To celebrate the installation of solar panels on the roof of Countryside Church in Palatine, parishioners initially envisioned "a party with cake."
What the event ultimately became was a daylong Sustainable Energy Expo drawing more than 300 people, with keynote addresses from WGN Meteorologist Tom Skilling, Argonne National Laboratory scientist and author Seth Darling and Des Plaines Democratic state Sen. Laura Murphy.
But no cake.
"We decided we wanted to share with the community and other congregations what we had learned," said Mark Krivchenia, one of the parishioners who helped spearhead the campaign to outfit the church with solar panels. "In the end, it comes down to our belief that it's an ethical and moral issue to care for our common home."
The solar panels on the roof will cut the church's reliance on traditional energy sources by 40 percent. They have a guaranteed life span of 30 years and are expected to pay for themselves after eight to 10 years, Krivchenia said.
About a dozen exhibitors were invited to participate in the expo and share information on topics such as native plantings, recycling, renewable energy, electric cars and other conservation issues.
Linda Sullivan, a member of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club's executive committee, said interest in her group has grown significantly since President Donald Trump's election in November 2016, followed by his controversial appointments of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Ryan Zinke to serve as secretary of the interior.
"People have realized that they have to get involved and just being in favor of something and wanting something to get done is not enough," she said. "Trump has started a movement, even though it wasn't his intention."
For his part, Skilling lauded efforts by scientists and environmental groups that have been promoting ways to fight global warming by focusing on ways to reduce mankind's carbon footprint, the way the church has done.
Skilling talked about the broader economic and cultural ramifications of global warming, pointing out the loss of tourism jobs caused by the destruction or depletion of natural resources as well as human migration and military conflict caused by droughts brought on by climate change.
"The tentacles of climate change don't just affect our atmosphere," he warned. "People will say that climate change isn't real, and it's nonsense. The trend is real. Every serious scientific organization in the world agrees that climate change is happening."