Silver eco award for Worcestershire church
Fernhill Heath has become the first Baptist church in England and Wales to win a Silver Eco Church Award. By Kira Taylor
Fernhill Heath Baptist Church registered with the award’s predecessor, ‘Eco-congregation’, in 2013 before signing up to the newly created Eco Church scheme. Introduced earlier this year by A Rocha UK, the scheme measures five different areas – worship and teaching, buildings, land, community and global and lifestyle. It has three overall categories: Bronze, Silver and Gold.
‘When we heard about Eco Church, we thought that, with everything we had done, we should try for a Bronze Award,’ said the Revd Jeff Porter, minister of the church, originally a daughter chapel of Worcester Baptist Church. ‘We never dreamt that we would get Silver!’
Fernhill’s eco-journey begin in 2010. Inspired by a Bible study on Creation, the church set up the Creation Care Group to develop some ideas as to how it could become more eco-friendly. A team of six volunteers was formed and first met in November 2010, taking Psalm 24:1 as a guide.
Calling itself The Green Team, the group decided to take a gradual, “inclusive” approach to becoming eco-friendlier. It applied for Fairtrade Church membership, added recycling bins in the kitchen and fitted ‘hippos’ in the toilets to help save water. It raised £300 to twin the toilets in the church and manse, partly fundraising through a social evening including a toilet roll bowling competition.
The church chooses a theme each year, including ‘Butterflies and Bees’, where people were encouraged to develop insect friendly patches in their gardens - many of which have continued to this day. This year’s theme is reducing food waste.
During the year, the church holds lots of events, including a sunflower-growing competition and making Christmas decorations from recycled materials. Some of the events are educational, including a talk by the District Council recycling officer and a visit to a recycling centre.
‘We have a duty to care for, and not waste, the resources that the Lord has given us,’ said Martin Harris, the Moderator of the Creation Care Group. ‘And also, to look to the wider world, seeking to address the third world problems, where trade injustice and now climate change pose real and increasing concerns.
‘The first principle we adopted was that we would not ‘preach Green-ness’. It was important to bring the church with us on a journey.
‘The second principle was that although Creation Care is a serious subject, we don’t always have to treat it too seriously.’
The self-assessment process of Eco Church helped the church tackle each area. For example it has started replacing its lighting with L.E.D. units to save energy. The wide-ranging Personal Lifestyle section identified strengths and weaknesses: the church is strong on recycling and re-using and in its commitment to Fairtrade; however, it has not yet tackled areas such as ethical investing, and off-setting its carbon footprint
‘The problem is not commitment, it is resources,’ said Martin. ‘If we had the money we could invest in solar panels, or consider a ground source heat pump. So we have adopted a policy of being as energy-efficient as we can, consistent with what we can afford.
‘All-in-all we have been much encouraged by the support of the church fellowship, and look forward to working with them in our on-going efforts.’
The support of the church and prayer have been key. ‘We have had the complete support of our Minister… from day one,’ said Martin. ‘He has encouraged us to have Creation Care ‘slots’ in our services from time to time – the last being for COP 21 Climate Change in Paris, and subsequent developments.’
He added, ‘Bring together a group of like-minded members of your fellowship who can start to drive the project forward,’ said Martin.
‘The absolute pre-requisite is getting the buy-in from your Minister, Deacons, and wider fellowship.
'With that, and some real enthusiasm, it can be very enjoyable and rewarding.’
Eco Church was introduced earlier this year by A Rocha UK. It is open to all churches in England and Wales. To find out how green your church is take the initial Eco Church survey.
To mark the first birthday of the Eco Church award scheme, churches across England and Wales are being invited to hold a ‘Green Communion’ as part of their worship services on Sunday 5 February, 2017.
Churches are asked to use a green communion cloth or frontal on the communion table/altar. A Green Communion Liturgy has also been prepared.
For full details visit: http://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/introducing-green-communion/