Earthing Faith Gathering – 1st May 2014

Gathering

Developing an eco-friendly parish: a resource evening for churches in Reading and Berkshire

In 2014 Earthing Faith gatherings will bring people together to showcase resources to help churches explore environment related issues in a parish, with a particular focus on resources for worship.

The Reading gathering took place on Thursday 1st May at St Nicolas Church, Earley and included the following:

  • The Bishop of Reading, introduced the evening by reminding us we cannot carry on as usual, that we need generous imaginations to recover who we are and are called to be, which is priests of creation, and that that brings a huge responsibility. Bishop Andrew talked about the need for a popularised green theology, and encouraged us that we can all do something, not matter how small.
  •  Rev Graeme Fancourt of St Luke with Bartholomew church in Reading introduced their new food-based project that is just getting off the ground. The aim is bring a wholistic approach to evangelism, social action and the environment by creating spaces for heart, mind and soul to mix and sit together, adn has grown out of their involvement in donating to local food banks. They hope to start a pop-up restaurant in their church hall, using food that has been grown in what will be an allotment garden at the back of the church. Everyone will eat together and the money raised will be used to help people to fill their pantry at home.
  • Emma Major, Licensed Lay Minister (LLM) at St Nicolas Church, Earley, introduced Oakwood Forest Church, which met for the first time in November 2013. Sprouting from a visit to the New Forest Forest Church and conversations with friends from other churches in Earley. We are the sort of people who go for walks in the woods when we are trying to find some quiet time with God and so the idea of combining Church with nature was very appealing, especially in our very urban location. The great thing about starting a Forest Church is that there are no costs and no buildings to worry about. One quick conversation with the ranger of our nature reserve and another with our church insurers was all we needed to meet for the first time with everyones blessing.

What is Oakwood Forest Church? 
Oakwood Forest Church is:

  • A fresh expression of church
  • Non-denominational
  • Open to everyone
  • Christ Centered
  • Part of a national network of Forest Churches.

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  • Wendy Neale from St Nicolas Church, Earley, talked about the work of the Justice, Peace and the Environment Group (JPEG) which meets regularly to look at social justice and environmental issues on behalf of the whole church. Activities have included:
    • growing food with children;
    • campaigning around the IF campaign;
    • switching the church to green energy;
    • having received a bequest for building work at the church, they will be embarking on improvements to the building that will be as green and energy efficient as possible;
    • the church has strong links with Jubilee Centre in Zambia, and this relationship has been very important to how the congregation links globally, with members of the congregation visiting the centre and it’s work once a year.

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  • Mairi Johnstone, CEO of A Rocha UK, shared about the aims and objectives of A Rocha and the many resources that they have available – including the new At Your Service section of their website which includes many worship resources from Dave Bookless and others. Mairi also explained that the Eco-Congregation Award scheme is being re-launched later in 2014, and mentioned that A Rocha will also be launching a new project around land and re-connecting people to land near you.

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  • Maranda St John Nicolle, from CCOW and the Diocesan World Development Advisor, shared about how can we campaign on climate issues, and introduced us to a number of different opportunities, including:
  • encouraging parties to deal responsibly with climate issues in their election manifesto policies (Hope for the Future: http://www.hftf.org.uk/ )
  • sharing the reasons why we want to do something about climate change on the “For the Love of …” website: http://fortheloveof.org.uk/
  • encouraging pension providers “to embed climate-awareness into their investment decisions, into dialogue with companies and into policy advocacy”  (Share Action: http://www.shareaction.org.uk/greenlightcampaign)
  • encouraging investors – personal or corporate (including churches, dioceses and the Church of England) – to divest from fossil fuels (Operation Noah’s Bright Now: http://brightnow.org.uk/, Bracknell deanery campaign: http://bit.ly/R2JZZK)
  • joining in fasting and prayer with people from around the world on the 1st of each month (materials available from Christian Aid: http://bit.ly/S9YD2y and from Tearfund: http://bit.ly/S9YD2y)
  • sharing in new advocacy campaigns with specific asks that will be coming out from CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund in the coming year
  • engaging in lifestyle campaigns through organisations like the Breathe network, Shrinking the Footprint … and Earthing Faith!

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  • Matt Freer, Diocesan Environment Officer, shared briefly about a number of diocesan resources to help churches ‘green’ their buildings and use their churchyards.

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  • The evening closed with worship led by Susie Stead and Rev Tim Steaddownload as pdf.

Missed this gathering? There will also be a similar gathering on Thursday 9th October 2014 with the Bishop of Buckingham in Aylesbury.

Shared World Environmental Initiative – Slough

Burnham and Slough Deanery Climate Concern group are working with the Slough Faith Partnership on the Shared World Environmental Initiative. The project is encouraging local action on the environment across faith communities. Called Shared World, it aims to bring people together in a shared space as a focus in making decisions towards a practical and local expression of our responsibility towards our shared environment. The following events are planned:

  • First public evening of the ‘Shared World’ initiative at 6pm on Saturday 10 November 2012 at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Stoke Road, Slough, SL1 5AS
  • 2nd Shared World Forum on Friday 23rd November at 7pm at The Centre Farnham Road

For further details contact Bob Saunders LLM using the form below:

Greening Thatcham and the West Berkshire Green Exchange

At the 2nd February Earthing Faith network gathering we heard from Richard Foster and his involvement in Greening Thatcham and the West Berkshire Green Exchange.

Richard shared how he had been convinced of the reality of climate change through a talk he had heard through his church and as a result helped setup Thatcham Good Life, which is a group of people living in or around Thatcham in West Berkshire who are concerned about the warming of the planet due to CO2 emissions. Together they carry out three areas of activity:
  • Outreach – helping people to become aware of the problem 
  • Lifestyle Change – looking at how lifestyles might have to change to meet a 80% reduction in CO2 emission levels
  • Communication and Campaigning –  including lobbying politicians at local, national and European levels and supporting national organisations, especially charities, with similar objectives.

Richard and the Thatcham Good Life group then went onto help Thatcham adopt the Greening Campaign, and setup Greening Thatcham. They chose 8 simple activities that people could carry out in their homes to conserve energy and natural resources, and then delivered a card to every household in Thatcham with these “challenges”. Each household was asked to display the card in the window of their home when they had completed, or were doing, 5 of the 8 challenges. Cards displayed were then counted.  The total result was 217 cards counted which translated to CO2 savings of 145,07 kg, water saving of 221,751 litres and a financial saving of £26,928.

Another benefit of this work has been the local council helping to start the West Berkshire Green Exchange, which meets quarterly to allow West Berkshire’s green and sustainability groups to network and share information. It has been a rgeat forum to come together, hear a speaker and share ideas, and has helped provide a unified communication channel to the council.

Help a trail-blazing school go solar this Christmas!

Amy Cameron from the carbon cutting organisation 10:10 shares in this post how some schools in the Diocese of Oxford are trail-blazing a funding model that may be one of few ways community buildings can install solar in the future, and how you can help!

10:10, the carbon cutting organisation, began in 2009 with the aim of helping businesses, organisations and individuals reduce their emissions by 10% in a single year. Our plan was to inspire and motivate people towards a change that was fast, achievable and meaningful. Since we launched, over 125,000 individuals have pledged to cut their carbon in over 42 countries, alongside 6000 businesses, 3000 organisations and over 2500 schools, universities and colleges.

The results of our sign-ups to date have been impressive, with everyone from Tottenham Hotspurs cutting 14% to the British Embassy in Beijing cutting 48%, but we’re always looking for new ways to get people acting on climate change. That’s why, this September, we launched Solar Schools, a groundbreaking project to save energy, help schools, build communities and, most importantly, enable thousands of people to engage positively with renewable energy.

The idea, in a nutshell, is to help schools across the country generate their own solar energy by raising the cost of panels from the local community. Each school gets its own webpage, populated with empty solar panels. Family, neighbours, friends, local businesses and ex-pupils sponsor segments of panel by buying vouchers or donating online. The whole scheme lives and breathes community interaction, with pictures and messages of support left by donors.

Recently, it’s been difficult to avoid stories about chaos in the solar industry.  With the government making rapid cuts to Feed-in Tariffs, many projects have been left in the lurch. However, while we wait for a clear pathway to a sustainable future for the UK, the eight schools in the Solar Schools pilot continue to trail-blaze a model that may be one of few ways community buildings can install solar in the future.

The schools involved are based around the country – a hub of five in Reading, one in Cambridge, one in Norwich and one on the sunny Scilly Isles. They are working flat out to reach their targets and they would love your support! If you’d be interested in donating then please do head to www.solarschools.org.uk. You can also send friends and family a tile as a gift, ready to open on a specified date – a nice way to cut down on your Christmas card recycling this year! Plus, if any of the schools involved are in your area, they would love some hands-on support – they have lots of Solar Schools voucher booklets to sell and events to organise, and they need as many people to know about the project as possible – email hello@solarschools.org.uk  to find how you could get involved.

These schools are trying something new to become cleaner, greener places for children to learn, they would love your help to do it!

Amy Cameron is the Solar Schools co-ordinator at 10:10.

All Saints Carbon Reduction Project – case study

Tamzin Evershed shares the story behind All Saints Carbon Reduction project and their bid to gain funding from the energyshare website. From an original project looking at the church building they have developed a project to install Solar Panels on their community centre and fund the work that goes on there.

When we launched the All Saints Carbon Reduction project, we probably didn’t really think too much about what we’d let ourselves in for.  A long-standing eco-congregation,  in Wokingham, the eco-congregation team  had already done lots of great things to get our congregation more interested in green issues.  We’re blessed with a clergy team that doesn’t apologise for giving its congregation a proverbial kick up the backside about environmental issues,  and as an eco-congregation group in general we preach to the converted.  So, in 2010 the eco-congregation team decided to do something more challenging and kicked off a project focused on reducing the carbon footprint of the church buildings.

The idea of investigating renewable energies and energy conservation brought forward church members who had previously  been supportive, but had not shown an active interest in eco-congregation activity.  Just as women expecting their first babies find themselves noticing babies in the street for the first time, as a group we suddenly began to realize that we weren’t the only church to be thinking this way, but in fact were some way behind the curve of early adopters.  That said, our path has not been easy, and it has often required faith and determination to carry on.

We took a holistic view, and divided the project up into loose chunks of activity and research: solar panels, lighting, insulation, behavioural change and heating.  We then ran our plans tentatively past the PCC and got the go ahead to investigate further.  At each step we feared that we might meet objections, but fortunately none was raised.

We spoke to various suppliers and experts and got quotes for things like  low energy lighting systems.  That showed us that whatever we did, making an impact was not going to come cheap. Like many churches in these recessionary times, All Saints has a budget deficit, and we knew that solar panels and the like might be seen as an eccentric luxury.  As a result we were careful to emphasise that these measures would save money in the long run, as well as achieve our aim of demonstrating our commitment to caring for creation.  We were also careful to build on work already budgeted for and planned, to ensure that it was carried out with carbon reduction in mind.  We also were clear that aesthetics and design were important considerations. For example we hope eventually to install a lighting system that enhances our church and optimizes its use as well as reducing its carbon footprint.

The project was, and still is, so large, that prioritising our actions was tricky.  However, due to the fact that at the time the top rate of Feed in Tariff was due to be cut in April 2012, we realized that that time constraint meant that we should focus on the solar panels first.

Our first thoughts were to install solar panels on the church roof.  We’re a grade II listed Norman church, but internet searches showed us that a listing wasn’t in fact an insurmountable hurdle to a solar panel installation.  Knowing that was one thing, but seeing it with our own eyes was another, so we organized a visit to St. Michael and All Angels in Withington, Gloucester.  This was well worth it, not only because they have a wonderful example of a pellet boiler and solar panels on a listed church, but also because they have a truly marvelous pub just two minutes down the road.  We returned to Wokingham and engaged with the Council’s Conservation Officer and English Heritage to discuss our plans. We also got some solar panel quotes, although it was surprisingly difficult to get them.  Many companies told us that it was impossible to install solar panels on a grade II listed building, and we found ourselves having to convince them we could!

Another hurdle we knew we had to surmount was the fact that the church roof needed re-doing (despite several recent repairs, due to the lead disappearing in the middle of the night) and there was no point in putting solar panels on the roof if they would have to be removed for later roof repairs. Meeting the deadline of April 2012 looked increasingly unlikely.

Things looked bleak, but when one door shuts another one always seems to open.  As part of our research we  learnt that solar panels can be installed on non-South facing roofs and so we switched our focus from the church to the church’s community centre, the Cornerstone.

The Cornerstone was built in 2002 and was built with energy conservation in mind. It also has the advantage as a site for a solar installation that  it is not listed, and has a large surface area of roof.  We discovered that if we used the Cornerstone roof,  and got funding for it, we would generate a Feed in Tariff that would both pay for refurbishment of the facilities and leave us with extra money to fund much needed community projects.  The Cornerstone is in an area of extreme relative deprivation, and much of the work that All Saints does is in helping the community of Norreys ward, which is one of the most deprived areas in Britain. Whilst public funding was being cut and intermittent, we could see a new way of getting an index linked income for 25 years.

At about that time we also became aware of one of the few sources of grant funding  for solar panels. Although the Feed in Tariff and savings on energy bills would have paid for the panels in time, we didn’t have the capital sum to pay for them.  British Gas and River Cottage are offering the “ Energyshare”  grant of up to £100,000 to fund renewable energy projects that benefit the community.  The grant administration is run through a website www.energyshare.com.  Once we got into this process it really drove us according to its timetable.

There are three rounds. The first required us to get sufficient supporters signed up on the website to be in the top 100 of registered groups. We only had a month to do this, but managed it with just over 100 supporters. The second round was much more challenging.  Selection to be in the final round is based on a written application and the number of supporters registered on the website.  Following some pretty grueling work drumming up supporters and preparing a persuasive bid, we were delighted to find that we had been selected as one of 7 projects with a chance of 2 grants.

As part of our bid we have pledged to help those in fuel poverty in the Norreys ward reduce their energy costs, and apply for Government grants, using our solar installation and our own energy saving measures as real-life examples. We have also pledged to share our experience with other community buildings, so are happy to hear from any other churches who would like to pick our brains.

So, currently we are working hard to drum up votes to get that all-important funding.  It’s now votes that count, not supporters. Alongside the mainstream circulation of flyers, we’ve done a school assembly, addressed a convocation of eco-congregations and asked for help from a local Sikh temple.  We’re also hoping that members of the Earthing Faith network will help us and vote.  All you need do is go to www.energyshare.com/all-saints-wokingham and click “Vote Now”.  You will then be signed up as an energyshare member. You then need to go back to the voting page and press “Vote” again.  The process of sign up is downright confusing, but every vote counts and we know that based on the current number of supporters, if every supporter counts we stand a very good chance of getting that funding!

Tamzin Evershed is a member of All Saints’ Wokingham and coordinator of their Carbon Reduction project.

West Berkshire Green Exchange – 16th Nov 2011

Come and see what West Berkshire’s ‘green’ and sustainability groups are doing and learn how greening projects can be set up in your area or parish at the West Berkshire Green Exchange Showcase evening.

Time: Wednesday 16th November, 7.00pm (refreshments from 7.00pm, presentations start at 7.30pm)

Venue: Council Chamber, West Berkshire Council, Market Street Offices, RG14 5LD

The West Berkshire Green Exchange exists to coordinate environmental/sustainability groups in the district and allows communication between them and partner organisations such as the West Berkshire Partnership and West Berkshire Council.

Displays of the activities of the member groups will be on show and there will be a chance to find out what is happening in or near your area.

RSVP to Anthony Armitage at aarmitage@westberks.gov.uk or tel.01635 503267

PDF: Green Exchange Showcase Poster

Pilgrimage Project

Pilgrimage involves going on a journey, which can often lead to us connecting to the world in new ways. Be it appreciating God’s creation in deeper ways or connecting with a deeper call to live the spiritual life.

The Diocese of Oxford has launched the Pilgrim Project  to encourage the spirit of pilgrimage,  part of which has led to the launch of a new diocesan pilgrimage map which features 15 places of special spiritual significance across the Diocese of Oxford. The hope is that the map will inspire not just visitors to each place on the map, but also a spirit of pilgrimage elsewhere. For example, one rural benefice has already been inspired by this project to plan a local pilgrim map encompassing each of its seven churches. What could you do in your area? How can the spirit of pilgrimage encourage us in caring for creation?

Resources to help are on hand, including:

There are A3 posters of the Diocese of Oxford pilgrimage map available and also pocket sized folded maps. Contact the Diocese of Oxford Communications office (01865 208225) if you would like copies.

The Bishop of Oxford, The Rt Revd John Pritchard, will be visiting each place on the map to pray with local people over the summer. There is an open invitation to join him if you are in the area.

  • Monday 8 August: 9.30am Olney; 11.15am North Marston; 12.30pm Drayton Beauchamp
  • Tuesday 9 August: 9am Cookham; 10.30am Easthampstead; 12 noon Stoke Poges
  • Wednesday 10 August: 10.30am Speen; 12 noon Goring
  • Thursday 11 August: 10.30am Stanton Harcourt; 12.15 Dorchester Abbey
  • Friday 12 August: 9am Christ Church Cathedral.
  • Tuesday 30 August 10 am South Newington
  • Wednesday 31 August: 9.30 University Church; 10.45 Binsey; 2pm Compton Beauchamp

See below to view the Diocese of Oxford pilgrimage guides for each of the participating churches on their map.