St Peter’s Church in Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, near Ruthin, has become the first church from Wales to achieve a covetd "Gold" Eco-Church award. The status is given for good environmental practice by churches addressing the climate and biodiversity crises, and reflects St Peter’s church’s commitment to walk in step with nature and put creation care at the heart of what they do.
To help reach the top level, St Peter’s transformed its churchyard into a welcoming green space to support wildlife and biodiversity, encouraging native wildlife by providing bird boxes, a bug hotel, sowing wildflower seeds as well as a labyrinth area with a seat and space for quiet contemplation.
During Covid, the young people at the church began meeting around the fire pit, on seats recycled from wooden pallets. Fallen trees have been crafted into two altar tables which are used for outside services. One of the vicars Father Huw Bryant, happens to be a former forester and was more than happy to blow the cobwebs off the chainsaw in his shed.
“Getting the Gold award has been a real journey that began with opening up our churchyard, getting the local community and school involved in planting bulbs and wild flowers and creating new spaces as a sanctuary for both wildlife and people." Rev Bryant said. "But it developed into so much more than that, from making sure our energy supplies are from renewable green sources to finding environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.”
The church measured their own carbon footprint using a simple online tool, and they encourage members of the community to live out their faith by reducing their own consumption and doing little things to benefit the environment - from car-sharing to taking part in no-mow-May.
Delyth Higgins, Eco Church Officer for Wales congratulated the church on their achievement: “Everything about their approach sets them out as an exemplar of what it means to be a gold awarded church. They are an important part of a close rural community in north east Wales where what they do rubs off on others around them and there is great team working evident here." She added that another positive impact of the church's efforts, was increasing attendance: "It is encouraging to hear that they have been blessed with growing numbers and much of this is down to their practical activity outside - caring for creation and providing lovely spaces for people to meet and contemplate.”
The Eco Church ‘medals’ is a project run by the Christian climate charity, A Rocha UK, whose main mission is to equip UK Christians and Churches to care for the environment. The free scheme has been going for eight years. There are now over 6,400 Eco Churches in England and Wales - more than 10% of churches. A Rocha UK hopes to raise engagement to at least 25% of churches, via the ecumenical scheme, over the next 2 years.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron said: “The Environmental Crisis is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces, and it is becoming increasingly urgent. It is so good to hear of a congregation and their clergy making a success of hard work to ensure that the care of the environment is a central part of their mission, and I congratulate all involved on this significant achievement."
The Eco Church initiative has awards at three levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and considers how the environment is addressed within worship and teaching, buildings and land, community and global engagement, and lifestyle.