A Christian environmental charity is celebrating more than 5,000 churches in England and Wales making a commitment to tackle climate change.
A Rocha UK says 5,152 churches of various denominations have signed up to their Eco Church award scheme.
Churches who take part consider how the environment is addressed within worship and teaching, buildings, land, community and global engagement, and lifestyle. And 36 per cent of those churches have achieved a bronze, silver or gold award.
Helen Stephens, A Rocha UK’s church relations manager, told Premier: “It's hugely encouraging, that it's now in the seventh year of the scheme, and we have over 5000 churches that have signed up, which means they're committed to taking action, on caring for creation.
“There's a couple of thousand churches now that have been have gone on to get awards for the action that they're taking. And when we look at all that's happening around us, we've got really extreme temperatures in the UK at the moment and across other parts of Europe, it's so clear that climate change is happening, that it's human induced, and it needs all of us to respond.
“And there's a role for all of us to play across every sector of society. But as Christians, in our churches in particular, I think we have that additional motivation that God loves and cares for all of creation, much of which is now under threat. I think 5000 registrations is an encouragement that churches are taking this seriously, and are committed to taking action at every level.
A prime example is St Paul’s Marylebone, the second church in the Anglican Diocese of London to receive a gold award. They are increasing biodiversity in their outdoor space, have created a water area for birds and other wildlife, and collect rainwater. St Paul’s eco-team work closely with children from the local Christ Church Bentinck Church of England Primary School who helped plant a tree as part of the gold award celebration
In Leicestershire, Oadby Baptist Church achieved their bronze award in March. Their aim is to draw the community into the church space. Vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown in a community garden behind the church and the wildflower garden, bird boxes and insect hotels all help to attract insects and birds. Last year the church led a Climate Sunday service and more recently young people ran a service where they shared their concerns about the environment.
Meanwhile, Beulah United Reformed Church in Cardiff is the first church in Wales to divest from fossil fuels. Their Canolfan garden gained a Green Flag Award in 2020 and children from the church grow vegetables and herbs. This silver-awarded church also engages its MPs and Assembly Members in its services and events. They are measuring their carbon footprints and will be encouraging members to switch to green energy suppliers.
Stephens added: “We can all do something. Eco Church is for all church communities, from small rural parishes to those on urban estates, regardless of where or how they meet and whether or not they own land. An important step and something very achievable for any church is gaining their bronze Eco Church award. The bronze award milestone greatly encourages a congregation and demonstrates what’s possible, inspiring them to take further, deeper action, and providing a good basis for making links with the wider community.’
Now that Eco Church has reached the milestone of over 5,000 registered churches, A Rocha UK’s goal is to reach 10,000 churches in England and Wales in the next 5 years.