Disciples Church Extension Fund

Proximity to Los Angeles’ notoriously noxious air pollution intensifies San Fernando, Calif.’s effort to maintain its reputation as an agriculture center. But a tiny Disciples congregation may turn the tide.

Focused on eco-spirituality since 2016, Mission Hills Christian Church (MHCC) enlisted local partners and Disciples ministries like Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) to become an environmental leader in the community. Coupled with an openness to people of any economic status, the congregation has found new life in a new mission.

MHCC member Dwain Hicks at Spring Planting Day 2023.

Mission Hills began adopting the new focus after calling Pastor Ryan Pryor, who saw the untapped potential for the property on two acres — despite the congregation’s lack of environmentally friendly practices at the time.

Under his leadership, the congregation began to align its values with Micah 6:8’s call to “do justice.” Partnering with Green Chalice, they connected faith, spiritual practice, and creation consciousness as a call to address systemic injustice.

“…Climate change is not (just) a personal responsibility, but a systemic injustice that requires systemic economic and global energy transformation, by eliminating fossil fuels, war, and more,” says Pastor Ryan.

In addition to simple changes, like implementing recycling in the church building with RecycLA, Mission Hills supported other environmental causes. They sent supplies to support the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors — a 1,200-mile stretch of oil pipeline set to run under the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Lake Oahe.

Church member Wayne Karatsu at Spring Planting Day 2022.

Inspired by the 2017 General Assembly resolution to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, the congregation’s Green Team created a two-year plan to change their church and its operations. While Pastor Ryan incorporated climate care into the worship experience, they started the first organic garden in Mission Hills, which is 100% free to the public, installed energy-efficient interior and exterior lights, and invited climate leaders and activists to host workshops.

“We serve a working-class community in the San Fernando Valley that is under-resourced when it comes to green spaces,” Pastor Ryan says, noting that being able to share resources with the community is a source of pride for the congregation.

By 2018, Mission Hills set out to add solar panels to the facility. They installed a new 101-panel, 34-kilowatt solar system on the education building and part of the sanctuary. A DCEF green loan made the investment affordable. The tenacity of a dedicated DCEF Building and Capital Services Advisor made it possible.

“Getting the solar panels installed was time intensive,” Pastor Ryan says. “From the beginning of this process, it took three years from selecting quotes from solar installers to powering up the panels. Churches looking to install these panels must be prepared to have someone on call committed to the project for a long time before and after installing the solar panels.”

That person was DCEF Advisor Rosario Ibarra, who was happy to work with the congregation on securing their loan.

“Partnering with a congregation eager to share God’s love in addressing climate change issues and using the church grounds to provide food and build community was refreshing,” she says.

Since 2020, the solar panels have produced 85.5-megawatt hours. Solar energy generated from the panels offsets the church’s energy consumption and significantly lowers carbon emissions. Over the past three years, the panels prevented about 133,963 pounds of carbon from being emitted by the church’s energy use, Pastor Ryan says.

When MHCC’s panels make more energy than the church consumes, monthly electric bills show the credit, and excess power supplies the grid, rather than drawing from it.

“Solar panels are great. We save a lot of money thanks to them,” Pastor Ryan concludes. “The solar panels are a visual reminder of our environmental and spiritual commitment to caring for the Earth.”

While a solar system is cost-effective in the long term, making environmental efforts is much more than saving money for congregations like Mission Hills Christian Church. It’s about expressing their values through their daily practices – and creating a better and more just world for all.


Mission Hills holds a community garden workshop.


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