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Magnolia earns Energy Star rating, educates neighbors

Magnolia UCC’s Facilities Committee has helped the church gain an Energy Star rating by making more than 80 percent of recommended energy-efficiency upgrades to its facility.

Magnolia UCC Building

Magnolia UCC has redone its roof, insulation and lighting, qualifying for rebates. Photo courtesy of Magnolia UCC

A few years ago, the Seattle church voted to be a “greening congregation” with Earth Ministry, but did little to live into that commitment.

Four years ago, the church went through a period of re-evaluation about “who we were as a church,” said community life director Scott Ward, who has worked with committee chairs Virginia Mason and Roger Seeman on the upgrades.

Then the 140-member church rewrote its mission and vision statements, deciding to live into being a greening congregation and starting community education programs.

“We redid our insulation, rebuilt our roof, and retrofitted our lighting after evaluating our energy use,” he said. “We upgraded the sprinkler system in our front yard and installed low-volume toilets.”

The church made these improvements over several years.

Because the City of Seattle has different programs, so they applied for various rebates and paid only $3,000 of an $8,000 bid to redo the lighting.

The roof had a leak, so insurance covered rebuilding it.

“We are starting to see savings in our electric bills from the upgrades,” Ward said. “The new lighting will pay for itself over two years.”

The church decided to upgrade the furnace blowers but keep its old furnace, maintaining it until it wears out. The building was created in two sections—the sanctuary and offices, built in 1946, and the community hall and classrooms, built in 1965, which are heated separately.

The education programs—first monthly and now quarterly—bring speakers, films and panel discussions to draw members of the church and community into conversations on issues of society and life, from stopping gun violence to children being pushed to achieve.

Sometimes 40 come, sometimes 300. Usually about 20 percent are church members and 80 percent community members—depending on the topic.

Other recent topics have included bullying, human trafficking, domestic abuse and homelessness. Two recent films and discussions have been on “Food, Inc.,” about processed food, on “Vanishing of the Bees,” and on the impact of coal trains.

“Church is not just about what happens on Sunday mornings, but also about two hours on Friday evenings engaging with the community,” he said.

Although Magnolia is a small congregation, Ward, a member for nine years, said he is overwhelmed with the dedication of members who support the church financially and who regularly share in doing the work on the building.

After leaving the Catholic, in which he grew up, he didn’t expect to be involved in a church until he met the UCC and joined Magnolia nine years ago. He has served two years in his part-time position. Ward, who has lived in Seattle 23 years, worked many years as an contemporary oil painter.

For information, call 206-283-1788 or email

Copyright © April-May 2013 Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News


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