St Paul's Goes Green for Eco Church
by St Pauls Institute
Posted: 27 Jan 2016
Over 300 people filled St Faith's Chapel in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral to celebrate the launch of Eco Church - an award scheme for churches who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God's earth. Following a number of inspiring and action-focused speeches, including a keynote from the Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, the evening also saw St Paul's receive the very first Eco Church award.
Eco Church aims to equip congregations in England and Wales to care for creation by helping churches integrate environmental care throughout their church life, through worship and teaching; the management of buildings and land; community and global engagement; and through the personal lifestyle of church members. All of this work counts towards a prestigious Bronze, Silver or Gold Eco Church Award.
The Revd Canon Philippa Boardman MBE, Treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral, opened the evening with gratitude, stating that "the team behind Eco Church should be commended and celebrated for providing a clear and yet challenging path forward." Adding that, "this is an initiative that gives clear guidance on where to improve and how to live up to our responsibilities for stewardship as Christians in our world today."
Dr Ruth Valerio, Churches and Theology Director at A Rocha UK, reminded us that "when Eco Congregation was launched 15 or 16 years ago, it was actually launched here at St Paul's with Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London...bringing it full circle, here we are again to launch Eco Congregation's successor." Heartened by the attendance at the launch, she expressed that the "vision is very simply that we want to be a part of seeing the culture of the Church change...so that it is as common place for a church to be engaged in caring for God's earth as it is for the church to be engaged in community action, social outreach and so on."
The Revd Nigel Hopper, Churches and Resources Manager at A Rocha UK, laid out the details of the scheme, explaining that "at the heart of Eco Church lies a unique online survey that enables churches both to 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 so act accordingly." Martin Pett from Trinity Church in Southover Lewes gave some comprehensive examples of how a church can overhaul many different aspects of their daily life, sharing experiences with the previous Eco Congregation scheme and how they are now aiming to achieving a Gold award through Eco Church.
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams spoke of our responsibility to care for and steward creation. "The great danger" he stated, "is to start by assuring it's all too big for us. A problem is as big as the number of people who take it seriously." He explored the societal "expectations [towards faith communities] resting on that assumption that we still have some role in helping to create, and keep going, a moral consensus." Adding that, "if we're going to talk about it, we need to do something about it. By doing something about it, we show that something can be done. By showing that something can be done, we begin to shift the moral consensus that little bit further towards a viable, a just, and a sustainable future."
Speaking of Julian of Norwich's vision of creation as a small, fragile nut in the palm of God's hand, he asserted that "some things are just good to do - because that is how God wants us to live and wants us to tread." Caring for the environment and respecting our 'neighbours in creation' is one clear example of how we should embody our relationship with an ever faithful God.
St Paul's Cathedral was awarded a Bronze award for its environmental achievements across all areas of activity and daily life. Canon Philippa collected the award on behalf of the cathedral, with an accompanying challenge that we aim towards achieving a Silver award - setting York Minster and St Paul's in healthy competition with one another as to who might get there first!
The evening was closed with prayer led by Christian Aid and Tearfund and finished with a reception that included organisation stalls signposting those attending to initiatives they can bring to their church to help the process of becoming an Eco Church. Bathed in green light, the buzz around this new project was tangible as people discussed in detail the next steps that could be taken in their local communities.For those interested in learning more, and to start your journey, all you have to do is register with Eco Church at ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.