Sam Illingworth who helped take Christ Church through the process of audit toward the Gold award said: “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to the city of Liverpool (which declared a climate emergency earlier this year) the role that the church can play in helping to protect and repair the environment.”
Rev. Keith Hitchman recognised that the people of Christ Church Toxteth Park have long been committed to promoting environmental awareness and practicing sustainable living, stating: “As Vicar it has been my privilege to be involved with church members in working towards receiving this prestigious award. Our work does not stop here. We continue to partner with the Diocese and local community groups in fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for the Earth as God's creation, and to campaign on green issues and for climate justice.”
Annie Merry CEO of Faiths for change said:” This is the first Gold Award for the Liverpool Diocese, it is absolutely wonderful, well done to everyone at Christ Church TP, you have inspired us all to push forward in our work to reduce the impact of catastrophic climate change”.
This award is the culmination of much work by the congregation at Christ Church TP, who have learned together and worked for years to make the building more welcoming and more effective. Everyone involved in the life of Christ Church is passionate about fairness and justice in God’s Creation, of which we are all part. We recognise our role as stewards of the Earth’s resources and have a strong ethos of social justice for all, “thinking locally and acting globally”, including human rights, ecology, climate justice, mental and physical health and well-being.
The congregation and the local community including our Green councillors are really pleased to receive this award. Now we have a real opportunity to celebrate the passion and commitment of everyone for social and climate justice.
We spoke to Sam Illingworth about how Christ Church achieved the Gold Award:
“Christ Church, Toxteth Park has a long history of trying to act in an environmentally conscious and responsible manner. Following a presentation from Eco Diocese member Helen Parker-Jarvis about the A Rocha UK ‘Eco Church’ project we felt that this was an excellent opportunity to reflect on what we had done so far, and to target improvements that we could make in order to act more effectively in helping to protect God’s Earth.
There was already a lot of excellent practice that was going on in the church because of a strong commitment from the PCC, the Vicar (Rev. Keith Hitchman), and the wider congregation. In particular, our worship and teaching is often focussed around environmental issues, and it is something that many members of the congregation care passionately about, and which has a strong impact on their daily lives. The most useful part of the Eco Church application process was in auditing what we did as a church, as it revealed many aspects that we did as both individuals and as a community; for example, our role in organising local litter picks and our engagement with local leaders on environmental issues. After carrying out the initial audit it was clear that there were a few areas that we could make noticeable and cost-effective improvements in, such as providing better habitats for local wildlife (via bird boxes, hedgehog nests, etc.).
We hope that this award demonstrates that all other churches are capable of making similar commitments and changes in order to protect the environment. Christ Church, TP does not have the largest of congregations, nor are we the most-funded church in the diocese (far from it!). However, what we do have is a very active PCC and congregation who care passionately about the local community and who are willing to ‘get stuck in’. Working towards a bronze, silver, or gold award is something that we hope all other churches in the diocese are passionate about achieving, as we believe that it is a fundamental responsibility as Christians to protect what God has asked us to look after.
One of the things that we are very conscious of is the fact that social consciousness is absolutely vital when it comes to tackling environmental awareness. The motto of our church is “absolutely. everyone. welcome.”, and it is extremely important to us that we create a space in which all voices can be heard in helping to co-create solutions to protect our environment, and that in doing so no one is made to feel ashamed or to blame at an individual level; rather we should all be working together in a positive sense and learning from the needs and experiences of others. We are currently in the process of organising some workshops that will allow members of the wider community to have their say and hopefully help to further demonstrate the role that the church can play in helping to solve the climate crisis.
We strongly encourage everyone to apply to be an Eco Church, and we are very happy to pass on the advice that we have learnt during this process. We also welcome any advice that others can give us, as we continue to learn, and look forward to working together to start to repair the damage that has been done to our environment.”