By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) will dedicate an array of 180 330-watt solar panels on Thursday, April 20, 4:30–5 p.m. on the south side of its campus in Elkhart, Indiana.
The panels, installed over the first week of April, are expected to generate nearly 79,000 kWh annually, offsetting more than a quarter of the electricity used in the seminary’s Waltner Hall each year.
“This is the largest solar panel array in the city of Elkhart,” noted Missy Kauffman Schrock, AMBS director of development. “We are excited to add solar to our community and also to have it as another resource for conservation education.”
The solar panel dedication will take place during Rooted and Grounded: A Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship, which AMBS is hosting April 20–22 for the third time for participants from across North America. The seminary will also hold a workshop on the panels on Friday, April 21, 1–4 p.m. in Waltner Hall Room 214 on the AMBS campus; a tour will be included. Both the dedication and the workshop are free and open to the public.
Gerald Shenk, AMBS major gifts officer, initiated the idea of installing solar panels at AMBS in the fall of 2015. Kauffman Schrock picked up the idea and used it as her Master of Business Administration capstone project. Over the course of the last year, the project has come to fruition with help from the Energy Solutions Division of Telamon Enterprise Ventures, Carmel, Indiana, and a grant from AEP (American Electric Power) administered by Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, Indianapolis.
“Installing solar at AMBS was great to study in theory, but to see it come to life and to know that it will make a real impact on our campus, both financially and environmentally, is so gratifying,” said Kauffman Schrock. “At AMBS we take seriously our responsibility to be stewards of creation, and this is one of many ways we are actively living out God’s reconciling mission.”
Both Kauffman Schrock and Ray Wilson of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, who helped AMBS apply for the grant for the solar panels, will lead the April 21 workshop on the panels.
The seminary demonstrates its commitment to creation care not only through physical features of its campus grounds and facilities — which include six acres of native prairie and more than 20 species of trees and a library that earned the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Standard — but also through academic offerings, community life and relationships with other creation care practitioners.
In 2013, AMBS joined the Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA), a consortium of 50 seminaries working on creation care issues. Since joining SSA, AMBS has received almost $5,000 in grants for various projects.
Additionally, AMBS was recognized as 12th of more than 230 seminaries in North America for course offerings in creation care by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in September 2015. The seminary offers an Environmental Sustainability Concentration in its Master of Arts: Peace Studies program and its Master of Divinity Peace Studies concentration through a 15-week residency at Merry Lea Environmental Center of Goshen (Indiana) College.
On April 12, AMBS received 10 trees native to northern Indiana, worth a total of $2,000, from Dogwood Hills Tree Farm in Middlebury, Indiana, through a tree-planting grant from the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). Ongoing campus activities include community presentations on environmental issues, a large student-run garden and maple tree tapping for syrup in the spring, among others.