Eco-congregation Award

Guest post by David Hughes of Eco-congregation

Another 85 species became extinct today. Do you think God cares? I do. Genesis 24 says “God spoke: ‘Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals – all kinds.’ And there it was: wild animals of every kind, cattle of all kinds, every sort of bug. God saw that it was good.” (The Message) Pretty clear isn’t it?

So what should Christians be doing about it. Well, a good place to start is with the church itself. What does your church believe about creation. Do you pray for the environment? Do you preach about our mandate to care for it? Do you consider your impact on it as individuals and as a congregation? What messages are you sending to the community in which you live by the way the church land and building is managed, or by your involvement in local and global projects to look after the environment?

Some churches are beginning to understand that what is good for the heating bills is good for the environment. Others have gone beyond that and realised the impact of our carbon footprint on the world’s poor. The most thoughtful churches have come to the conclusion that care for creation is absolutely core to the church’s mission.

Eco-congregation is an Award scheme that recognises and encourages churches which are taking our God given mandate to care for creation seriously and are doing something about it. The website at ew.ecocongregation.org is full of resources and examples of what churches are already doing as well as details of the award scheme. St Mary and St John’s in east Oxford was an early winner of the award and is described elsewhere on Earthing Faith. If you were inspired by their story why not join them and become an Ecocongregation. It doesn’t cost a penny but it may cost the earth if you don’t.

Guest post by David Hughes – Co-ordinator for Eco-congregation England and Wales (Eco-congregation website)

Credit: Caring for God's Acre

How wild is your churchyard?

Manage, don’t mow your churchyard and give space to endangered plant species. That is the message from Shrinking the Footprint, the CofE’s national environmental campaign, which has signed up to the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).

Credit: Caring for God's AcreIn many urban areas the churchyard is often the only ‘green lung’ for the community and the rural churchyard can often be a haven of biodiversity surrounded by acres of chemical-drenched monoculture.  If all our churchyards were placed side by side and end to end they would form a huge national park open for all to share producing a festival of wildlife and nature rightly being celebrated in this very special UN International Year of Biodiversity.

Churches across the country celebrate Cherishing Churchyards Week every year in June as part of the nationwide project  run by Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) and supported by Shrinking the Footprint. There are an estimated 12,000 CofE churchyards throughout the country and around half of them already run biodiversity projects, while remaining respectful to their users, particularly family and friends of those buried there.

During Cherishing Churchyards Week we are encouraging churches to run events to raise awareness and celebrate the treasures of their churchyard, and encouraging churches to submit wildlife discoveries as part of a new central database which will list all the biodiversity churchyards are holding in store for the country.

In St Albans diocese, St Peter & St Paul with St Andrew Flitwick Bedfordshire has recorded more than 100 species of wildflowers in the churchyard. All Saints, Odell also in Bedfordshire has won an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England as an example of what churchyards can do with its community-led conservation project, including ‘adopt a grave’. St Andrew’s Fulham Fields in London diocese has a dedicated section to its churchyard called the Fulham Fields wildlife garden where most of the hardware, including material for the “wildlife tower”, and the herbaceous plants, have been either donated or found locally.

Judith Evans promoter of the Living Churchyard scheme for St Albans says: “Churchyards are a precious resource which can make a huge contribution to the biodiversity of the country and at the same time engage and educate the wider community. They often support species of plants and animals which have disappeared from the surrounding area, or are capable of so doing. Many churches in the diocese and nationally are managing their churchyards in an environmentally-friendly way, often with the help of their local wildlife trusts, but they are still in the minority. In the International Year of Biodiversity we hope to make them the majority to demonstrate that the church really cares about God’s creation.”

For more information visit: http://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/

Guest post by David Shreeve – Church of England’s national enviornmental adviser

How could you better manage your churchyard? How might you be able to celebrate Cherishing Churchyards Week (18-27 June)? Share you ideas and events in the comments section.

Further information: UK’s International Year of Biodiversity | Shrinking the Footprint | Caring for God’s Acre | Living Churchyards | Fulham fields wildlife garden | Ss Mary & John Churchyard Oxford

See also Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard – Case study

Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard – Case study

The first of a series of case studies from churches around the Diocese of Oxford has just been published. Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard is a case study from St Mary and St John Church in East Oxford.

It is the story of turning a churchyard that had become a forest of overgrown trees and tangled undergrowth, convenient for prostitution and drug taking, to be a much appreciated quiet green space in the middle of a busy urban area. The maintenance of the churchyard has also become an important partnership between the church and others in the local community, and it is now an educational resource on wildlife and local history.

To read the full case study download this file: Churchyard Case Study – St Mary St John Oxford.pdf