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Solar-powered church is righteous

By Staff | Apr 27, 2011

A church in Barbour County is harnessing the power of the sun to further the word of God.

The Rev. Ruston Seaman, pastor of the Peoples Chapel Church in Philippi, said the church was able to complete its very first community planned, procured and produced solar panel last May. Since that time it has also played a role in completing more than 150 panels that are all prepared to go online in 2011 in Barbour County and three other mission sites in the country.

“From the beginning, God has designed the care of the planet be entrusted into the care of the people,” Seaman said. “The church is a gathering of people in clusters all across the planet. The Peoples Chapel congregation has always tried to find ways to improve the quality of life in the community we live and the places we can help through our outreach activities.”

In 1973, the congregation organized to develop the Chestnut Ridge Public Service district to bring clean water to the families of the ridge.

Today, the chestnut Ridge PSD is one of the largest rural water systems in the state, Seaman said.

“Our church has the good fortune of having several members that are very gifted in their work with renewable energy, fabrication, construction and community organizing,” Seaman said. “We are working on taking the solutions to home electric, heating and vehicle fuels that John and Kathy Prusa have pioneered for their own family and now the ‘green team’ of our congregation is helping to bring these practical money saving, environmentally friendly solutions to our church and community.”

Seaman said the group gathers at the church on Monday’s from 6 to 8 p.m. to produce the solar panels. Each panel is handcrafted and soldered by members of the group.

He said the public is invited to come participate and learn how to solder and make the panels. “In practical terms we believe it is much better to offer people the training support and resources to do something for themselves, than it is to give a donation to try and fill a void,” Seaman said. “Many of the families of our church have the constant battle of too many bills and not enough money to cover everything, so we believe with a good bit of effort and creative thinking we can help families take advantage of the solar energy options to reduce and eliminate their electric bill.

“In the absence of creating new jobs that put more money in the pockets of families, helping them save or better steward the income they have seems to be a wise option. The electric system in place on the church, is weeks away from final installation and will save the church between $600 and $800 a year on our electric bill. The greatest benefit is our members, along with other friends in the county, produce the system ourselves. So, we also know how to maintain and add to the system in the future,” he said.

Seaman said the project relies on people maximizing their God-given abilities.

“We believe each congregation has a common calling to worship and serve God and at the same time each church is made up of a unique group of people and a limited set of resources,” Seaman said. “We prayed about how to best invest our people and financial resources. We concluded that a small group of our members should focus on helping the church and families in the community explore renewable energy solutions to basic energy needs of the congregation and community. There is a lot of talk about renewable energy but not a lot of practical examples of how families and communities can tap in.

Peoples Chapel is working with Appalachian Community Care, in helping to develop an outreach program called New Vision, Seaman said.

New Vision received a pilot project grant from the Youthworks organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which helped get the activities moving.

“We have the directives from God to care for people and creation,” Seaman said. “We have smart, willing and capable people and we can either wait back and be behind the culture in developing renewable energy solutions or we can get involved and help lead communities and families to celebrate the power of the sun of God to brighter up people’s lives and reenergize our congregations and communities.”