Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids completed an inspiring volunteer-led project in 2020 to replace 518 fluorescent lights in their church with LEDs. We spoke with Mattew Huen, a member of the Operations Committee who helped spearhead the project about resiliency, action in the face of despair, and the power of community.
“We saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Our church made lemons into lemonade.” - Matthew Huen. While church services were virtual during the 2020 lockdown, volunteers replaced old lights with LEDs.
Volunteers at Eastern Avenue CRC take advantage of an empty building by rewiring light fixture ballasts to prepare for new, energy-saving T-LEDs .
During the first months of the pandemic, the Eastern Ave CRC Operations Committee realized that the empty church presented an opportunity for building improvements. Through an extraordinary effort from church volunteers, they replaced 490 fluorescent tubes with T-LEDs and 28 square fixtures with LED panels. These upgrades mean an annual savings of $2,300 a year on their energy bill! “We had volunteers who were retired and came to help us rewire the lights,” explained Matthew. “Everyone chipped in and we knocked it out over several weeks. One member took the lead on ordering parts and getting rebates from Consumers Energy -- which saved us lots of money.”
In total, they replaced 518 fluorescent lights with energy-saving T-LEDs - and the impacts have been tremendous. Besides the money saved, Eastern Avenue CRC has significantly reduced their carbon emissions, and that’s crucial for the church’s mission of Creation care. “We have responsibilities to future generations,” Matthew told us. “It's easy to get bogged down by the magnitude of our climate situation, but after lamenting the state of affairs, I started to look around and ask ‘what can I do?’ Me and my congregation can't do enough to solve the problem, but we can't do nothing. So you look for things to do- even small things- and that’s how we created positive action.”
Eastern Avenue CRC’s lighting project serves as an example of the capacity a community has to create positive action. Retired electricians and construction workers, looking for something to do during the beginning of the pandemic, found ways to serve their community by rewiring lights for their church. We have the greatest capacity for climate action when we collaborate, and Eastern Avenue CRC is a perfect example of working together to make the most out of a tough situation. “We saw an opportunity to improve our church and our community, so we took advantage of it,” Matthew said. “Our church made lemons into lemonade.”