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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo Pastor Clint Schnekloth (left) and Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan celebrate the fact that Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville has been banking energy since its solar array went online in May.

One Northwest Arkansas church is doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint and make smart energy consumption choices that benefit the environment -- and save the church money.

Shine Solar installed an 80.4 kW solar system at Fayetteville's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in May. It is anticipated that the system will provide 100 percent of the congregation's electricity needs.

Good Shepherd Pastor Clint Schnekloth says the subject of environmental conservatism is a natural fit for the church.

"I find the insights of ecotheology incredibly compelling," he says. "There has been, historically, perhaps an over-focus on the human in Christian thought, and much of Christian theology of the past 50 years has helped expand our view, in order to consider how Scripture and theology encourages care of the earth, of plants, animals and all of creation. When you re-read Scripture with an ecological perspective, you realize that God is as much a covenant partner with all of creation as God is with humans in particular.

"Therefore, it's incumbent upon preachers and faith leaders to re-assess the focus of their preaching, writing and action, and consider ways we can work for environmental protection and sustainability. A focus on the environment is also a form of neighbor love, because as Pope Francis points out in his encyclical on creation care, care of creation is in the end also care for the poor, because it is the poor more than any other group who are negatively affected by pollution and global warming."

Schnekloth says when a "generous donor" gifted the panels to the church before Christmas, the congregation was quick to approve the installation plan.

"Because the return on investment is so fast -- we will recoup the entire cost of the project in about five years -- it was fairly simple to gain congregational buy-in," says Schnekloth. "And because we have so many members of our congregation committed to renewable sources of energy (including many who participate in Citizens Climate Lobby and other environmental groups), for the most part, the response in our congregation was, 'How can I sponsor a panel?'"

A press release from the church says that this is the "first large scale solar installation at a church in Northwest Arkansas." The system officially came on line on May 25, and, since then, according to the church, "the solar meter has been running backwards, banking electricity for the congregation, even while air conditioning and other energy-consuming resources are in use."

The church celebrated with a consecration of the system on June 17. Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan attended to officially issue a Solar Energy Proclamation, which declared "one way that faith groups like Good Shepherd Lutheran Church can take seriously their commitment to care for creation is to install solar generation to meet their annual electric demand and be good and loving neighbors."

Courtesy Photo Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Pastor Clint Schnekloth stand next to the solar panels recently installed on the building of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Mayor Jordan was present for the consecration of the solar panels, held at a church service on June 17.

NAN Religion on 06/23/2018

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