“Cycle racks are available on our church premises.” Yes or No. Gulp. The thought of octogenarians cycling to our services…
“The ethical investment of personal savings is encouraged at our church.” Oh ‘eck! Talk about ruffling feathers…
“Our church maintains an area of land for native wildflowers.” Yer wot?? With the tiny little neglected garden we’ve got…
It was September 2021. I’d just begun an Eco church survey, a scheme created by Christian environmental charity A Rocha. St John the Divine’s first foray into becoming a sustainable, environmentally friendly church. And it didn’t look promising. Moreover, few of the actions suggested, seemed like they’d save the polar bears, the glaciers, the low-lying half of Bangladesh nor the remaining forests of California. Nevertheless, four of us formed an Eco church group and we embarked on our journey. Revd Michelle made clear that we had her full support, which I believe was vital.
The first category in the survey was Worship and Teaching. Fortunately we’d recently completed a Home Group series called Caring for Creation, and held a service that featured the environment. We rattled through the questions, totting up Yesses.
Next up, Buildings. We weren’t gaining many brownie points for our church and our hall. Then David, a foresighted church member, took advantage of some local grants and arranged for us to convert to LED lighting and to install solar panels on the church roof. The lighting in church now illuminates the upper part of the nave, and gives the building a wonderful atmospheric feel when we host concerts.
The Diocese encourages us to embark on the Green Journey. A consultancy with this name provides a free survey and also enables churches to switch to renewable electricity and fully offset gas. From 1st October, we’ll be buying green fuel.
At first, Land looked like it would be our undoing. But two of our team, Norman and Rosemary, set about greening our garden with a passion. They’ve installed bird feeders and nesting boxes, worked with our gardening contractors to establish a wildflower area, had the tree canopy lopped so the lawn could return to life, planted butterfly-friendly shrubs, and Norman created the insect version of the Savoy. The Brownies, who had last year made their own simple bug house, have painted a beautiful mural on a plastered wall at the side of the garden. Again, the Yesses began to accumulate.
On Community and Global Engagement, we cobbled together enough points thanks to our partnership with a church in Tanzania, our rucksack club walks, and our commitment to buying fairly traded groceries, although sadly our Traidcraft stall is a thing of the past. Then there was the petition we sent to Parliament before COP27…
Lifestyle looked like it would be the hardest as, on first reading, we scored 0%. What carried us above the threshold was an Awareness event which featured the sermon slot, plus posters and questionnaires. We even included that thorny question about investing personal savings! Norman and Rosemary now maintain a display board in church, which at present features the ‘Wild Isles’.
So, the great day finally arrived when we could apply to A Rocha for our Bronze award, and even better, we were successful. ‘So what?’ you may ask. I’ve been studying the psalms, and am now appreciating that all of Creation is designed to praise God. Psalm 84 (vs 3) tells us:
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
So, doesn’t this mean our nesting boxes and feeding stations are a way by which God provides for the birds?
These may, of themselves, seem like small actions but they act as statements of intent, pointing us firmly in a new direction. A direction that says the non-human creation has a right to thrive and that’s how God wants it to be. And a direction that says to our community, ‘We believe in a God of hope who cares about, and hasn’t abandoned our world of struggle. Come and join us!’
Like many who are taking up the Green challenge, we at St John’s have embarked on a journey. As verse Psalm 84 verse 5 says,
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Our Eco church group has reached ‘the end of the beginning’. We aren’t stopping here. What a great way to praise God!
4 thoughts on “Celebrating our Bronze Award”
Thanks John, that really challenges me to look at setting off on the journey to be an Eco church too.
Congratulations to all involved in the award. Well done. With such enthusiasm no doubt you’ll be on your way to silver before long.
I’ll ask our wardens & vicar what, if anything, they know about this. I can imagine the answer 😉. But I may be pleasantly surprised.
What a brilliant result for all your hard work. Thank you! Often we turn a blind eye to what is needed but you have proved by your hard work improvements can be achieved to the benefit of God’s creation.
Great News, great result. Thank you to everyone who contributed.