Hannah Mayo at Holy Trinity, Westcott
Last year I was asked to chair a panel on climate change at the Greenbelt festival of arts, faith and justice. Chairing the panel didn’t worry me unduly, but I did feel ever so slightly ill-equipped for the subject in hand. Truth is, embarrassingly, I’ve fairly successfully stuck my fingers in my ears about the whole issue. At most I’ve changed our light bulbs to energy efficient ones, improved our recycling, momentarily felt sad about polar bears on shrinking ice floes… Then, honestly, I’ve just got on with life.
"The issues are huge, and it’s difficult to grab hold of them ... But, rather wonderfully, I’ve discovered that we don’t need to feel overwhelmed; there is something we can do together."
The issues are huge, and it’s difficult to grab hold of them. And once you’ve start to, it’s difficult not to feel completely helpless at the scale of the problem. But, rather wonderfully, I’ve discovered that we don’t need to feel overwhelmed; there is something we can do together.
Recently we launched Eco Church in Westcott. Eco Church is an award scheme for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the Gospel is good news for God’s Earth. It’s run by A Rocha UK – a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world, both as a response to the biblical mandate to care for the Earth, and as a demonstration of the Christian hope for God’s world. (Btw, ‘A Rocha’ is Portuguese for ‘The Rock’ – Portugal is where it all began, back in 1982.) Eco Church was launched almost exactly a year ago in partnership with Christian Aid, the Church of England, the Methodist Church and Tearfund. The vision is to create a vast network of churches as local centres of creation care in the community… and shining beacons of hope for a brighter environmental future.
Eco Church is structured around an online Eco Survey – a really clear and useful framework that makes it easy for churches to record what they are doing to care for God’s Earth, reflect on what more can be done, and act accordingly.
It’s split into five areas of Church life:
- Worship and Teaching;
- Management of Church Buildings;
- Community and Global Engagement;
It challenges parishes to look at what they do across the board, the songs they sing and the food they serve; the energy they use and the ethics of their investments; the wildlife that finds a home on their land; how much water they use to flush the loos; their engagement with other community groups locally, and with people and development projects in the wider world. It also encourages people to look at the things they do in their own lives as well as that of the church. And there are lots of resources to help.
"As parishes progress, they can update their survey answers, collecting points towards an Eco Church Award – Bronze, Silver or Gold... Encouragingly, we’ve already reached gold standard in our worship."
As parishes progress, they can update their survey answers, collecting points towards an Eco Church Award – Bronze, Silver or Gold. In order to qualify for one we need to reach the required standard in each of the areas covered by the Eco Survey that apply to us.
At Holy Trinity, a small group of us have been meeting to get things going. Encouragingly, we’ve already reached gold standard in our worship – talking about, praying about, singing about God’s creation and our stewardship of it. And we’re at bronze level in the community and global section, so that’s great too. But we’ve a way to go before we hit bronze in all areas and get our Bronze Award.
We have some things planned to help us do that. For example, we’re looking at changing our energy tariff to a green renewable one, which will help in the Buildings category. The children at Celebrate tea are making bird boxes and feeders, and bug hotels, which we’ll put in the churchyard. That counts towards the Land section. And next week, we’re having our first Traidcraft stall in church for many years, to encourage us all to buy more Fairtrade products. That helps with the Lifestyle category.
I’m no expert. I’m at the very start of this myself. I don’t have many of the answers and I’m very aware that my default position up till now has been ‘ostrich’. But I don’t think I can be any more. That’s why I’m really grateful that Eco Church gives a framework which makes it easier for us, as a Church and as individuals, to see how we’re doing, make changes, measure our progress and work together to care for God’s world.