With a lofty sanctuary and many smaller rooms, the new heating system at West Concord Union Church required lots of planning, as church member David Sedlock explained. Photo by Anne O’Connor.

Union Church going green, with (hopefully) a little help from friends 

By Anne O’Connor  anne@theconcordbridge.org
October 16, 2023

The heating system in the late 19th century church had to go. It was breaking down and gulping fossil fuel, costing the small congregation tens of thousands of dollars in repairs yearly just to keep it chugging along. 

The West Concord Union Church will boast a brand-new zero carbon emission heating system as soon as all the parts come in. Photo by Anne O’Connor.

The West Concord Union Church began to plan the heating replacement when it did a major renovation in 2016 and 2017. At the time, the contractor recommended waiting a few years so that the technology behind electric heat options was mature. 

So, the church waited.  

At the end of 2022, with an engineer’s report and estimate of just over $800,000 in hand, the project went out to bid and came back with a $1.4 million price tag. 

“It’s a very big deal,” said Rev. Hannah C. Brown, the pastor at WCUC. 

For the progressive congregation, the change to a greener, non-carbon-emitting heating system was important, said church member Kathy Clute, and work began. 

The old boiler, generating the equivalent of 144,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, was taken apart and removed. The electric service went underground. Condensers appeared outside the building and individual units popped up in every room. 

The church is still waiting for its completion date. Not all of the parts came in on time and the delay means they are, temporarily, without a heating system. 

Maybe everything will be in by the end of the month, hoped church member David Sedlock. In the meantime, they have a backup plan for heat. 

Going all-electric, with large condensers outside and individual units for smaller rooms, is unusual for a church, he said. Most go hybrid with a combination of gas and electric. 

The project planning was complex. Heating the sanctuary, which includes the oldest part of the building, with its soaring cathedral ceilings, was just part of the plan. The church is used throughout the week by its tenant, the Concord Conservatory of Music, for lessons, classes and performances. 

The congregation of under 200 people has committed $839,000 for the heating system, Clute said. The church applied for a federal grant through Interfaith Power and Light. 

They are still waiting to hear back. 

The church, which prides itself on its commitment to the community, donating 10 percent of its yearly budget to “organizations doing God’s work in the world,” is asking for help from its greater community. 

Donations toward the heating system will be accepted during the Earth Concert at the church at 1317 Main Street on October 21 at 2 p.m., which will feature lively classical selections and folk, gospel and family music. 

An online auction benefiting the project runs through October 22. Visit https://wcuc.betterworld.org/auctions/AFutureWithHope. 

“If anyone feels moved to help, we’d be glad to talk,” Brown said.