First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Sermons, Memos and other writings from the newsletter and worship services of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester. The First Unitarian Church is located at 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608. Our phone is 508-757-2708 and our webpage is A audio CD is produced for almost every one of our regular services. Call our office or send a note to the office at our website to request that one be shipped to you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

“The KWH Challenge” by Vivian Shortreed

Vivian Shortreed, the chair of the Environmental Committee advises us of an important challenge to our community.

It was a mid-October Sunday morning. The sun was streaming through the lovely clear windowpanes in the sanctuary. Tom was preaching. Did you notice? The electric lights were off during the entire service. Our beautiful sanctuary lighting brings comfort and inspiration on dark days and nights, but we have been in the habit of turning on the lights during the service every Sunday. On that day, we just enjoyed the sunshine.

The next time you enter the dining room, look up. The 300-watt light bulbshave been replaced by energy efficient bulbs.

The Building and Grounds committee, working together with staff and the Environment Committee, has initiated an effort to bring down the amount of electricity used in the church. This is, in part, because our bills for electricity are huge, and the cost per kilowatt hour (kwh) promises to get much higher. It is also because the members of the Building and Grounds Committee are acutely aware of the need to conserve energy because of the cost of its production to the environment.

This effort to conserve has been joined by one couple, concerned members of the church, who have pledged to double the amount we save by conserving electricity during the coming year. Each month the kwh used will be compared with the same month in the previous year, and the cost savings recorded. At the end of the year, these generous donors will give the total amount, in addition to their annual pledge, to the church. (And they have offered to start the challenge in November, to take full advantage of the change in the lighting in the dining room.)

This is a challenge we all need to take up. It’s up to each of us to help the church conserve, to turn off lights when they are not needed, to use appliances efficiently. We’ll start a labeling project, to identify lights that need to be left on for safety. Give us your suggestions for labeling, and for other possibilities for conserving.

This is a challenge we need to take home. One of the real advantages of working with the Environment Committee is that over time our discussions have given me ideas about saving, and raised issues I hadn’t even thought of. Conserving electricity has become a game, like my daily game of Spider Solitaire. Can I fill the oven and avoid using the top of the stove, or using the oven again later? Will cold water do the job as well as hot? Etc.

The family plays, too, of course. Prompted by the KWH Challenge to the church, I checked our National Grid bills for the past year and found our kwh usage has been consistently smaller. Our current bill shows a savings of 61 kwh, about 10%. Since we changed to low energy bulbs long before the year I checked, surely our daily game counts for much of the reduction. It’s not big, but the little stuff counts.

This challenge is about saving kilowatt hours, yes, but more importantly it is about mindfulness. It is about the dailiness. It is about doing the small things in our lives with awareness: awareness of the extraordinary gift of electrical power, awareness that using it more conservatively will make a difference. It is about reducing the size of our footprint on the earth.

We are beginners, as Denise Levertov says so eloquently in the poem we read responsively, in the practice of loving the earth. We read these lines together: “We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle.” Take up the KWH Challenge with us. It’s about the daily stuff, and the joining.

Vivian Shortreed


Post a Comment

<< Home