At the moment, the leaders of many of these churches are looking for alternative forms of income to keep their roofs intact and their doors open. See this GetReligion post from a few years ago, one of many on this real-estate topic: “More news about old churches being sold and flipped: Does it matter why this is happening?”
Many mainline churches have started renting chunks of their facilities to nonprofit groups, frequently tapping — directly or indirectly — funds from foundations and government-related projects. Now, would these church leaders be open to providing parking-lot space for EV chargers?
Hold that thought (perhaps while scanning this post: “NPR comes to hills of Tennessee and sees exactly the religion trends that you would expect”).
Now, what about the other churches — with huge parking lots — seen during a city-and-suburban drive? Hint: They are frequently called “megachurches” and they are often near highways. More often than not, these are nondenominational evangelical-Pentecostal churches or they may be linked to the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God or various major Black denominations.
Many of these churches are growing. Often, they are also controversial. Why?
Think about this potentially newsy question: Do you think government agencies, nonprofits, foundations and corporations are going to be more willing to work with “liberal” churches that have socially acceptable stands on controversial moral, cultural and doctrinal issues linked to, oh, sex, sin and salvation?
If government funds are involved, can you imagine politicians being asked to put language into their pro-EV bills that prohibit funds being used for projects linked to, let’s see, churches with unacceptable doctrines on LGBTQ+ issues? This would be discussed in terms of church-state separation, even though the Big Idea here is that government leaders would get to write checks to religious groups with “good” doctrines, in the eyes of the state, while avoiding those with “bad” doctrines. Entanglement, maybe?
What made me think of this church-state conundrum?
Let’s go back to the RNS article about churches and EV networks. This passage seems logical:
Houses of worship exist in every community and are usually centrally located, making them ideal partners for expanding EV access, according to Andrew Fox, chairman and CEO of Charge Enterprises Inc., which specializes in electricity and communications infrastructure.
It’s why the company has chosen to partner with the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church to install EV charging stations on church campuses throughout the D.C. region. …
Charge Enterprises and the BWC are still determining where to install EV stations among the more than 600 churches within the conference. More than 100,000 EVs are registered throughout the D.C. region and, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation, more than 60,000 EVs are registered across the state.
Is this regional conference a large and thriving center for United Methodist work?
Well, at one point, this was the most rapidly declining conference in the UMC. Have things improved? Here’s the lede on a 2022 press release:
While only one church — Cherry Run UMC in Hedgesville — requested to be formally closed at this year’s Annual Conference Session, over the past three years the BWC has seen a spike in church sales, said the Rev. Sheridan Allmond, the chair of the Conference Board of Trustees.
Who else is, at this point, part of this project? Let’s keep reading:
Churches in other major metropolitan areas across the country have started offering similar services to their neighborhoods.
The Rev. Catherine Healy, rector of St. Paul & the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Chicago, partnered with a local nonprofit, Community Charging, to provide an accessible and affordable charging station on the city’s South Side. She says the charging station is still the only publicly available one in the area outside of chargers in private parking garages. …
The charging station serves as a small revenue generator for the church, which charges $0.15 per kilowatt hour, averaging a $40 profit a month. But, Healy said, its real purpose is as a physical representation of the church’s commitment to environmental stewardship and caring for people in the neighborhood.
The logical question: Are mainline churches seeking these economic ties or are the EV networks, thinking growth potential with government dollars, looking for partnerships with “logical” churches? Are any megachurches on board? Are any being asked?
Journalists may want to keep an eye on this story. Think of it as another branch of the church-closings real estate boom in the past decade or so.
But, remember, the EV-charging boom is going to be funded, in large part, with tax dollars.
Think about it. What churches will be chosen?
FIRST IMAGE: Uncredited image drawn from an Ontario, Canada, report on expanding charging options for electric vehicles (.pdf here).
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