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Illumination through church crosses

Christians can be more eco-friendly just by changing the way they light up their places of worship

  • You Mi-ho
  • Korea
  • June 1, 2011
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When darkness comes, I miss things like the stars and the moon twinkling shining in the night sky. But urban glare, multi-colored neon signs and even illuminated church crosses' light are spoiling my vision.

It is quite common to see churches around the country lit up by red crosses. All churches seem to be adorning spire crosses with big and brighter lights to show its presence better in the dark.

Some may argue that church cross lights don’t consume much electricity. But they don't seem to know much.  Church cross lights use a lot of electricity.

A 2 x 1.5-meter neon church cross usually consumes about 1.5kwh. When you turn it on 8-10 hours a day, at least 300kwh is used over a month, emitting 127kg of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to one month’s electricity consumption by a family.

South Korea has around 60,000 churches, almost all of which use neon crosses. This means they are responsible for the emission of around 90,000-tons of carbon dioxide annually. This shames Our Lord’s Cross!

Considering depletion in energy resources, climate change, radioactive contamination by nuclear accidents, desertification and declining numbers of many animal species, Christians should keep an eye on ‘crosses on spires’ in order not to be a disgrace in the eyes of Mother Nature.

Fortunately, some churches have been recently trying to turn neon cross lights into eco-friendly ones. The Korea Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity is campaigning for eco-friendly cross lights, which the Presbyterian Church of Korea has joined. They will hold a joint workshop on the campaign soon.

Changing to eco-friendly cross lighting is not difficult. Neon lights can be replaced with LED lights which consume only 10 percent of the electricity neon ones use. Or the cross lights can be powered by solar or wind powered systems.

And a bike-powered generator can also be installed, which might encourage more Christians to join the eco-friendly power movement. An instrument measuring the amount of electricity generated by a Christian or church community could help attract more participation.

Encouraged by some churches’ response to being more eco-friendly, I dream that contaminated air, water and land can be cleaned up and all threatened species can avoid extinction.

I ask other churches to illuminate a cross in an eco-friendly way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Then we won’t need to construct more power plants which threaten nature, wildlife and humans.

Eco-friendly illuminated crosses would help churches become more trusted by Mother Nature who is groaning and suffering because of climate change and the threat of nuclear power.

I hope Christians can take real pride in illuminated church crosses, not because they are big and colorful, but because they demonstrate the spirit of Christ’s Cross.

You Mi-ho is executive secretary of the Korea (Protestant) Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity. June 5 is World Environment Day
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