Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of St John’s Sunshine, the highly innovative project based at St John the Evangelist and the St John’s Centre in Old Trafford. As previously mentioned in this blog, the project involves the installation of solar panels on the church roof (some already installed and hopefully more to come), to be funded by investment from interested parties, and with the surplus generated from the Feed In Tariff used to fund projects to benefit the whole community (regardless of faith or lack of it) in the parish.

One of the (many) great things about the project is that it is organised as a co-operative, and indeed I am told that the Co-operative movement has been a great help to the board of St John’s Sunshine in getting the organisation set up and running (this doesn’t surprise me, as I have had very positive experiences with the Co-operative movement in connection with the 24:7 Theatre Festival). The principle of one member one vote regardless of investment or other contribution is an excellent one, and should help to ensure that the project remains grounded in the local community and responsive to its needs and wishes.

The whole project has certainly made me think about the possibility of our own church undertaking something similar, as it would very much tie in with our desire to enjoy wider and deeper ties with our own local community, which on the surface might seem very different but I suspect has more similarities than differences in practice. Like St John the Evangelist, we are based in a multi-faith community, and one of the beauties of the St John’s Sunshine project is the fact that it is very much designed to bring together and involve the whole community.

To return to the more usual subject matter of this blog for a second, it appears likely that the St John’s Sunshine project will allow investors to qualify for relief under the new Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which would give taxpayers 50% income tax relief on their investment and also potential capital gains tax exemption for the year of investment. Thus whilst this may not be an investment in the classic sense, there may well be a very powerful additional incentive for local taxpayers to support the project, as the relief would effectively halve the true cost of the investment.

So good luck to those who are involved with the St John’s Sunshine project; I will be keeping a close eye on its success (not to mention investing) and hoping that it creates a path that many other churches and communities can follow in the future, to the benefit of all concerned as well as the environment.