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Eco Church Newsletter Issue 1 – April 2017

Dear Sean

Welcome to the very first edition of the Eco Church newsletter – a twice-yearly mix of stories, updates and resources relating to the scheme.

Just over a year since its launch at St Paul’s Cathedral, Eco Church now has more than 560 churches registered and 93 awards confirmed – including three Gold Awards! This constitutes a fantastic start towards our goal of engaging ten percent of all churches in England and Wales in the scheme in ten years.

In this issue, Rev Joyce Addison shares her experience of taking her church – St Martin’s, Maidstone – on the Eco Church journey; perhaps her story will inspire and encourage your own church along the way. There’s also news of a new resource providing guidance for churches that want to divest from fossil fuels – an action that earns Eco Church Award points! Churches can also secure points for managing their land to encourage native wildlife. One way to do this is to sow a wildlife-friendly flower meadow this spring, and for a limited period Eco Churches can benefit from a 10% discount on wildflower seed mixes from Meadow In My Garden – read on for more details. And don’t miss an important announcement about forthcoming changes to the online Eco Survey…

Our Eco Church Journey
Rev Joyce Addison, Priest-in-Charge, St Martin’s Church, Maidstone

When I was licensed as Priest-in-Charge in 2015, becoming an Eco Church was a key priority for me. A few weeks before this, I had attended a three-day conference on Caring for Creation which not only informed my limited understanding of environmental issues but also reminded everyone present of our biblical mandate to care for God's creation. More importantly, I came to realise that our lifestyles are having a direct impact on the climate and, consequently, the lives of those living in poorer countries. At the same time I discovered A Rocha UK and frequently visited their website for information at the time that Eco Church was beginning to take shape…

I introduced Eco Church to the leadership team and then to the PCC; it was very important to get everyone on board with this. I obtained several copies of the Eco Church leaflet to inform PCC members and the congregation. Some were sceptical... some were concerned this was about worshipping creation and not God, for example. So, the choice of vocabulary for me was crucial, as well as providing the biblical foundation and mandate to us as Christians. I personally also needed to be convicted about what we were trying to do and the importance of engaging in the debate about God's creation more intentionally. We then looked at the congregation to see who might be interested in moving this new initiative forward, and I asked one person to be the church's Eco Church Rep (Janet). It was important for me to involve a cross-section of the congregation – children as well as the elderly, and Eco Church enables all ages to work together collaboratively on projects.

We registered as an Eco Church, printed off the survey and Janet and I began to look at the requirements of the Bronze Award. We basically went through this line by line and did what we could (e.g. replaced light bulbs for energy-efficient ones, stuck ‘Please switch off the lights after use’ signs everywhere, reduced heating, used environmentally-friendly cleaning products, recycled paper), and we also looked at our gardens for the first time to see how we could have raised beds with flowers and vegetables for the wider community, and a prayer space. I became very aware of the words we used in our worship, especially the prayers and hymns/songs – did they include all of creation? Celtic worship is particularly helpful at times here.

Eco Church is great in that it is holistic care – it covers every aspect of corporate life which then brings about changes in our personal lives. Of course, this entire process meant that many in the church became involved with bringing about the necessary changes so the interest in, and growth of, Eco Church was truly organic.

To kick-start being an Eco Church, we had a sermon series on ‘Caring For God's Creation’ when we invited speakers on a variety of themes: ‘New Beginnings’ (Genesis text), ‘Creating A Prayer Space Outside’ (using all our senses), ‘Animal Care’, ‘Caring For Those In Poorer Countries’ (highlighting climate change issues), ‘Caring For The Homeless Here’ (and how they are impacted by environmental issues). We also had a display of Fairtrade products, and some bird boxes to be installed in trees around the church – the children had a part in this. A list of volunteers was then put together.

It took several weeks to work through the survey but we got it done and now have the framed certificate on the wall near our Eco Church noticeboard.

Last autumn, some of our local uniformed groups and congregation members put the raised beds into the front lawn... a local school has claimed ownership of a patch in our rear gardens, and we are planning the Prayer Space – a Celtic cross with possibly a labyrinth mowed into the grass. We have also hosted a Diocesan conference on the environment, and the 2016 Christian Aid ‘Speak Up!’ event.

A Practical Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment for Local Churches
Does your church have investments in fossil fuel companies? Ever thought about moving your money somewhere that builds the world you want to live in?

Operation Noah has produced a ‘How To’ guide, Divest Your Church, explaining how your church can divest from fossil fuels and reinvest for a brighter future, and outlining the range of positive investment options available. You can meet some of the Eco Church Award criteria in the process, and so secure some valuable Eco Church Award points!

To download your copy of the 'How To' guide, visit Operation Noah's Bright Now website

Spring into Action for Wildlife with this Special Offer!
Meadow In My Garden is a family business based in Devizes, Wiltshire, with a love of wild gardens. Their seed mixes will transform any space, creating a magnificent patchwork of colour throughout the summer. The company care about our world and want to do everything they can to help more people grow wildlife-friendly flower meadows.

To this end, Meadow In My Garden are offering Eco Churches a 10% discount across their extensive range (including special offer lines). Just select a suitable seed mix from their website, and enter code ECO10 at the online checkout. And once you’ve sown your wildflower seed mix, don’t forget to update the ‘Land’ section of your Eco Church survey to get the points due to you!

Coming Soon – Eco Survey 2.0
During the course of the first year of Eco Church, we’ve received lots of helpful suggestions from users regarding ways to develop and improve the scheme. We’ve been hard at work behind the scenes to amend the online Eco Survey in light of the feedback received, and will be ready to launch a new version of the survey to replace the current version in August. This will inevitably have implications for existing saved surveys, but we thought it was important to act on the comments received. We will keep registered churches updated in regard to the exact timing of the changeover, but for now please just note that we have listened to your feedback and that changes will follow in the summer.

Coming Soon – Come Together
We are planning to hold an Eco Church conference later in the year. This will be an opportunity for representatives from registered churches to meet together to share their experiences, to learn from each other, and to have access to expert advice and resources relating to each of the areas covered by the Eco Church survey. The conference will also be open to people from non-registered churches who want to find out more about the scheme with a view to launching it in their own churches. More details will be available on the Eco Church website in due course.

Remember – if you have any questions or comments about Eco Church, you can contact us at ecochurch@arocha.org.

Best wishes,

The Eco Church Team

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