We actively strive to care for God’s creation through conservation and education.
We view all of God's creation as sacred and worthy of our love and care. "We are called to worship God with creation," as Lutherans Restoring Creation so aptly affirms, and we believe it is our calling to be good stewards of the Earth.
To that end, in 2016 we formed a "Green Team" of passionate church volunteers and staff members working in partnership withFaith and Climate Action Montana who helps to coordinate creation care efforts across the city and state and across denominations to encourage collaboration between faith communities to multiply our collective efforts' effects. We focus on facility modifications, education, and ways to reduce the church’s impact on the environment.
We find inspiration from what other churches are doing and engage resources such as Lutherans Restoring Creation and Creation Justice Ministries. We rely on the expertise and guidance of our local resources to whom we are most grateful, including Faith and Climate Action Montana, Climate Smart Missoula, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and NorthWestern Energy. We also look to our national church body, the ELCA, who issued a statement on creation care in 1993 calling Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice; read the statement here. Additional resources offered by the ELCA can be found here.
Our Green Team is always looking for ways that the church might minimize its impacts and more efficiently use its resources and gifts. High on its wish list was to utilize the expansive church roofs to generate electricity with a solar array. There was resounding support from church leadership when approached about the prospect in 2017, and the congregation’s enthusiasm for solar was palpable with many members and friends of St. Paul donating half the cost of the array in a short six months. The church was honored to receive a matching grant made by NorthWestern Energy through a competitive grant process to cover the balance of the cost, a grant made possible through the NorthWestern Energy Efficiency Plus (E+) Renewable Energy Program which was established with Universal System Benefits Program funds collected from all NorthWestern electric customers in the state of Montana. The 26.2 kW solar array, designed and installed by SBS solar, went live October 2018.
In combination with the solar campaign in 2018, the church partook in two facility energy efficiency evaluations prepared by NorthWestern Energy and the Montana Resource Efficiency Program. These inspections and reports resulted in a retrofitting of the facility's lighting to replace of all of the incandescent light bulbs and the majority of the fluorescent light bulbs and tubes with high-efficiency LED lighting. Improvements to insulation and windows made in 2010 along with additional insulation and roof improvements made in 2018-19 augment all these efforts to cut down on energy use. The installation of the 76-panel solar array and the LED lighting retrofit resulted in a range of about a 25% reduction in electricity use during the winter months to about a 60% reduction in electricity use during the summer months when the solar panel production is greatest.
In the spring of 2018 we also planted a pollinator-friendly, climate-specific native flower garden to welcome and sustain pollinators throughout the growing season. Since then we've implemented a composting program that complements our new glass recycling program through Recycling Works. Our compost program includes not only all food waste produced by the church, its tenants, and special events, but also all paper towels from restrooms which decompose within two weeks in the compost (as opposed to 200 years in a plastic garbage bag!).
We continue to grow in our educational resources and leadership as our creation care ministry expands to plant the seed of knowledge and passion in each heart to do each person's best; little by little, the sown seeds will become a field of flowers.
Above: Watch a video made by NorthWestern Energy featuring our church as a Partner in Energy Efficiency!
Click here to read how the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 can help guide us in our prayers to care for creation.