Ascension Lutheran Church won the Energy Saver award for their courageous years-long upgrade project that cut their facilities’ energy use, preventing 40 tons of carbon emissions annually. This congregation considers their energy upgrade work a legacy to their children and grandchildren. Over 17 years they have reduced their carbon footprint by 60% thru energy-saving measures – upgrading lighting, heating and cooling, and ventilation systems, insulating the buildings, and purchasing solar from a community solar farm. Caring for Creation has been central to this congregation’s ministry. They are known in the community as a Creation Stewardship Congregation.
“The New England Synod is delighted that Ascension Lutheran Church has been selected as a Cool Congregation. The people of Ascension have long been leaders among our Lutheran congregations in matters of environmental action and advocacy. Our faith calls us to deep relationship with all of creation, inviting us into partnership with God in tending the fragile place we call home. The people of Ascension have tapped into that power of relationship with the earth and dedicated many hours not only to reducing their own congregation’s carbon footprint but also helping to share that message, rooted in our faith tradition, with other congregations in their region.” Rev. Steven Wilco, Associate to the Bishop, New England Synod, ELCA
Ascension Lutheran, in South Burlington, Vermont, a 120 member congregation, was built in the 1960’s and was in serious need of energy upgrades. It was poorly insulated and weather-sealed, and had inefficient heating and lighting systems. This approximate 5,700 sq. ft. church includes the worship space, offices, a kitchen, and a wing that provides a multi-purpose space for congregation education programs, the offices for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, and community functions.
Church members realize that they had to make significant changes, with the budget and capacity of the members. They wanted to leave a more efficient building and do their part to lower emissions that cause climate change. They view this project as an ongoing legacy they are leaving to their children and grandchildren.
Beginning in 2005, The Caring for Creation Committee shepherded a process of energy audits, applying for utility and and VTIPL grants, seeking expert advice including an energy assessment from Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, and embarked on a 17-year progression of energy improvements. This process raised their members’ consciousness regarding climate change and the need to reduce their carbon footprint at the church and in their daily lives.
Ascension’s first step was to request and obtain the Energy Efficiency Assessment that Vermont Interfaith Power & Light offers to any faith community that requests this assistance. This provided an initial roadmap for beginning what became a sustained energy efficiency project.
With the guidance of the energy assessment, the Ascension Lutheran Church took a variety of measures to meet their goals. With assistance from Efficiency Vermont (EVT) they undertook the following work:
- Replaced incandescent lights first with compact fluorescent light bulbs and later with LED bulbs in over 120 existing fixtures throughout the building.
- Replaced two 30 year-old refrigerators and removed two small dorm-room style refrigerators.
- Replaced incandescent exit lights with new LED fixtures
In 2011, Ascension successfully competed for a $11,100 Vermont Community Climate Change Grant from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. With that in hand Ascension committed $16,000 of their own funds and obtained another $2,750 in incentives from Vermont Gas and EVT to renovate the inefficient existing gas heating system. This work included:
- Replacing the 40-year-old boiler system with a high efficiency condensing boiler system.
- Replacing 40-year-old air handler motors with efficient variable speed drive motors.
- Reconfiguring the ductwork to increase the efficiency of the air distribution system.
- Installing automated heating and ventilation system controls.
After replacing the gas boiler, Ascension confronted a persisting problem: keeping some sections of the church wing warm on cold winter days. In 2012, Vermont Gas provided a blower door test and found poorly installed ceiling insulation in the large church wing. Ascension invested $9,000 in ceiling insulation and weather sealing improvements in the multi-purpose wing.
They recently installed a state-of-the-art air handling system to meet COVID requirements, insulated all water and heating pipes, and purchased 20 solar panels from a community solar project.
They are preventing 40 tons of carbon emissions annually and saving approximately $2500 a year on energy bills.
The congregation has been led by the Caring for Creation Committee. Some of the committee’s members founded Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, and currently serve on its Board.
The guiding principal is, “if you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk”.
It was strongly supported by their Pastor, the Rev Dr Nancy Wright who now leads the Lutheran synod Green Team. Caring for Creation has been central to this congregation’s ministry. They are known in the community as a Creation Stewardship Congregation.
IPL congratulates Ascension Lutheran for their long-term dedication to leave a livable climate for future generations.
See their website here.
A message from Vermont Interfaith Power & Light:
Thanks to Brighter Vermont Community Energy Dashboard for story content.