SECOND CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, UCC BENNINGTON, VT chosen as a winner in the Community Inspiration category of the Cool Congregations Challenge.
Second Congregational Church has long been interested in energy efficiency and over time has made the church building as efficient as possible. In the early spring of 2015 the church installed a set of solar panels on their roof.
We began to think that our next challenge was to extend ourselves beyond the limits of our church walls and engage with the larger community on environmental issues. We decided to have a celebration of our new solar system and invite the community to join in a festival. We named the festival Sun and Fun and organized it so that the emphasis was on the environmental and climate issues and on solar energy.We decided to not use the event as a fundraiser but instead to stress the ideas of simplicity and community rather than a feature of the consumer system. We did not charge a fee for vendor booths or admission and we asked vendors not to sell products at the event. We invited community groups and solar-energy-oriented businesses to participate. We offered gourmet food, outstanding music, and a children’s component. We had over 300 community people attend. We had demonstrations on electric bikes, the ELF electric car/bike, a tiny house and more. We also had a panel on how to get your own solar energy either at your home or from community solar, a seminar on climate change from a well known scientist, books on the environment, displays of outdoor recreational opportunities, and demonstrations of bee keeping, creatures in our rivers, and the power of the Sun.
Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy president of Interfaith Power & Light noted that the congregations winning in each of five different categories “are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change. Whether a small or large congregation, rural or urban, these projects demonstrate that when we work together, we can create positive change, save energy and money, and live out our calling to care for Creation.”