St Mary’s Church is pleased to say that we have now signed up to Eco-Church. The section below will give you more details about Eco-Church and what is involved.
Eco Church: Everything You Need To Know
A Rocha UK shares the same five core values as all the other national A Rocha organisations around the world:
Underlying all we do is our biblical faith in the living God, who made the world, loves it and entrusts it to the care of human society.
We carry out research for the conservation and restoration of the natural world and run environmental education programmes for people of all ages.
Through our commitment to God, each other and the wider creation, we aim to develop good relationships both within the A Rocha family and in our local communities.
We draw on the insights and skills of people from diverse cultures, both locally and around the world.
We work in partnership with a wide variety of organisations and individuals who share our concerns for a sustainable world.
Since its beginnings in 2001, A Rocha UK has been practically involved in nature conservation. Our first major nature conservation initiative was the transformation of a derelict and degraded plot of land in the London Borough of Hillingdon into Minet Country Park. Following on from the success of Minet, A Rocha UK is now engaged in another urban conservation initiative at a small site in Norwood Green known as ‘Wolf Fields’. Having long been abandoned to fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour, Wolf Fields is now being transformed by A Rocha UK, working in partnership with the local community, into a multi-purpose wildlife area including: a native fruit orchard, a sensory garden with local wild flowers, organic food growing allotments, bee hives, a small woodland for birds, and new paths to increase accessibility.
As more and more people live in cities, urban conservation initiatives become more and more important. We recognise, however, that many habitats and species are found largely in more rural areas. We have therefore purchased ‘Foxearth’ a 12-acre nature reserve on the Essex/Suffolk border – that we shall manage as a haven for wildlife (19 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded here) and a place of retreat, outdoor learning and research for people.
In addition to our own conservation projects, A Rocha UK also has a network of eight ‘Partners in Action’ projects across the UK. These are practical conservation projects that are locally owned and managed but for which A Rocha UK provides expertise and resources to help support and mobilise the dreams and visions of the community groups running them. Our hope and goal for our Partners in Action programme is that it will increase accessibility to green space, enhance nature biodiversity and educate people about the environment.
Environmental education is essential if conservation initiatives are to attract the necessary public support and engagement they need to succeed, and human lifestyles are to become more sustainable. To this end, we engage with local schools in the vicinity of our base in Southall offering them a range of environmental education and encounter activities – many of them based at Minet Country Park.
Since we believe that caring for God’s earth is a necessary part of Christian discipleship, engaging with Christians and churches is at the heart of our strategy. Our primary means of such engagement is Eco Church – our new, web-based award scheme designed to motive and resource churches in establishing caring for God’s earth as an integral part of their everyday work and witness.
Eco Church has been developed as the successor to Eco-Congregation for churches in England and Wales (Eco-Congregation continues to operate in Scotland and Ireland), and is run by A Rocha UK in partnership with Christian Aid, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, and Tearfund. Our vision is for the new scheme to create a vast network of churches as local centres of creation care in the community – shining beacons of hope for a brighter environmental future. This vision was endorsed by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who, speaking at the launch of Eco Church at St Paul’s Cathedral in January 2016, welcomed the new scheme as part of a ‘tectonic shift’ in Christian thinking through which environmental concerns will ‘embed more deeply’ in church culture.
So, how does Eco Church work?
At the heart of Eco Church is a unique, online survey that enables churches to both record what they are already doing to care for God’s earth, and to reflect on what further steps they can take to that end and then act accordingly.
The survey covers all areas of church life: Worship and Teaching; Management of Church Buildings and Land; Community and Global Engagement; and Lifestyle. As such, it challenges churches to act in respect of the songs they sing and of the food they serve; of the energy they use and of the ethics of their investments; of the wildlife that finds a home on their land and of the water that flushes their loos; and so on…
Accompanying the survey is a whole new suite of online resources to help churches undertake the actions recommended in each of the five areas covered by the survey. These include: sermon outlines; youth materials; guides on food co-operatives and looking after church land in wildlife-friendly ways; and a lifestyle audit, to name but a few.
The Eco Survey is freely available to all visitors to the Eco Church website; however, in order to save their responses, churches will need to register on the website. Having created an account, they can then login on subsequent occasions to update their survey responses as they undertake new actions and initiatives by way of caring for creation.
As a church completes the survey they collect points towards an Eco Church Award. There are three levels of Eco Church Award – Bronze, Silver and Gold. In order to qualify for an Award churches must attain the required standard in each of the areas covered by the Eco Survey that apply to them (we recognise that some churches do not have buildings or land). Churches can see when they have gained sufficient points in each Eco Survey category by looking at the points gauges that appear on screen with the Eco Survey questions. The gauges will change colour as their points accumulate to reflect the level of Award they have achieved.
If all the relevant gauges turn bronze, the church has achieved a Bronze Award; if they all turn silver they have achieved a Silver Award, and so on. However, if just some of the gauges turn silver while the others turn bronze, for example, the church would have achieved a Bronze Award (rather than a Silver Award) because that is the level they have achieved in all the relevant areas. In this way, the scheme encourages churches to take action to care for creation across every aspect of their life together rather than just focussing on one area at the expense of all others.
Churches apply for their Award by downloading and completing the Award Application Form from the Eco Church website. For Bronze and Silver Awards we will require confirmation from the church leader that they have seen and approved the Eco Survey responses provided on behalf of their church. Additionally, for Gold Awards we will arrange for an Eco Church Assessor to visit the church to see and hear for themselves of all that’s been going on by way caring for God’s earth across the areas covered by the Eco Survey.
Award-winning churches will receive a certificate to mark their achievement and will have the option of purchasing (at cost) an Award plaque to display on their premises fashioned, appropriately enough, from recycled church pews at an Edinburgh-based community project.
A Rocha UK is delighted to provide Eco Church completely free of charge to churches in England and Wales, but we will be very grateful for donations from participating churches to help us keep it that way!
The very first Eco Church Award – a Bronze – was presented to St Paul’s Cathedral by Rowan Williams at the launch event. They were followed, very soon afterwards, by Lyme Regis Baptist Church and then by York Minster, and then by Collier Row Methodist Church in Romford, all of whom also gained Bronze Awards. Who, though, will be next, and who will get the first Silver and Gold Awards?