Collage of church undergoing construction
Mount Olive Lutheran Church undergoing construction for the transition to a geothermal heating and cooling system. Photos: Courtesy of Arthur Halbardier.

In its 90-year history, Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis has never had air conditioning.

Halbardier: “For some people, it means that they find it uncomfortable to be in church on Sunday because it gets hot.”

That’s Art Halbardier, the church’s property director. He says members were hesitant to install an energy-intensive air conditioner. But their heating system was also outdated, so they decided to find a responsible way to renovate.

Halbardier: “Somehow or other, this whole notion became a passion.”

Their search led to geothermal, an energy system that draws on stable underground temperatures to efficiently heat and cool buildings.

Some members were concerned that the system’s high cost would divert resources from community service.

Halbardier: “It’s I think a matter of people realizing that they could do both if they had the faith and the will to do so. And that’s what swung it over to, yes, let’s do this for the environment because that’s also a way of positively affecting people’s lives. We believe that’s a responsibility of our faith, is to be better stewards of the earth.”

The geothermal system was installed this past fall, and members can now worship in comfort year-round.

Climate Connections is produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Communication. Learn more at

Reporting credit: Justyna Bicz/ChavoBart Digital Media

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...