Caring for Creation
Ecochurch and Hollywood
It is not nominated for an Oscar, but "Before the Flood", the documentary written and presented by Leonardo di Caprio, is a compelling film, highlighting the visible and devastating effects of climate change, now occurring regularly around the world. It provides powerful arguments for the urgent need to change our levels of consumption of the Earth 's resources, developing clean renewable energy systems, and protect habitats such as tropical rainforests and coral reefs.
At Michaelhouse in Central Cambridge on 23rd January, the Great Saint Mary 's Environment Group hosted an evening showing excerpts from the film, followed by a talk called "Our Ecochurch Journey" given by members of St Paul 's Hills Rd, Ecochurch Committee. Around 25 people from 9 different churches attended. The St Paul's group described how, as a church they had decided to take on the challenge of working for a Bronze Ecochurch award. It wasn 't really about achieving the award, they said, but gave them a goal and some signposts.
The Ecochurch survey and supporting resources (all free and online) are designed to equip your church to express care for God 's world in your worship and teaching; in how you look after your buildings and land; in how you engage with your local community and in global campaigns, and in the personal lifestyles of your congregation. See www.ecochurch.arocha.org.uk How often does a local ecologist come to church to talk about wildlife? Have you considered toilet twinning? These are some typical questions raised by Ecochurch.
The St Paul 's team stressed the importance of enlisting the vicar 's support, and raising awareness in the church. At St Paul 's, at the start, the congregation were each given a seed to sow: a simple act of nurture, noticing and wonder. If you would like to join the Ely Diocese Environmental Newsletter and find out about similar talks and events, please email Ely Diocese Environment Co-ordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Floods, Droughts and Sausages!
Barbeque and Talks at Karma Farm on Oct 8th, 2016 As part of Christian Aid's 'Speak Up' on Climate Change campaign, an Autumn Barbecue with delicious soup, sausages and cake, was run by St Andrew's Church, Isleham. This was to raise awareness of the effects of climate change, both close to home in the Fens and further afield. About 60 people turned up to enjoy the meal, take a walk along the Wash and listen to two short talks.
Nigel Cooper outlined some local effects of climate change that are already taking place, the most serious being peat loss and subsequent loss of soil fertility. If this continues, in future, the fenland soil might not be suitable to grow crops like potatoes. Local naturalist, Alastair Burn, spoke about the importance of valuing the local landscape such as the Isleham Wash, and managing the habitat carefully, to encourage birds to be able to overwinter and breed here. Birds spotted on a walk around Isleham Fen included widgeon, teal, snipe and egret.
The egret is an example of a native Spanish bird now seen regularly in the Fens because of generally warmer winters. Members from the church are going to talk to local MP, Lucy Frazer to enlist her support in telling the government that we want powerful laws to combat climate change and protect places we love.
The Big Church Switch, led by Tearfund and Christian Aid, calls on churches and individual Christians of all denominations to switch their energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
By doing it collectively, the Church will have significant buying power and can secure some competitive renewable tariffs.
The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, endorsed the 'Big Church Switch ', saying, "If Lent is about renewing our lives in response to the love of God here is a way to follow. You can do it, and so will I."
The campaign is supported by Parish Buying, the Church of England 's procurement arm. You can find out more here:
St Paul's Church, Hills Road, Cambridge, becomes an Eco-Church and wins a Bronze Award!
Eco-church (formerly Eco-congregation) is an award scheme for churches who are seeking to improve their care for God 's creation in a holistic way.
It requires three key areas of church life to be addressed: theology, mission and everyday practice.
St. Paul 's on Hills Road in Cambridge began the journey towards earning the award in January 2015. Their goal is to earn their first Eco-church plaque by covering the various criteria over 18 months (Jan 2015 - June 2016).
One keen church member started by downloading the comprehensive 'church audit ' toolkit from the Eco-church website. This included questions about worship, theology, children 's work, international mission, building and estate, hospitality practices and more.
With the help of the vicar, Michael, she invited interested members of the congregation to form a committee of about six people to help do the audit and enact some further environmentally-friendly steps. It was encouraging to see that some good actions had already been taken by the church such as teaching on the fifth mark of mission (caring for creation), hosting a talk about sustainable living by a local charity, and installing solar panels. When eco-church was launched formally at a Sunday morning service, care was taken to celebrate and affirm all that the church had been doing.
Next the committee made a plan to help the church engage with three different themes throughout 2015: 'Growing ', 'Waste ' and 'Food '. They registered with the national Eco-congregation awarding body, part of A Rocha UK, and got to work! http://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
Each theme incorporated verbal introduction in the Sunday service, a factsheet being handed out (with relevant data, local advice, and Bible verses/spiritual reflection on the topic), an interview with a member of the congregation who had made a lifestyle choice regarding that topic, notices in the weekly church newsletter and practical application at church (for example, new recycling and food waste bins installed).
Activities to engage the congregation have been incorporated into relevant morning services, with group discussions, personal and family challenges, and space for group and individual reflection. Songs reflecting on the natural world have been deliberately chosen for appropriate services, and eco-theologians such as Elaine Storkey, Michael Northcott and Richard Bauckham have been invited to speak.
A church vegetable and flower garden was planted and a field trip also took place for the waste theme, where eight congregation members and the vicar visited a local recycling facility and enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour. The food theme recently resulted in the production of a vegetarian cookbook with recipes provided by members of the congregation.
The success of the project stemmed from an interested and engaged congregation who already believed in holistic mission. A hard-working and enthusiastic committee with regular monthly meetings, strong backing of the award-scheme by the vicar and above all, God 's blessing have all shaped it's success. It has helped that the emphasis has been on making it a fun, hopeful and positive approach, that celebrates 'togetherness ' and mutual learning within the church community.
2016 promises to be an exciting year, with three new themes lined up to tackle!