Tiny B.C. Anglican church goes solar

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St. John the Divine Anglican Church, in Quick, B.C., became solar-powered July 13, about three years after celebrating its 100th anniversary. Photo: Contributed

A tiny off-grid church in rural British Columbia has become one of the Anglican Church of Canada’s latest solar-powered buildings.

On July 13, a solar-powered electrical system was switched on at St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Quick, a community in B.C.’s Northern Interior. Previously the church (which also has no running water) had been completely without electricity.

The dozen or so regular congregants of the church, accustomed to mostly sunlit afternoon services, are now looking forward to holding more services in the evening, say Curt Gesch, who led the project, and people’s warden Mel Coulson.

More importantly, they’re glad they’ll be able to plug in a fan—important, they say, on cold days as well as hot ones. The church’s Christmas services, for example, are very popular and can attract as many as 95 people, crammed into pews, extra chairs and the floor, Coulson says. But the additional bodies, the church’s wood stove and the fumes from the candles can make the air more than a little stuffy.

“One particular Christmas, when it was minus 28 degrees outside, I opened up the door to let some air in, and then this big cold blast goes through the building!” recalls people’s warden Mel Coulson. “We just realized we needed something for ventilation.” Photo: Contributed

In fact, it was during one of these services that parishioners first began to think it might be time to install an electrical system, he says.

“One particular Christmas, when it was minus 28 degrees outside, I opened up the door to let some air in, and then this big cold blast goes through the building!” he recalls with a laugh. “We just realized we needed something for ventilation.”

The church decided on solar power in 2014 after a suggestion by then-rector’s warden Sam Ginter, who also led the project in its early stages.

Gesch and Coulson both say they were delighted with the support the project receives. Its cost—roughly $8,000—was entirely covered by donations of equipment, time and money—and not only by church members; many of the donations came from individuals and businesses not even linked to the church but appreciative of its presence in the community.

“Sometimes we’d say, ‘We’re doing this,’ and somebody would say, ‘I like that place. Are you short? We’ll give some,’ ” Gesch says.

Church members decided they did not want the historic charm of the building—which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014—to be marred by a solar panel on its roof. Instead, they placed the panel on a pole hidden amongst some trees some distance from the church.

Both Coulson and diocesan administrator the Rev. Gwen Andrews say that to the best of their knowledge, St. John the Divine is now the first solar-powered church in the diocese of Caledonia.

The church is part of a three-point parish served by the Rev. Jake Worley, who was elected bishop of the diocese last spring but was not consecrated after a ruling against him by the House of Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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