Last Monday, the 8th of August 2016, was Earth Overshoot Day – the day in which humanity’s resource consumption for the calendar year has exceeded the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources this year. Earth Overshoot Day is occurring earlier each year as we increasingly use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester.
The Diocesan Environment Group (DEG) is concerned about these changes to our planet and, following on from its conference in September 2015 at Coventry Cathedral, called Reconciling a Wounded Planet (www.reconcilingawoundedplanet.com), it is working with churches to help them reduce their carbon footprint and teach their congregations about how they can protect God’s creation.
The DEG views its commitment to the environment as rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ as expressed in Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1: 15-20, where he relates the role of Christ in the creation of all things and in reconciling to himself all things "…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." The DEG highlights that, through his incarnation, Jesus shows that God is committed to his created world and to us and therefore we should be committed to his world too. Jesus not only reconciles us to God but to one another and to His world; it is significant that the first person to see the risen Jesus mistook him for the gardener. Indeed he is the new Adam and that is what He calls us to be.
The overarching initiative the DEG is supporting is the Eco Church project. Eco Church is an A Rocha UK award scheme for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s Earth. The Eco Church vison is for all churches to care for creation as an integral part of loving their neighbours and following God faithfully. In order to win a Bronze, Silver or Gold Eco Church Award, churches must complete their own online Eco Church Survey about how they are caring for God’s Earth in different areas of their life and work. The survey focuses on worship and teaching; management of church buildings; management of church land; community and global engagement and lifestyle. The answers a church provides will collect points towards an award - the more the church does, the more points it gets. Churches can indicate what they have done already, such as switching to a green energy company or using Fairtrade products, to gain points and build on these by responding to the many other suggestions for further progress towards an award. Eco Church resources are available to give support and advice about how to make the changes needed to achieve an Eco Church Award.
Eco Church was launched in the Coventry Diocese on the 23rd February 2016 at St Peter’s Church in Wellesbourne. Since then a number of churches in the diocese have signed up to the scheme and one church, St Andrew’s in Eastern Green, has won a Bronze Award. As more churches draw closer to winning awards, the DEG hopes to form a mentoring scheme where churches with Eco Church awards help those who are working towards meeting the requirements for awards.
Another focus of the DEG is supporting biodiversity in churchyards. In many urban areas the churchyard is the only green area in the community and in rural areas the churchyard can often be the only area of open land untouched by chemical fertilizers. Therefore, the variety of plant and animal life in churchyards can be great if they are managed in such a way as to celebrate the diversity of life. To cut fuel costs and create a rich haven for wildlife the DEG advises leaving certain areas of the churchyard to be cut, and grass removed, once in the summer and, if needed, once again in October. In Coventry diocese, the churchyard of St Mary’s in Oldberrow is a perfect example of old unimproved neutral grassland. An annual ‘Wildflower Weekend’ is held at the church to inform visitors of the biodiversity of the churchyard and the churchyard hay cut is often a community event. Seeds from recent hay cuts at Oldberrow have been used to create new areas of biodiverse grassland.
Going forward, the DEG wishes to expand its work with churches in the diocese. It is currently restarting the Care of Creation Champions initiative to help develop and assist our churches to inspire and encourage God’s people to engage in caring for creation. Also the DEG is keen to hear from deaneries and parishes to find out how they can assist them in becoming greener.
If you have previously signed up to be a Care of Creation Champion or would like to sign up to become one, please contact the Chairman of the DEG, Godfrey Armitage on firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the Eco-Church project and to sign your church up, visit their website - http://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/
And for more information on churchyard management visit - http://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/images/uploads/new-action-pack/english/SECTION%20A%201.pdf
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