The Venerable Pete Spiers, Archdeacon of Knowsley & Sefton reflects;
“Our journey to achieving the Gold Eco Diocese award began in earnest in January 2019. We know that this journey, coupled with the national goal of becoming a net zero church by 2030 is a ‘marathon’ and not a 'sprint’ so we need to pace ourselves accordingly.
“Our focus may have been affected by the rapid changes in society as a result of Covid 19. As a result of our church buildings being closed, we’re now meeting and worshipping with people on line & connecting in ways we've never done before and this is having coincidental beneficial environmental and financial impacts too. “
“For example, our energy bills are lower and we are making fewer car journeys. It might be that our churchyards & grounds are flourishing through being more overgrown!
“When the opportunity comes to open our churches once again, we need to think how we will continue to connect with those on-line and not exclude them and we must keep up the momentum that has begun to reduce our environmental impact, albeit inadvertently, and work towards being a net zero Eco Diocese too.”
Faiths4Change can offer support with all things Eco Church via phone, email & zoom. Please get in touch with Liz Atherton at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Hodgson, Verger, St Mary’s, Grassendale registered St Mary’s as an Eco Church earlier this year but had found completing the Eco Survey a bit of a challenge, not least with an intermittent internet connection. Jean contacted Annie at Faiths4Change for a little help. With Jean on the phone sharing St Mary’s Eco Church actions, Annie completed the online survey bar four questions.
Overall St Mary’s are heading for a Bronze award, although they achieved Gold for Worship & Teaching, Jean was delighted and agreed to answer a few questions about their journey so far.
Whose idea was it to become an eco-church? Why did you think it was important?
“St Mary's, Grassendale has always been aware of and active on eco-initiatives. The Going for Gold Eco Diocese mission led us to register and undertake the eco survey to become an Eco Church.
"It’s given us a clearer picture of what we have been doing right and how we can improve in the future. Our PCC agreed that we should form an eco group to assess what we were doing to make our church and our world a better place. Tackling climate change is the most important thing we can do for future generations.”
What was the inspiration –for example a press article, TV programme, social media, or pressure from the congregation?
“Our inspiration has come from the media, Christian Aid, Church articles, church organisations, David Attenborough and has accelerated recently with Greta Thunberg inspiring children by bringing climate change to the world' s attention.”
Tell us about what impact you wanted the church to have eg – saving money, reducing greenhouse gasses, impact on landfill.
“As a church, we want to make our world a healthier place, God has made us stewards of this world so we want to do everything to stop climate change by reducing greenhouse gasses, looking at renewables and our impact on landfill and nature, reducing our carbon footprint wherever and whenever we can.”
What activities has your church undertaken to become an eco-church? And why did you choose those activities?
“We held an Eco Sunday service as worship is paramount in asking for God's help in implementing this huge task and received positive feedback. We’ve asked other organisations to share activities around sustainable materials. Recently our Cubs & Beavers talked about and showed us how to make eco-bricks with plastic bottles, they can be used to build benches.
"Our Messy church was involved and our youth club made ' Please recycle and reuse posters'; they are saving crisp packets to be recycled. We have monthly Eco articles in our Church magazine."
“We’ve invested in mugs for refreshments instead of using polystyrene cups and we’re using fair trade tea coffee etc. We have recycle bins in church, the church hall and kitchen. We are working towards using eco cleaning products for our church and church hall, getting a bicycle rack and planning a wild garden. Beyond lockdown we’re planning a visit to the Recycling Discovery Centre with some of the congregation.”
Tell us about the people who’ve been involved in those activities and what they have done.
“Setting up an Eco Group has worked well, having a good few active people has meant we can really move forward guided by the congregation and often led and encouraged by our many youth organisations. Our vicar and PCC are totally supportive.”
Have there been any unusual or unpredicted outcomes as a result of you becoming an eco-church?
“The outcome is a positive approach and we have to accept that some things such as changing the heating system possibly installing solar, will take longer to implement. We always think of the impact on the environment when we hold events and can do many simple things too such as recycle responsibly.”
What advice would you share with other churches who are thinking of becoming an eco-church?
“We would definitely advise other churches to apply for the award. They will be encouraged by the positive actions they are already taking. St Mary's eco group were pleasantly surprised and excited at what we have been doing right and can plan our next steps.”
How has your parish adapted in the current COVID-19 lockdown?
“Our parish has adapted to the COVID-19 Lockdown by having online services. We have a children’s service, morning and evening services on Zoom and audio and offer prayers by email and phone. We have a daily morning prayer on Facebook.
“Our socials include weekday coffee mornings, a keep in touch group- providing soup and cakes, Bible notes & phone calls with the vulnerable and a virtual big sing group.”
How is your community continuing with your Eco Church activity during lockdown?
“We’re encouraging people to pray and use their gardens for their health and the environment.”