The Ann Arbor (Mich.) Campus Chapel had been talking about installing solar panels since the early 2000s; the Chapel’s 75th anniversary seemed an appropriate milestone for finally realizing such a project. According to Matt Ackerman, pastor of worship and community and member of “The Next 75 Years Campaign” committee, the result has been the installation of a solar panel system onto the Chapel roof.
One major motivation for the project has been the Chapel community’s longtime concern for creation care and for their neighbors, noted Ackerman. Installation of solar panels promotes the community’s goal of working toward better energy efficiency and reducing its carbon footprint. The expectation is that these panels will generate about the same amount of electricity the Chapel will use over the course of a year. So far the 44 panels, which are tied into the electric grid, have brought significant reductions in electric bills and are thus enabling better use of financial resources as well.
The very visible solar project is also a way for the Chapel community to reflect its Reformed perspective. Ackerman points out that the Campus Chapel was the first campus ministry in the Christian Reformed Church; it was founded in 1940 as a faith home for University of Michigan students from a Reformed background. But it has continually reached out to a much wider array of people and to the university itself. The gospel and the Reformed tradition are first encountered by many through the Chapel; according to Ackerman, this project bears “witness to our Reformed understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.” It points to the Christian calling to care about this created world as well as the world to come.
Educational displays highlighting the Christian values that motivated the solar project are being planned to show that environmental stewardship is more than a secular value of the university, Ackerman explained. Many university students have already expressed surprise and gratitude for this solar project, he said.