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UK News

Gadget cushions churches from rising heating costs

by Glyn Jones

A parish on the Isle of Man has come up with an innovative way to save money on church energy bills the winter. They're turning the thermostats down to the minimum and handing out hi-tech heated cushions to individual members of the congregation.

Faced with rising electricity, gas and oil prices, the churches at Marown, Foxdale and Baldwin needed a solution that was going to be cost effective and simple. They called on the expertise of the Church of England's environmental and sustainability advisor, Dr Henry Uniacke. After a search of the internet he recommended the heated cushions.

Rev Janice Ward, the vicar at Marown, said the cushions are a plain but effective solution to keeping the congregation warm in cold weather. "They're black. They are about a couple of centimetres thick and the size of a normal chair seat.

"You just link the little power pack onto the cushion when somebody wants to use it. The cushion has got an integral button that you press and away you go, you get some heat."

Precise figures are not available, but the cushions could save thousands of pounds from the church’s heating bills.

In a trial last winter, Rev Ward said congregations gave the idea a warm reception.

"It boosts that little bit of heat for individuals if they need it and…when they might be feeling a little chilly,” she said.

"It's quite nice with these cushions. You can sit on them, as you would with any cushion. You can have them against your back. You could have them on your lap and have your hands on them so they're quite versatile."

Members of the congregation are encouraged to wear warm clothes and winter coats to services in colder weather. Some Isle of Man churches also offer worshippers blankets to help keep out the chill.

The Isle of Man vicar finds inspiration from the words of Genesis 1: 31: "God saw all that he had made and it was very good."

"Thinking about the environment, all of the pollution and also climate change, this seems to be one of the very easy ways for church to treat more lightly on the earth and to respect creation, she said.

But the cushions will also help Rev Ward balance the budgets at a time when many clergy and church treasurers are worrying about rising fuel bills.

She told Premier: "We'll be looking to turn down our heating to the very bare minimum.

"We can just have the heating on just for an hour or so and the congregation will then have the cushions instead - which will boost them for the hour or so for worship."

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