Photo by Edward Jackson, Save Our Suffolk Swifts. All Saints' Church, Worlington, is an Eco Church and now has a significant colony of swifts which has grown significantly since nesting boxes were installed in the belfry in 2009.
Why should a church become an ‘Eco Church’?
"Reducing the causes of climate change is essential to the life of faith. It is a way to love our neighbour and to steward the gift of creation." Archbishop Justin Welby
The environment is God’s gift to everyone. And we have a responsibility towards each other to protect it. We cannot think of ourselves as isolated from others or from creation. One of the ways that local churches can care for creation is to get involved with A Rocha UK's Eco Church Scheme.
The scheme’s definition of an Eco Church is one which has committed to caring for the earth (God’s creation) and is seeking to express this through:
- Their worship and teaching
- The way they look after and use their buildings and land
- Engaging with global and community environmental issues and campaigns
- Encouraging church members and others to do likewise
Getting the church involved in environmental projects can be a great way to invite new people into your church community. Ideas such as organising a wildlife area in your churchyard and asking a local school to help plant it, having a youth eco group, or organising a village litter pick could enable you to build relationships with different groups of people in your communities.
"We are delighted to announce that 50 churches have achieved the bronze Eco Church award from A Rocha. We are even more delighted that another 19 churches have secured their silver award. Thank you to everyone for their work in achieving these awards. In total another 80 churches have registered and are starting their journey to becoming an A Rocha Eco Church." Mike Turton, Diocesan Environment Group
How to become an Eco Church?
The scheme is an award scheme designed to motivate and resource churches in establishing caring for God’s earth as an integral part of their everyday work and witness. It aims 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.
The scheme is based on an 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.
By completing the Eco Survey, you will gauge what your church is already doing to care for God’s creation and it will help you to decide on your next steps. The actions you take count towards an Eco Church Award at Bronze, Silver or Gold level.
The website also has lots of resources to help you on your journey. Signing up to the Eco Church scheme is easy - simply register yourself and your church on the website and tis will give you access to the free online survey and supporting resources.
Eco Church | Weblink
Deanery Environment Champions
If you need help do get in touch with our Deanery Environment Champions who are willing to work with parishes to help them as they focus on the environment. They can share ideas, offer support and are able to signpost you to the right help when you need it.
Nicola Tindall | Hadleigh
Mike Turton | Hartismere and Hoxne
Rob Collett | Ipswich
The Revd Karen Burton and Jasmine Hobbs | Ixworth
Richard Stainer | Lavenham
Sara Meritt | Sudbury
Jackie Orbell and Anita Rooney | Thingoe
The Revd Alison Alder | Waveney and Blyth
Rita James and Ben Wale | Woodbridge
If you would like to become a champion for your deanery please do get in contact with Mark Haworth, the Diocesan Environment Officer.
How do I get started?
- Look at the Eco Church website to find out what’s involved
- Talk to your church leader and churchwardens - it is essential for them to be on board
- Get formal commitment from church leaders and PCC that creation care is part of the church’s ministry and that they are happy to join the Eco Church scheme
- Ask the PCC to nominate a lead person who can head up this ministry
- The lead person should then find others to help them - more ideas will come if more people are involved
- Register the team and the church on the Eco Church website
- Carry out a baseline survey to find out what’s already going on, where improvements are needed and what can be done.
- Produce an action plan
- Report back to the PCC on the survey and action plan
- Carry out actions, update the survey and see what progress you have made
- Repeat the last two steps………
Remember that you do not need to limit yourselves to the actions suggested in the survey. Anything that you can do to care for creation is worth doing.
Stories and ideas
The Revd Diane Ekins is overseeing an eco-revolution at All Saints’ Church in Mendham. The church has a vision to achieve Gold Eco Church status from the 'A Rocha' charity scheme, after achieving bronze before the initial coronavirus lockdown. In 2020 an exhibition was hosted at the church prior to it being awarded bronze status, as part of Diane’s ministerial training. It taught local people the benefits of recycling and shopping from local or Fairtrade farmers. The churchyard has since become a haven for residents and visitors alike to walk in and watch the birds, with plans in place to install new swift boxes. Local primary school children also helped create a bug and hedgehog hotel on the church grounds, as well as putting up bird feeders. The church has also subseqently switched to eco-friendly electricity tariffs. Read more here.
Barrow Benefice have had a visit from local schoolchildren where they learnt about the environment. The Revd Lynda, Priest in charge of the Barrow Benefice, also visited Barrow Church of England Primary School to speak to the children about Suffolk’s swifts and to deliver nesting boxes they hope will become new homes to the magnificent birds. Read more here.
- Bradfield St George linked up with The Hive for a bug hunt in the churchyard as part of Churches Count on Nature week.
- A number of churchyards like Benhall, Cratfield, Laxfield and Brundish manage their churchyards to encourage wild flowers and wildlife.
- St. Peter’s Brandon have planted wild flowers around the church hall and the churchyard. They have also mown their church meadow and made hay.
- Bacton have planted 10 apple trees around the benefice.
There are a number of stories on the Eco Church website and there are several churches in the Diocese with Eco Church news on their websites please visit:
- St Andrew’s Freckenham | Weblink
- Barrow benefice | Weblink
- St Edmundsbury Cathedral | Weblink
- Holy Trinity Sutton Coldfield | Weblink
- St Mary’s Embsay with Eastby | Weblink
We would love to have some stories from churches in the Diocese to share here.
If you would like to share your story (and photos), please email the Diocesan Environment Officer, The Revd Canon Mark Haworth.
Watch the videos below from the Dioceses of Winchester and Birmingham to find out more about being an Eco Church and to be inspired with ideas!
The Eco Church website has lots of resources to help churches on their Eco Church journey.
The Church of England website also has information, resources, and webinars to support churches in becoming an Eco Church.
Please do email The Revd Canon Mark Haworth, the Diocesan Environment Officer for more information or to let him know if your church is registered as an Eco Church.