Sister Paula Gonzalez, the “solar nun,” visited Johnson City from Apr 27-30, 2014, as a guest of Green Interfaith Network, Inc. (GINI) and TN Interfaith Power & Light (TIPL). During that time, this energetic woman, who is 81-years-young, presented to four audiences and was interviewed for Religion for Life, a radio show hosted by Pastor John Shuck (First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton) and produced at WETS on the campus of Eastern Tennessee State University (ETSU). In total, she met with over 150 people in four days.
The same evening that she arrived in TN (a 7-hour drive from Cincinnati), she met with and presented briefly to the GINI membership at their annual meeting, graciously hosted as a potluck by St. John’s Episcopal Church. It is noteworthy that St. John’s has been working for more than 4 years to improve their energy efficiency, and was a recipient (with GINI) of a grant from the Episcopal Province IV Environmental Ministry to become better Earth stewards. That success story will be the subject of a future post.
On April 28th, Sister Paula met with students in grades 5-8 from St. Mary’s Catholic School offering her insights about “Co-Creating a Sustainable Future.” Sister Paula was pleasantly surprised that the students at St. Mary’s knew about geothermal energy. Their school has geothermal heat for the classrooms located along the outside walls of the building. She also visited the raised bed gardens on the grounds of St. Mary’s Church, and saw the new garden area that is being developed there. These gardens are active ministries providing healthy, locally grown produce as well as sustainability education.
Members from St. Mary’s Catholic Parish and GINI recently conducted an energy assessment of both St. Mary’s Church and their School. The congregation has applied for an incentive from GINI to implement some energy efficiency strategies that will enable them to reallocate monies from paying utility bills to important ministries that may have been otherwise underfunded.
Sister Paula presented a more fact-based lecture on the evening of April 29th at the Culp Center, as part of ETSU’s Earth Month activities. This event was co-sponsored by ETSU’s Office of Sustainability. It was the last week of classes, but her schedule had been highlighted in an article in the Kingsport TimesNews, and we welcomed new friends to GINI who had come to Johnson City for her presentation.
On Wed. April 30th, Milligan College hosted a “Lunch & Learn” in the McCormick Dining Center in Sutton Hall. Immediately prior to that luncheon, Sister Paula met with Dr. Samuel (Kip) Elolia, a faculty member at the Emmanuel Christian Seminary,
and was introduced to Seminary students at their last daily chapel for this academic year, before they depart for the summer and/or post-seminary life.
Finally, the night before she returned to Cincinnati, she met with more than 60 youth from area congregations. St. Mary’s Church hosted this rare joint meeting of area youth groups, and Sister Paula was thrilled by that collaboration.
Sister Paula’s favorite bumper sticker slogan is: “One Solution Comes Up Every Morning.” On this short visit to TN, she offered many examples of ways we can think and behave differently to ensure a different (and better) future.