From August 23 to 27, workers from Morristown's Clean Energy USA will be on the roof of the 51-year-old building on Shunpike Road in Chatham, installing solar paneling.

Going solar will cut Gloria Dei's electricity bills in half. But, aside from the financial benefits, the move also represents the church's commitment to environmental care.

Over the course of 25 years, the Gloria Dei solar system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 367 tons of carbon dioxide - the same amount produced by a small car driving nearly 1.25 million miles, according to Clean Energy USA. That's an equivalent benefit of planting 14,672 trees.

"Part of our mission statement talks about 'caring for our neighbors and all of creation,'" noted David Spence, a congregant who spearheaded the effort. "We are trying to fulfill that goal."

Spence teamed up with another Gloria Dei member, Dick Olsen of Green Village, in the spring to investigate the possibility of the church going solar. The pair put together a study and presented their finding at a town-hall meeting on May 23.

A month later, at the church's annual meeting, the congregation voted in favor of solar.

"I saw a great opportunity in the roof itself," said Spence, an architect by profession and the principal at Windigo Architecture in Morristown. "Every day a vast area of asphalt roof shingles is exposed to the sun doing nothing but waiting for rain. Why not make something of it?

"I also thought that the juxtaposition between the solar panels and the existing neighboring power lines could be quite provocative and would make a positive statement to the passerby and local community," he added. The cost of solar installation is being paid for from the church's endowment fund. But it expects to easily recoup its outlay over time, thanks to lowered bills and government credit.

"Because of funds generated by the state's Solar Renewable Energy Certificate program, the church will be able to expand its charitable giving," said Spence.