St Andrew’s has achieved a Silver Award from Eco-Church for its achievements in becoming an environmentally friendly church and congregation.
Despite the lockdown, we can report the latest stage in our Eco-Church journey. We are developing a wild garden at the side of the church in front of the vestry. Various grasses are waving elegantly and wild flowers are starting to appear. Wild flower seeds will be planted in the winter so we look forward to a succession of blooms and bees next year. The rowan tree planted last summer is thriving.
The church started on this path many years ago, well before the Eco-Church scheme was created. Some 10 years ago Church Meeting accepted a challenge from Christian Aid to transfer its gas and electricity supplies to Ecotricity. We agreed to go on the fully ‘green’ tariff for both fuels, despite a slightly higher cost. [Ecotricity now only has fully green tariffs.] We also encouraged members of the congregation to switch to green fuel suppliers. At the same time we undertook a detailed survey of the premises and identified ways to improve the insulation of the building and find ways to use electricity more efficiently. This proved a lengthy and in some cases expensive process, as all the cavity walls were insulated, roofs were fitted with insulation during re-roofing, de-stratification fans were installed in the church, lights were converted to LEDs internally and externally and hall users were reminded to recycle their waste. Interesting schemes such as adding a green roof to the hall, putting solar panels on the church roof and using air source or ground source heat pumps were discussed and abandoned, either for lack of resources or because the technology was either unproven or we did not know how well retro-fitting would work. At times our dreams were ahead of the available technical solutions! We are grateful to Synod for grants to help with this work.
Over the past year we year we turned our attention to the garden, and realised that it already has flowers attractive to bees and insects, unused corners where bugs and hedgehogs are free to flourish and hedges where blackbirds nest. In the summer we planted a rowan tree as a demonstration of our commitment to addressing climate change. We added bird feeders and roosting nests to the existing trees. Keeping the bird feeders topped up for the hungry birds of Newbold seems to be a full time job!
In worship services, the newsletter and on the website, we have focused on environmental issues, climate change and Christian responsibility to care for the natural world. We are keeping track of the church’s carbon footprint and encourage our members to do the same for their own homes and life style. We support Christian Aid, directly and through Commitment for Life, and Water Aid to help communities around the world respond to the impact of climate change in their own countries, We have asked our members to challenge governments on their policies on environmental issues. One of our young members took part in the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in London and reported excitedly on meeting and talking with the young Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg. We changed to purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning materials in bulk, and the company supplying our new photocopier, discovering Eco-Church in conversation with us, was keen to demonstrate its carbon-neutral manufacture and highly efficient electricity use.
We have made a lot of changes and raised awareness, in our own congregation, with our neighbours and even our suppliers. But we know how difficult it will be both to maintain the high standard we have set ourselves and to move forward into new areas. For example with Wifi now installed in the premises can we consider holding more ‘virtual meetings’ to reduce the car journeys taken by our scattered eldership? Can we encourage other churches in the pastorate to take the Eco-Church challenge? Can we encourage our children and young people to come up with ideas on addressing climate change for the church to take up? Do we look again at solar panels or air source heat pumps?
As our environmental concerns inform our worship and our church life, we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us along this green pathway.