Sunlight Cast Through Stained Glass
By Max Wagner, Investment Associate
When prompted to think of what a church looks like, most people think of a traditional gothic cathedral. They imagine sharply pointed spires, tall steeples, and intricate sculptures. If they think of sunlight at all, it’s the image of natural light cast through ornate stained-glass windows, not modern solar panels mounted on a rooftop. However, at the St. Mary & St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Scituate, MA, the passerby can see both.
The congregation, led by Father Pishoy Mikhail, is the latest to benefit from Sunwealth’s initiative to bring solar energy access to houses of worship across New England. Though some may think that modern technology and religion is an odd pairing, houses of worship are excellent candidates for clean energy. With large indoor spaces designed to hold a lot of people, houses of worship often see high utility costs, which can be a drain on their operating budgets.
“Energy costs can be very expensive,” said Father Pishoy. “The families in our congregation are happy to know that the solar panels will save money for the church.”
Houses of worship are also increasingly looking to respond to climate change and demonstrate their commitment to stewardship of the Earth’s natural resources. Installing solar panels can serve as a visual testament to this commitment and can influence the entire community to consider their environmental footprint and evaluate how they can make an impact.
“A principle of our religion is to be a guardian of the earth and the environment. We have to take care of the planet and the people on it,” said Father Pishoy. “Exposing the solar panels to our congregation means that people will see them and understand the positive effect they are having on the church and on our community.”
The history of the church building itself is a testament to the strength of the Scituate community. The building was purchased in 2018 from the Archdiocese of Boston. It was formerly home to the St. Frances Cabrini Church, a Catholic congregation that worshiped there for over 40 years. After the church was closed in 2004, the parishioners occupied the building for 4,234 days in hopes of keeping the church open. Though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, the building was preserved as a house of worship when the St. Mary & St. George congregation moved in.
According to Father Pishoy, there were no expressions of resentment towards their congregation when the building was sold. “We were welcomed by the Catholic congregation and we actually became very close,” said Father Pishoy.
Father Pishoy’s congregation made several renovations to the building before services began this year. Volunteers helped replace hardwood floors, an addition was added, and the new solar panels were installed on the roof by solar installer Boston Solar. A lot of things changed but one part of the church remained exactly the same: the original stained-glass windows illuminate the building and serve as a reminder of the power of sunlight.
Max Wagner is an Investment Associate at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. He is a renewable energy advocate and believes that harnessing solar energy is key to combatting climate change and building an inclusive energy future.