Blog #110: Hot Seats for our Church?

March 9, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
One of the great advantages and joys of serving as Christ Church Vienna’s Environmental Officer - and one that I personally appreciate a lot - is that I regularly receive all sorts of interesting information from places such as the Green Anglicans or the Church of England’s Environmental Programme team. So, two weeks ago I was invited to a webinar during which Catherine Ross, the Anglican Church’s Net Zero Carbon Project Manager explained to us how individual churches could become Net Zero Carbon Churches. Now, Net Zero Carbon is a fancy-sounding word for a rather ambitious routemap that the Anglican Church’s General Synod has committed all of us to last July: By 2030, the route map says, the buildings of the church are to be warm, bright and welcoming while powered by renewable energy - using low or zero carbon technologies for heat and light.
Within the next seven years all Anglican churches - and that includes us here at Christ Church Vienna - are supposed to have carefully considered all the ways in which we use energy, reduced our energy consumption where we could, and shifted away from carbon intensive sources of energy such as oil or gas to renewable energies where at all possible. The details of how to get there are a bit more complex, of course; they involve doing an energy audit and then developing specific steps both for insulation and for switching to low-energy use technologies and renewable energy sources, figuring out how to finance all of this, and then getting it done. But before you get either bored or daunted by the complexity and size of the challenge we have at our hands here: Let’s take a quick look at our church building and what we do to feel warm when we come to church in winter.
Foto: Check out the story of this little church in Gloucestershire - they installed under-pew heating and are now enjoying a much lower heating bill have taken a major step on their journey to becoming a Net Zero Carbon church.  
Who knew that most churches - in the UK, that is - spend the majority of their energy bills on heating? This is not different for us at Christ Church - so we are not alone, nor are we the first one looking to tackle the situation. The general advice from the Anglican Church’s Net Zero team (simplified for this blog) is: Switch off your gas heating systems and get yourself an electric under-pew heating system instead.  Three great benefits would come with this: Firstly, just heating the seats - by installing an electric heating system under the benches we sit on - is much cheaper than heating the entire building; it seems that most churches who have done it immediately reduced their heating bills by 50% or more. Secondly, pew heating - warming you right where you are - normally makes people feel warmer than when we are heating the air around them. And thirdly, by switching to a system that uses electricity rather than gas we can go 100% renewable sourcing - simply because we in Austria have access to electricity that comes to 100% from hydropower. 
Daunting? Complicated? Well, check out this little video that tells the story of St Andrew’s Church in Chedworth, a little village in Gloucestershire. These guys had a 12th century church to work with - not exactly easier to heat than our beautiful Christ church building. “Let’s warm the people - not the church” was the motto that this Church deployed - and in addition to changing the heating system they also got much more careful in when they are actually switching the heating on (and off), really only putting on the heat when people were actually in the building or right beforehand. When you watch the 3-minute video, you definitely get the sense that a Zero Carbon journey is something like this is doable. 
This is a journey that needs more people than just your Environmental Officer to get us started on and to complete. So please do feel invited to consider whether you have time or talent (or both) to give to help brainstorm on how to mobilize the needed insight and input and then help moving the process along. For further information and inspiration, there are more webinars coming up, including two with further details on Church heating solutions - one on March 21 at 5pm CET,the other one on May 2nd, also at 5pm CET. And there are many more resources and interesting videos telling us about other churches on similar journeys you can check out. 
Want to join? Love the idea to get our Church some Hot Seats?! Do contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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