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Topsail United’s Retrofit Project: A Supportive Team is the key to Success

"The most important lesson that our church community has learned from our partnership with Faithful Footprints is how easy it was to participate in the program. Our contacts at Faithful Footprints were always accessible and they walked us through the program steps promptly and efficiently." 

– Paul Burt,  Topsail United Church, Conception Bay South, NL


It's no secret that renovating and updating a faith community building or even just the sanctuary requires a lot of planning and support. Without the right tools, resources and team in place, this process can seem difficult and overwhelming.

Sometimes, support for a retrofit project can come from members of the congregation themselves. In the case of Topsail United Church in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, a supportive church community was key to the success of the church’s first efforts at greening its building and reducing their energy footprint. 

In addition to having an energetic and enthusiastic church community, it was equally important for the church to have the support of a team with building retrofitting expertise that could guide them throughout each stage of their project plans. The church found that team in the Faithful Footprints

A United Church of Canada program, Faithful Footprints aims to bridge those gaps by providing United Church congregations, camps, or outreach ministries the appropriate tools, financial and educational resources, and supportive staff to fulfill their energy efficient and decarbonization building retrofit projects. 


The Journey begins

Topsail United’s Board Chair, Paul Burt came to the Faithful Footprints grant program with the hope of reducing their energy costs and improving lighting quality – two very common reasons that congregations seek out this program. Within a few days of receiving their expression of interest, Faithful Footprints Building Manager, Stephen Collette went over the grant program with Paul, as is the first step of the program. This stage allows property managers to understand the possibilities that exist within the program, as well as any changes or suggestions that can be made to the initial retrofit idea. It is also an opportunity for Stephen to get in depth details about a building.

Burt explained that they had a wood framed building with a walkout basement, as the site slopes down towards the ocean. Newfoundland has one of the cleaner electrical grids in Canada, so it was no surprise that the building ran on all electric heat. Stephen said that the building’s energy usage was in great shape from a carbon perspective, with no oil appliances in use. What they did have was old electric baseboards and fluorescent tubes everywhere, and both of those were costing them energy dollars. 

Even before applying to the Faithful Footprints grant, Topsail United’s idea for a mini-split heat pump and LED lighting retrofit had been discussed with enthusiasm in annual congregational meetings for the past three years but had been delayed due to COVID-19. With the virus curtailed, the energy-conscious congregants were excited to resume their plans and finally green their church building. Stephen agreed: it was a solid plan, with easy payback given the energy savings, and the bonus $20,000 support from the United Church of Canada. The church knew that they had some older fridges and freezers that needed replacing as well, but instead stuck to a budget and a plan that would allow them to do what they could with the money available to them. 

Two months and ten days later, Topsail United’s project was completed from start to finish. This community is proof that with the right tools, resources, and willing team in place, anything is possible!


Topsail United installation of mini-split heat pump system



Topsail United with fluorescent lights and after the installation of LED lights

A year from now, the Faithful Footprint’s team will be reaching out to collect another year’s worth of energy data to compare the before and after energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions of Topsail United’s congregation's efforts. 

Testimonials from Faithful Footprints participants

After successfully completing the program, many participating congregations have expressed how the support and guidance they received from the Faithful Footprints staff contributed to the success of their projects. Here’s what they say:

“Along the way we have learned that applying for grants in support of building renovations can be a large amount of work, but very worthwhile. Supporting large renovation projects of this type requires a dedicated group of people willing to stay on board for a long period of time.”

-Rosemary Embree, Trenton United Church, Trenton, ON


“Once we decided to actually go for the project and pursue it with some dedication, things went very smoothly. We went from an idea, to a grant application the next day, to a fully funded project three months later."

-Justin Wheler, St. Paul's United Church, Edmonton, AB

Explore our other stories on community, support, and collaborations: 

Getting Started

The more you can learn about your building, the more you can save energy, minimize maintenance costs, and maximize the usage of your amazing faith community building. 

Start with free guides that we have on our website. The DIY Faith Building Energy Audit Guidebook and the Energy Star Action Workbook for Congregations are amazing resources you can download, read, learn, and even take action with these free resources! 

You can also utilize our professional knowledge with virtual Green Audits that look at energy, air quality, food, water, waste, maintenance, rental agreements, heritage and much more.


Faithful Footprints Program

The United Church of Canada (UCCan) Faithful Footprints program offers grants, tools and inspiration to help its congregations reduce their carbon footprint. With the Church’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2030, this one of a kind program offers up to $30,000 in grants towards energy conservation and renewable energy projects (conditions apply).

Faith & the Common Good is the delivery partner for UCCans Faithful Footprints program.  To date, we have engaged 300 congregations, camps, and buildings across the country. Your participation in the program puts your faith into action and helps the Church reach its target. 

Stephen Collette is the Building Manager for Faith & the Common Good and can be reached at 705-930-1011 EDT, [email protected] 

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