‘God has created us to look after all that He has made.’
This quotation from the book of Genesis encapsulates the philosophy behind Eco Church, a national initiative adopted in 2019 by Alton’s Parish of the Resurrection (POTR). To quote a spokesperson: ‘As Christians, we believe we have a God-given duty to care for Creation.’
Covering five key areas of church life, Eco Church encourages congregations across all denominations to engage in learning about and implementing actions to care for God’s earth, and the Parish of the Resurrection churches (Alton’s St Lawrence and All Saints, the Church of the Holy Rood and St Peter’s in Beech) have embraced this wholeheartedly.
Their first step was to examine what they had already done and then look at possible next steps. In the ‘Worship and Teaching’ section, for example, they noted that they were holding prayer stations during COPs and holding an annual Creation Care service. The next stage includes introducing a series of talks on carbon literacy and social justice.
In the ‘Management of Church Buildings’ section, they had already switched to green energy suppliers, installed LED lighting, and turned down their thermostats, with the replacement of a boiler in Holy Rood high on the agenda for the future.
Under ‘Management of Church Land’ they had installed a water butt in the Holy Rood churchyard, cooperated with ACAN, AVLAN, and others to build a wildflower garden at All Saints, conducted biodiversity surveys in St Lawrence and Holy Rood, and started to green St Lawrence churchyard by planting bulbs and establishing a wildflower bed. They now plan to follow the advice of the Alton Natural History Society to improve biodiversity, by planting more wildflower gardens and installing bird boxes and bat boxes.
The ‘Community and Global engagement’ section saw them holding a stall at ACAN’s COP26 vigil in the Market Square, participating in our two Eco Fairs, and hosting our ‘Listen to the Children’ exhibition. At Christmas 2022 they held a Greener Christmas event, examining ways of making Christmas more environmentally friendly. To avoid waste, as well as to help people’s pockets, they host and help at ACAN’s Community Share scheme at which children’s toys and games can be borrowed at no cost, they have held craft swaps and toy bonanzas and plan to hold more of these. In addition, they have contributed donations from their events to various local, national and international charities. Cooperation with other local churches under GAP (the Greater Alton Project) also takes place.
Eco Church’s cooperation with ACAN groups continues under their ‘Lifestyle’ heading. A ‘travel to church’ survey established individual parishioners’ carbon footprints and encourages people to walk or cycle to church where it is practical to do so. After consulting Cycle Alton, they installed cycle racks at three of their churches. Other ACAN groups have benefited from their participation too: Repair Café, Litter Picks, and Energy Alton, to name just a few, have all welcomed Eco Church members.
At the hub of Eco Church is a small, dedicated group of enthusiasts who take on the responsibility of organizing and promoting events and initiatives. They have been gratified by the positive response from the rest of the congregation; environmental awareness has been raised and many others have become involved in the various activities. ‘Every little helps’ is their attitude, and they are pleased to see that so many other parishioners join in as far as available time or resources allow.
The Eco Church structure includes receiving awards at certain stages of the program’s completion. In May 2020 POTR Eco Church received the Bronze Award and hopes to achieve silver in the next few months. They acknowledge the recognition that the awards bring and celebrate the way they raise awareness, both of their work and of the wider issues around environmental damage and the climate crisis. But much more important to them is that caring for God’s Creation should be embedded in their daily lives.
They quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said: ‘Do your little bit where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’