community Word.” I would like to focus on the concept of stewardship within our religious communities. Stewardship for me focuses on how we use the resources we have in the best way we can to promote our mission. The first part of this stewardship is use of energy.

Each year, religious communities set a budget for the coming year. In the first church I served, I remember as we set our budget one of the members of the finance committee mentioned we cannot do much about the electric bill. So we simply added in what we would project the cost to be for the coming year. After arriving at Forrest Hill United Methodist Church, I decided to put that notion to the test. We do not simply accept there is little we can do about our utility bill. We pursue strategies to reduce our bill. That process was not difficult and provided both savings for the church and a reduction in our use of energy.

Perhaps an easy move in this process was to install energy efficient air conditioners when a unit went bad. What was not as easy to accomplish was replacing all the lights in the building with more efficient lighting that provided better illumination. In areas that receive the most use, we have switched to LED lighting. Act on Energy helped us replace some florescent lighting with more efficient tubes. We added many other energy saving devices such as motion sensors to turn on and off lights in various areas.

Another change we made was deciding not to replace a drinking fountain that stopped working. We placed a water dispenser next to the sanctuary that can be filled with tap water. It does not cool the water. We have some faucets that filter water we put in the dispenser. We did not need to run any extra plumbing, are not using electricity and probably have less wasted water than with a drinking fountain.

In fact, even replacing computers was done with thought toward energy savings. We were able to get some good priced computers that would use a fraction of the energy a normal computer would use. They serve us well. The computer I am using at the moment is seven years old and still working well.

We have also found ourselves needing to replace bulbs less frequently. This means fewer dark places in the church and less time and energy spent on lighting, so we can focus more on our mission.

The result has been that even though use in the building has significantly increased, our electric bills have not. We were also able to prepare for FamilyCore Outreach offices to locate in our facility without adding more electric power from the breaker boxes because energy savings from lighting allowed us to simply run some lines into the FamilyCore rooms.

We believe we serve those around us and reflect the love of our Lord. By having more efficient lighting, we are able to use more of our financial resources in serving as opposed to having higher and higher electric bills.

We continue to explore ways to reduce energy consumption not just to benefit the environment but to direct our limited resources to fulfilling our mission. It is a win-win for us. We can save money that can be used in ministry, and we can be more “green.”

Rev. Dr. Curt Keller is the minister of Forrest Hill United Methodist Church in Peoria where he has service since 2007.

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