Heavenly Energy

Imagine a church that not only views taking care of the earth as a fundamental Christian value, but whose green consciousness is at the heart of its gospel; a church that not only talks about responsible stewardship, but has photovoltaic systems mounted on its rooftops; a church that not only feeds solar power into the local grid, but inspires and supports other congregations to follow suit.

A Lutheran congregation and its intrepid pastor in the small Black Forest town of Schönau (population 2,382) are at the forefront of the solar revolution in Germany. With 431 solar modules on its rooftops, Schönau’s Bergkirche (Mountain Church) generates more than 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, enough for eight churches of its size. Dubbed “Creation Windows,” the installation feeds what Pastor Peter Hasenbrink calls “heavenly energy” into the local grid that’s run by one of Germany’s largest cooperative clean energy companies.

The Creation Windows didn’t happen overnight. The seed was first sown when a handful of concerned parents, alarmed by the dangers of nuclear power after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, turned to their church for support. Ursula Sladek, a mother of five and 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, recalls telling her husband, Michael, a doctor who was a member of Bergkirche’s council at the time, “This is also the church’s concern, because we’re dealing with God’s creation here. We can’t just destroy it like that!”

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