When the moderator said “Let There Be Light,” a collective cheer went up from the nearly 100 people who gathered July 26 at Southern Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland.  The crowd was present for the unveiling of what organizers say is the first of dozens of Renewable Energy Projects for churches across the state.

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Joe Gaskins is the co-chairman of the Maryland Business Clergy Partnership. (Courtesy Photo)

Showcase Southern Friendship, a partnership between The Biz Center Renewable Energy Incubator in Camp Springs, Md. and the Maryland Business and Clergy Partnership (MBCP), helps churches eliminate costs on utility bills by helping them adjust energy services under new technology at no cost.

“We recognized that a lot of churches don’t have the money to install solar panels or get retrofit lighting, so thanks to our partners we are able to do it at no cost based upon the savings off the electric bill,” said the partnership’s Co-Chairman Joe Gaskins. “This is the first of many projects.”

Showcase Southern Friendship has allowed the church to reduce energy costs by 70 percent through retrofits and a new LED Lighting System installed by GB Energie and Nationwide Electric. Solar panels still have to be installed on the 77,000 square foot facility. Other phases of the project include an security lighting system that aims to enhance safety and an organic indoor growing system for vegetables that the church hopes to sell to local food markets to create jobs and opportunities for local residents.

“This is just fantastic,” said Southern Friendship Pastor Weldon Fields Jr. “We feel very blessed. This is really going to help our ministry, the community, and of course, the environment. We believe we will have the opportunity to create 30 jobs and that is important during times such as these.” The transition is expected to be completed in 30 days.

The transition will include plans for a partnership with World Media and the National Capital Baptist Convention to help organize “Showcase Africa,” an international trade show in 2017. Gaskins and Fields noted that the trade show should provide the community with a tremendous economic boost.

Ellis Industries President Lisa Ellis said the project at Southern Friendship is just the beginning. “We plan to replicate this effort across the state, especially with some help we plan to receive from the Hogan Administration. This is a win-win for the churches and the business community.”

“This is beautiful,” said Showcase Africa organizer Shahab Quarni of World Media Group. “I believe this is the first time we have had Black people, Brown people, White people, Asians, African-Americans, the Jewish Community, Muslims, and Christians coming together to work on a project. We believe there are a lot of hidden treasures and even more opportunities for small business owners.”

The Rev. Charles McNeill Jr. of the Unity Baptist Church and soon to be president of the National Baptist Convention DC & Vicinity said he is excited about bringing renewable energy services to his more than 75 churches in the Washington Metro Area. “We are going to help bring a lot of people out of darkness into God’s marvelous light through solar energy and LED lighting.”