February 2010

Sustainable Energy

With the winter of 2009-2010 being the harshest for 30 years, the heating was on continually at the Rees residence – and even then it sometimes struggled. We were out relatively early one Saturday on a family day out at the Science museum in London. The heating timer turned the boiler off, and the house was not heated for 9 or 10 hours. When we finally got home after a great family day out but feeling cold, hungry and tired, the house was rather cold. Normally on such an occasion, its just a matter of getting the heating back on and half an hour later or so the house would begin to warm up. But this night, with the outside temperature falling to around minus 5C and a cold wind as well, after 2 hours the house was barely nudging 14 degrees. We went to bed very early and kept the heating on all night. By 7am on the Sunday when I was dressed and getting ready to take the 8am communion service, the house was, finally, comfortable.

The church wasn’t. Even though the heating had been on since 4.30am, and the radiators almost untouchable, the worship area wasn’t warm. Those who come to the 8am service are made of unyielding stuff and we all kept our jackets on, worshipped God together and didn’t complain. 2 hours later, and a few degrees warmer, most people at the 10am service kept their coats on as well and many muttered how cold it was....

Overall, it made me realise just how fortunate we are here in Rayleigh. The winters are normally mild and the central heating normally copes pretty well. As a rule, only if the central heating breaks down do we realise the underlying warmth in our homes that we usually take for granted.

In our industrialised society we have come to depend on cheap energy – even if when this quarters gas and electricity bill comes in, it wont feel cheap. Historically and in comparison to much of the world, as a percentage of income, we spend still spend less on heating than others people and (at least for most of us) our houses are comfortably warm. Energy is one of the main buildings blocks of modern society.

In the public arena there had been much debate about methods of energy production:- Oil, Gas, Coal, Nuclear, or the ‘sustainables’:- Hydro, Solar, Wind, Tidal. The possibilities and problems of each are well known, though they are likely to cause heated debate from people of differing viewpoints. It is recognised by most, that we have to move from depleting finite resources towards sustainable energy, though how and at what cost is disputed.

As Christians we believe that the world that we live in and therefore everything that makes up this world is given by God. It is our responsibility as his children to be good stewards of the bountiful resources that he has provided. The theological phrase is ‘The Integrity of Creation’. It means taking seriously the issues that range across biodiversity, sustainability, and protecting and enhancing the environment in which we live for this and future generations.

One of the out-workings of this was the Church Meeting decision some years back to recycle and/or reduce waste wherever possible. This was well before the council set up the current curb-side recycling scheme.

Another is our emphasis on Fairtrade. As well enabling Third World farmers to receive a living wage, Fairtrade also promotes the use of less pesticides and renewable farming practices. Many Fairtrade products are organic.

Also we have been looking at our use of energy. After first investigating the possibility of changing to an eco-friendly electricity provider, we are now in the process of installing Photovoltaic (PV) System (Solar Panes) on the south facing roof the worship area. Funding has been a problem. But much work has been done to attain grants for the £75,000 needed. We are hopeful that in our Centenary Year we will approach carbon neutrality for electricity generation.

The list is not exhaustive, but it does indicate that we as a Church are trying to take seriously the necessity to care for this world that God created for us. We could do more, but we are undertaking to be part of the solution. To be a sign. When my children’s children turn on the heating on a cold winters day, if we have been good stewards of creation, they too might be able keep warm.

February 2010