Laborers help congregation improve energy efficiency

By Kim Plummer Krull

It’s a repeat performance for Laborers For Christ at Trinity Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore. In 1984, Trinity members participated in Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s (LCEF) Laborers For Christ program to build a new sanctuary.

Thirty years later, the congregation is again using Laborers, only this time to work for the church to improve energy efficiency.

From left, Laborers Kim Heaps of Redding, Calif., and Phyllis Bockelmann, Dow City, Iowa, cut sheet rock as part of the renovation and energy-efficiency project at Trinity Lutheran School, Portland, Ore. The congregation is participating in Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s Laborers For Christ to make the improvements. (Lisa Noreen)

From left, Laborers Kim Heaps of Redding, Calif., and Phyllis Bockelmann, Dow City, Iowa, cut sheet rock as part of the renovation and energy-efficiency project at Trinity Lutheran School, Portland, Ore. The congregation is participating in Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s Laborers For Christ to make the improvements. (Lisa Noreen)

“We can’t fulfill our mission if we’re out of business,” said Dr. Chuck Kunert, Trinity’s congregation president, offering a cut-to-the-chase explanation of why the church is replacing all the windows, doors and exterior walls at its Christian day school.

Along with saving an estimated 20 percent on utility bills, Kunert said the new, higher-quality, better-insulated windows and walls will give Trinity Lutheran School a much needed aesthetics upgrade as part of an effort to attract more students. The school’s current facility was mostly built in the 1950s.

Trinity is the latest congregation to participate in Laborers For Christ to improve energy efficiency, an expansion of Laborers’ traditional construction and renovation roles.

As more congregations and organizations seek to be better stewards of their resources and God’s creation, they are using Laborers For Christ to “go green” and improve energy efficiency, says Marcy Scholl, specialist for Laborers For Christ.

“Improving windows, doors, siding and insulation along with replacing [lighting] ballasts and bulbs pays for itself within a very short time, not to mention the future savings incurred monthly,” Scholl said. “All these facility upgrades free up money — money that can be used for ministry.”

The day after school closed for summer vacation on June 13, Laborers working for Trinity and congregation volunteers began emptying classrooms and tackling demolition.

Laborers’ portion of the project includes working for Trinity to replace nearly 90 windows and 64 doors in the school’s classrooms, cafeteria and kitchen, plus remodeling to enhance security and improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Cooperation strengthens ministry

Instead of the actual work, the “deadline pressure” presents the greatest challenge, says Laborer Ron Riemer, who serves as Trinity’s project manager.

“We have a very limited time frame to get things done,” he said, noting that “the teachers want their rooms back on Aug. 19” and classes resume Sept. 2.

With Trinity hosting a summer camp and vacation Bible school, Riemer said that Laborers also will try to coordinate with those programs to minimize disruption while still making progress.

That spirit of dedication and cooperation to strengthen ministry is among the reasons the congregation asked Laborers to return and work for Trinity, where the Rev. William Shimkus serves as pastor.

“When we built our sanctuary, that went really well,” Kunert said, adding that members also appreciate that Laborers get involved with a congregation’s life beyond the construction site.

In addition to LCEF’s Laborers For Christ, Trinity also is using LCEF for loan support to upgrade the facility and make other improvements at the school.

Peace Lutheran Church in Alcester, S.D., also is scheduled to participate in Laborers For Christ on an energy-efficiency project, replacing 46 windows and three doors and generating what Scholl says is expected to be a “substantial savings in utility costs.”

To learn more about Laborers For Christ and opportunities to improve energy efficiency and stewardship for an LCMS congregation or organization, visit lcef.org or call 800-843-5233.

Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.

Posted Aug. 7, 2014

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