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The New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Saint Louis, Missouri, has brought community members together to worship for more than a century.

“We really are like a cornerstone church in St. Louis City,” says the church’s pastor, Rev. Rodrick Burton.

He says now the church also brings people together to learn about climate change and clean energy.

In 2014, the church installed rooftop solar panels. The energy they produce saves the church thousands of dollars each year.

“Initially, it was just a pragmatic idea of reducing energy costs,” Burton says.

But he says going solar has also helped ignite conversations about the environmental and health benefits of reducing fossil fuels, such as cleaner air.

“The perception for many African Americans is that climate issues are upper-middle-class and wealthy white people’s concerns, and so what we’re showing them is, no, it’s everyone’s concern,” Burton says.

After the solar panels were installed, the Sierra Club brought community members on a bus tour to see the church and other green buildings in the area. And Burton is planning a similar event for clergy.

So the church can inspire more people to work toward the promise of a clean energy future.

Reporting credit: Katie Rouse /ChavoBart Digital Media