Old Trafford’s weather has had a very bad press. I have lost count of the (Southern) cricket commentators who have made cheap jibes about the impact of our own particular local climate on Test Matches and one-day internationals in this fair city. So what a delight it was this afternoon to meet an inspirational man who is heading up a project to harness Old Trafford’s very own sunshine for local community benefit.

The Reverend John Hughes is vicar of St John the Evangelist in Old Trafford, and is responsible, along with others including the rather wonderful Fiona Nicholls of Sustainable Change Co-operative, for an innovative and hugely imaginative project for the benefit of the local community.

St John’s has become the first church in the Diocese of Manchester to install solar panels on its roof. The first array is already in place, and it is hoped to install a couple more arrays in the future. Apart from providing a means of heating the church and the well-used and popular St John’s Centre, however, the real beauty of the project is that it is being run through a co-operative, with investments and donations sought from and for the benefit of the diverse and vibrant local community.

The official launch of  “St John’s Sunshine” – strapline “Be Part of Something Truly Bright – pledge a panel for the parish and the planet” – is on Sunday 1 April at St John’s Centre from 12 noon to 2pm (food and entertainment provided). This will be the first official opportunity to demonstrate financial support for a highly praiseworthy initiative, which I sincerely hope will form a model for other churches throughout the UK. I for one will be there armed with my cheque book, and I hope to be joined by many more like-minded people with the good of Old Trafford and the environment at heart.

And in a wider sense, what a delight it is to see a parish being innovative, imaginative and environmentally caring in a way which will benefit the whole community, Christian and otherwise. As a churchwarden of a  parish in a separate Diocese, I take great inspiration and hope from the example of the Reverend John Hughes and his church, and wish him and them every success with this most praiseworthy venture, which is a shining example to us all.

And even better for those who believe the adverse publicity about Old Trafford’s weather, whilst sunshine maximises the kilowatt yield of the panels, even on a cloudy day like today some power is still generated!