THE conservation charity A Rocha UK has reached a milestone of 4000 churches registered for Eco Church. Lindley Methodist Church, in Huddersfield, is the 4000th.
More than 2750 Church of England churches have registered to participate since the scheme began in 2016, and Chelmsford Cathedral recently became the second UK cathedral to win a Gold award (News, 8 October).
We are thrilled to welcome Lindley Methodist Church to the Eco Church community. It signed up to Eco Church as part of its commitment to action after holding a Climate Sunday service on 5 September. This milestone of 4000 churches committed to undertaking practical action to care for the earth comes at a critical time for the climate, before the UN COP26 negotiations in November.
Eco Church is for all church communities, from those of small rural parishes to those on urban estates, regardless of where or how they meet and whether they own land. An important step, not hard to achieve for any church, is gaining a bronze Eco Church award, which Lindley intends to do in the next few months. This first milestone encourages a congregation and demonstrates what is possible, inspiring its members to take further action, besides providing a good basis for making links with the wider community, which Lindley is already doing.
Now in its sixth year, the Eco Church award scheme is a national learning community of churches from a wide range of denominations which are addressing the environmental crisis, using a common framework and an online toolkit, besides learning and speaking up together. The three award levels — Bronze, Silver, and Gold — encourage churches to engage more deeply with the environment in worship and teaching, buildings and land, community and global engagement and lifestyle.
The awards are not an end in themselves, but, rather, a means of helping churches to embed caring for creation in every area of church life. These churches all want to play their part in responding to the pressing crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. A Rocha UK is aiming to engage at least 15 per cent of churches in ongoing action to protect nature and address climate change by 2025, bringing about a step change in local churches’ action on the environment.
Lindley is just one church. Every day, the Eco Church team encounter similarly inspiring stories of hope. Now that Eco Church has reached 4000 registered churches — ten per cent of churches across England and Wales — its next aim is to have 6000 churches registered in the next three years.
THE green initiatives adopted by Chelmsford Cathedral have been inspiring: Muddy Church meant exploring local ecology with hands-on sessions, including pond-dipping and vegetable-growing. An art project that encouraged reflections on pandemic experiences involved making recycled-fabric postcards.
Chelmsford CathedralChelmsford Cathedral, which has won a gold Eco-Church Award from A Rocha UK
During the pandemic, Lindley launched an online gardening and wildlife club: the churchyard provided a green oasis for wildlife and people alike in their town. More than ever, the natural world has been a comfort to many. Members are pleased that, as a community, they are working together to do what can to help protect the environment.
They are proud of their recycling market stall on Saturday mornings. A Lenten series, “Faith and Making your Lifestyle Count”, challenged the congregation on several environmental issues. Hilary Wilson, a member of Lindley Church’s green team, explained why they chose to register with EcoChurch: “We have chosen to join Eco Church because of the worldwide climate situation. Our young people are concerned about the climate crisis, and many of us have grandchildren. We know now is the time to do our bit.”
In response to COP26, A Rocha UK is doing three things.
First, with other members of the Climate Sunday coalition, we are urging governments to adopt more ambitious cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions.
Second, over the past year, the Climate Sunday initiative has been asking churches to act, pray, and speak up on climate change.
Finally, besides signing the “Time is Now” declaration, Chrsitians in every parish are invited to hold Climate Sunday services of their own.
CLIMATE SUNDAY is encouraging those churches not yet a part of Eco Church or a similar greening scheme to join us; and those that have registered to commit themselves to reaching the next award level — Bronze or Silver, say — within a year or so.
For any church, in these last few weeks before COP26, observing a Climate Sunday, committing itself to further progress in a greening scheme, and signing the Time is Now are probably the most powerful actions that they can take — for a good COP26 result, for the climate, and for coming generations.
Also, with colleagues from the worldwide A Rocha family of Christian nature conservationists, we will be promoting nature-based solutions. Here in the UK, we are launching a plan to see 75,000 acres of church- or Christian-managed land working for nature restoration and cutting carbon in the next five years.
We can achieve this only by working in partnership with Christian landowners and Eco Churches, for example. At a time when the public and the Church are rapidly waking up to the reality of climate change and nature-loss, we can also wake up to how much Christians and churches can contribute to the solutions, if we work together. Managing our land for climate and nature is just one example. Not only will it make a practical difference: pastorally, it can give hope.
This autumn provides a unique opportunity for UK churches to act and speak up together on the environment, for maximum collective impact. Climate Sunday and registering as an Eco Church are one among the best ways of doing so.
Churches can register a Climate Sunday service and find resources at www.climatesunday.org.
For further information about Eco Church for churches in England and Wales, visit: ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
Helen Stephens is Church Relations Manager of A Rocha UK.
1) Climate Sunday initiative, organised by the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Environmental Issues Network, is the largest joint project planned by UK Churches on Climate Change.
- The vision for Climate Sunday is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of churches better equipped to address this critical issue as part of their discipleship and mission and to make a significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at COP26.
- Climate Sunday has formal backing from CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, the Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Green Christian, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Wales, the United Reformed Church, the Church of Scotland, Churches Together in Wales, the Union of Welsh Independents, the Church in Wales, World Vision, the John Ray Initiative, USPG, the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army, Joint Public Issues Team, CTBI, Christian Concern for One World, Church of Ireland, Young Christian Climate Network, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
2) Church Greening Schemes. The greening schemes are award-based programmes that equip churches to take action on the environment, both in their church and in the surrounding community. They are encouraged to do this through worship and teaching; reducing carbon emissions; land use and individual lifestyles; and speaking up about the climate.
There are three principal independent schemes in the UK to help churches tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and other pressing environmental issues. They work closely together. In the UK, 9248 churches are now registered with one or other scheme.
3) Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical environmental charity supporting churches throughout Scotland to care and act for God’s creation, reducing their impact on climate change and living sustainably: www.ecocongregationscotland.org
4) Eco-Congregation Ireland is a project of the Church in Society Forum, a standing committee of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, encouraging churches of all denominations across Ireland to take an eco approach: www.ecocongregationireland.com
5) Live Simply is the environmental award scheme of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales: cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award