When members of Center United Methodist Church gather in their new Christian Fellowship Center, "green" features surround them.
Insulated windows line the walls. Fluorescent lighting shines from the ceiling. Recycled fibers make up the carpet.
The congregation in Welcome, N.C., knew that building an environmentally friendly structure might cost more initially, but it would eventually save them money. They also felt it was the best way to lead by example and demonstrate a faith-based commitment to the Earth.
"For years, we've been recycling aluminum cans, grocery bags, computers, eye glasses, so we've been trying all along to help the environment," says Brad Leonard, head of the church's building committee. "For church events, all of our plates are china, so we don't use much paper. We feel it's one way we can do our share."
A three-year, $150,000 grant from The Duke Endowment supported the project.
The church, in central North Carolina, traces its roots to 1894 when a group of farmers decided they needed a place to worship. By 1926, the congregation had outgrown its first frame structure and church members purchased land for rebuilding.
As Center continued to grow, other expansion projects followed, including a multi-purpose fellowship hall in 1980.
The Christian Fellowship Center, finished in 2008, is 10,000 square feet. It includes a foyer, stage, sound room, kitchen, full basketball court and seating for 400.
Five on-demand natural gas heaters warm water for the kitchen. Two on-demand electric heaters warm water for restroom sinks. Upgraded insulation fills the ceiling and walls. Programmable thermostats regulate the heating and air conditioning.
Going Green for More Efficient, Sustainable Structures
"We knew it was the green age and everything is going green," Leonard says. "We wanted to try to take advantage of every green product we could to create a more efficient and sustainable structure."
It's hard to predict long-term savings since the building is so new, but it's already costing much less to heat and cool than church leaders expected. They budgeted about $10,000 a year to cover electric, gas, heating and air-conditioning bills; in the first 10 months, those costs totaled $6,000.
Even more important: The facility has given the community a place for receptions and basketball games, stage productions and meals.
"This may be their first introduction to the church," Leonard says. "Then maybe they'll return on Sunday mornings."
Robert R. Webb III
Director of Rural Church