Electric Vehicles Receive Blessing of Newark Clergy
It’s not every day that you'll find an electric car charging station inside a Newark house of worship, let alone in the sacred chancel area in front of the pews. But for thirty members and guests of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Newark and Vicinity who gathered on Monday, May 21, at Mount Olivet Baptist Church, a ceremonial blessing of an electric vehicle charger and a handful of electric cars parked nearby was a serious matter of faith and service.
“We are instrumental in being stewards of what God has given us, which is the Earth,” said Rev. Andre Milteer, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church and one of more than ten clergy who took part in the event. "We can be leaders in terms of introducing technology to our people and those who have been called to serve."
The noon event, publicized as a "lunch and blessing ceremony" was co-presented by GreenFaith, a New Jersey-based environmental nonprofit, and the Baptist Ministers Conference. Eight members of the community brought their EV’s to be blessed, alongside suppliers and manufacturers of electric car chargers including ChargePoint, the country’s leading EV charging station manufacturer.
The aim was to encourage city and state leaders to support legislation to increase use of electric vehicles and charging stations across New Jersey; build support for electric buses in Newark and electric cargo handling equipment at Ports Newark and Elizabeth; and raise awareness about the health hazards of air pollution from fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Ashley-Lynn Chrzaszcz of ChargEVC, a nonprofit electric vehicle advocacy coalition, noted that there are only 550 charging stations in New Jersey, and that a statewide network for charging stations is needed. “It is giving people an incentive to drive these vehicles; it is one of the most important things you can do.”
Eight different electric or hybrid car models were on display in the Mount Olivet parking lot -- from Tesla full-electric models to Toyotas and Audis. Among them was the 2016 Chevrolet Volt owned by Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains, who described the clergy effort to promote electric vehicles as based on a biblical principal: “We are here to protect the planet.”
“Newark has a large problem with emissions," said Rev. Ronald Tuff, an organizer for GreenFaith and a pastor at First Bethel Baptist Church in Irvington. “We are trying to get people to do something...when they get new vehicles to get electric vehicles, and to press political leaders to support electric transport in our cities. This is an introductory move to bring the issue to the pastors of Newark and vicinity.”
Following lunch, attendees gathered in the church sanctuary for prayers, information on electric cars, and Q & A about costs, charging frequency, and public funding.
Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith’s executive director, said the goal of the blessing ceremony was to educate Newark residents and clergy about the urgency of transitioning public and private transportation to electric vehicles.
“The clergy gathered here are important leaders and they recognize that air pollution and climate change are real issues for community,” said Harper. “With proper policies, there is no reason Newark and other major cities cannot have entire fleets of electric buses, which would help provide cleaner air for environmentally overburdened neighborhoods."
The blessing ceremony was part 'revival meeting' and part technological seminar, and combined technical detail with powerful rhetoric.
“The world wasn’t created for us to use up; we were placed on the Earth to be tillers and tenders of the soil,” Rabbi Abraham said in his blessing. “We are stewards of this earth, and it is our job to take responsibility for this planet.”