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Pastor takes ecological ideas to heart to build a house

From her long-term commitment to environmental justice, Meighan Pritchard, pastor of Prospect UCC in Seattle, decided in 2018 to act on her dream to buy property, build a house and grow food.

Meighan Pritchard and designs her house on Whidbey Island to incorporate sustainable practices.

She learned Gail Crouch, a retired pastor of University Congregational UCC in Seattle, and her husband planned to sell five acres on Whidbey Island. They had purchased the land in 2007 from Catherine Foote, also a retired pastor at UCUCC, where Meighan grew up.

So Meighan bought it soon after her sibling Molly died at the age of 53, realizing it was important to live her dream.

Meighan was the UCC minister for environmental justice from 2013 to 2015 and continued to give environmental justice workshops around the country through 2017.

In the 1980s, she left Seattle to major in English at Yale University, graduating in 1984 and working in academic publishing there. She later earned a degree in music education at the University of Washington, taught elementary music four years and worked with the Seattle Symphony five years.

Her passion about environment grew when she joined CrossWalk in 2006, walking across America with 10 people from progressive churches, from Phoenix on Easter Sunday to Washington, D.C. on Labor Day. They were hosted by churches and individuals who joined them along the say.

During the walk, Meighan felt called to seminary. Before acting on that, she worked as an office manager with Sightline Institute, where she learned more about sustainability and climate change.

“I went to seminary to explore the intersection of faith and environment, graduating from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley in 2010. I filled in at University UCC when Catherine was on sabbatical in 2011 and was called to Prospect in 2012,” said Meighan.

As she embarked on building a house, she read books, researched house plans for ideas on sustainable and green building. She sold her 800-square-foot house near Shoreline to build a 1,200-square-foot house, that was still small. She hired a contractor to build it.

Church members have helped build fencing and plant fruit trees in the garden, which she plans as a group endeavor. There are already many blackberries.

“Eventually I hope to grow a lot of food and invite people to be part of that in a way that feeds them body and soul,” she said.

Meighan has involved Prospect UCC in environmental concerns through book studies on environmental and social justice, and on climate change.

The church also participates in Seattle’s Rainwise Program to reduce storm water from overflowing into lakes and Puget Sound. Six years ago, the church set up two large cisterns that take and hold roof runoff so it trickles out.

Meighan started the house in 2020. She just finished it and moved in a few weeks ago, with a few projects left to do.

Inside the house, many elements are built by reusing components. She has also used low or no volatile organic compound paints and installed low flow toilets.

“I have used salvaged materials wherever possible with 90 percent of the wood flooring and much of the tile from salvage shops. Pedestal sinks in bathrooms came from the Habitat Store,” she said.

The cabinets came from two sources that didn’t match, so she sanded down one set and stained it to match the other.

For a window seat with drawers in the great room and a built-in 11-foot desk in her loft office, the drawers were from salvaged cabinets.

Meighan salvaged the medicine cabinet and refrigerator from her mother’s house when her mother moved into a retirement community.

“The medicine cabinet is an antique my father bought,” she said. “The refrigerator works fine so I brought it to my house instead of taking it to the dump.”

Butcherblock kitchen counters were salvaged from University Temple in Seattle. Two members of Prospect cut and finished them.

The butcherblock countertop on the kitchen island is from a table her sister Molly gave her years ago.

The house is sited in an open meadow with the largest span of the roof facing south so she can add solar panels. She had wiring for them installed before the drywall went in. The solar panels will be installed on the roof next year.

To take advantage of passive solar heat, Meighan enlarged windows facing south and has few north-facing windows. The house is full of natural light, so she doesn’t need to turn on lights during the day.

There is no gas or oil furnace. Heat is from a mini-split heat pump that also functions as an air conditioner. A ceiling fan keeps air circulating.

The water heater is hybrid electric. The washing machine is energy efficient.

“Because dryers take a huge amount of energy, I plan to hang clothes out to dry. It’s easy for one person,” she said.

Meighan just bought a used electric car, with a range of 250 miles/charge, and will have a charge outlet installed so the car can quick charge at home.

In addition, she wanted the house to be accessible to people with mobility issues so the hallway and doors on the first floor are extra wide and there is a ramp from the parking area. The main floor bathroom has a roll-in shower, hand-held shower head and a bench to sit on. The bathroom is across the hall from the guest bedroom.

For information, call 206-370-4142 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference Summer United Church News copyright © June 2023


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