A reflection on rest, by Lucy Foster, Eco Church Officer for Northern England, written for the Eco Church Online Prayer Forum in July 2022

Photo: A sleeping hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), taken by Denise Plume Read the following Bible passages: Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8. MSG.) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.” (Matt. 11: 28-29. MSG.) A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! (Mark 4: 37-38a. MSG.) Pause and reflect for 30 seconds or so. Ask: who or what is the dormouse? Nature resting in its own needed rhythm? You as you might be, as we should be? Jesus in the bottom of the boat sleeping despite the raging storm? Sleep/rest is God-like, Christ-like. It is written into the needs of creation. As humans made in that God’s image likewise we are obliged, required to rest. To. Stop. Now. Like the dormouse, we cannot survive the hard times by being constantly active. We have to stop. Nourish ourselves and rest. Give creation time to rest and be …

How one church counted on nature this June

(IMAGE: Buff-tip and a Privet Hawk-moth as photographed by Emily Best) Churchyards and church spaces are some of the UK’s most unpolluted nature sites. From 4-12 June 2022, Churches Count on Nature (CCON) brought communities together to discover the wildlife in their local churchyard. Over 250 churches across England and Wales took part, counting many species, including rare and endangered ones, in their churchyards, spaces and burial grounds across England and Wales. Emily Best from St Michael’s Church Eco Team shared about their experience of welcoming hundreds of school children to their church grounds: During Churches Count on Nature week, the Eco Team ran biodiversity monitoring workshops for their local C of E school and village pre-school. These are located next door to St Michael’s church in the centre of Aldbourne, Wiltshire, and approximately 230 children participated. Each session began with a welcome from one of the clergy, who shared God’s creative nature and how He has loaned the natural world to us to enjoy and protect. We sang, “He’s got the whole world in his hands”, and thanked God in prayer for his beautiful world. Each group spent 1.5-2.5 hours with us being “wildlife detectives” using their senses and …

Creation care meets local mission: an Eco-Church project from Holy Trinity Claygate

‘Coming soon to a tree near you!’ was our headline on social media this February. 200 small cotton gift bags had been filled with seed balls and tagged with a label explaining that they were a gift for the person who found them, to help care for God’s world.  We were inspired by a similar project carried out in 2021 by St Mary’s and St John’s, Walton, but took a slightly different approach, encouraging church members to take a bag and prayerfully consider where they might leave it for someone else to find. Perhaps on a tree near a friend’s house, on the way to school, or on a popular dog walk. In this way, we hoped to not only bless the community with the gift of seed balls but also to encourage our church members to think in a missional way about their local communities. The project generated a sense of excitement amongst our church members, as bags were taken, hung on trees around the village – and then disappeared a few hours or days later. Our social media accounts were buzzing too, with positive comments and ‘likes’, and the project has helped to raise the profile of creation …

Registration is now open for Churches Count on Nature (June 4-12)

Churches Count on Nature is a unique opportunity for those who love their churchyards and church spaces to take part in the largest ever nature count this June.  To find out more and to register please visit:  arocha.org.uk/churches-prepare-for-mass-citizen-science-biodiversity-events-after-huge-success-of-last-years-churches-count-on-nature/

St Mary’s Ticehurst achieves an Eco Church Gold Award

The rural church of St Mary the Virgin in Ticehurst, East Sussex, has become the first in Chichester Diocese to gain the prestigious Eco Church Gold Award. The award recognises the top level of achievement as part of environmental charity A Rocha UK’s Eco Church scheme, which encourages churches to make changes to improve their climate impact, to care for the environment and to inspire and encourage others. Penny Evans, the convener of the planning group at St Mary’s commented that “Our journey started with our concern about climate change and biodiversity loss. This led us to the belief that, as Christians with a concern for justice, peace and healing, we must be active and visible in caring for God’s creation in every area of our shared life together. The Eco Church scheme seemed the ideal vehicle to help us achieve this.”    While significant changes, still ongoing, have been made to the building of St Mary’s as part of their aim to become carbon zero, the major part of their energies have been directed towards their 3-acres of churchyard. With the help of expert advice and biodiversity surveys, they have developed areas into summer meadow, have planted native trees, …

Encouragement at the start of 2022 – ‘’Lots of small things’’ poem by St Luke’s, Hedge End 

St Luke’s Hedge End, who received their Silver award in December 2021, found a creative way to share their eco church journey through this wonderful poem ‘lots of small things.’  As we approach the year ahead, take inspiration that the ‘lots of small things’ add up, and consider the ways your church can come together as a community this year to take action.  ‘Lots of Small Things’  The folk at St Luke’s know we must Take action, pray, and thus be just Prayer means action, so we’ve started To make our God less broken hearted Climate change has made us think Of ways of drawing from the brink Climate change weighs on our heart So onwards we must play our part First we started Eco church And in small ways began our search To find the ways to change our practice And thus to become climate active  We aimed first for bronze award, And soon found we had worked towards Carbon neutral, less emissions, And this is coming to fruition,  We do not own a large church yard, But have a strip of green grass sward Now there is home for bugs, Tho eagerly welcomed by the slugs Our building …

Go Green (er) for Lent

How can we become better at caring for creation and improving our lives and the lives of others through healthy, eco-friendly and sustainable living?  The Lenten 40-day period before Easter gives us the opportunity to reflect on the practice of fasting and commit to giving up something that brings a real benefit to nature and helps address climate change. Below are some changes you could make that will help the environment. Take time to pray, reflect and consider these options – pick one or two or however many you’d like (you never know the changes might just stick!) Go plastic free. Even if you can’t become totally plastic-free, make it your goal to at least reduce your use of plastic. Read Tom’s month without plastic blog here. Switch off from digital. Explore technology-free times or areas of the house, switching to ‘airplane mode’ for the first hour in the morning and the last hour at night, ‘switch off Sundays’, reaching for your Bible over your device(s) and writing a list of outdoor things that you enjoy. Boycott fast fashion. Emily reflects on how our clothes can bring us closer to our neighbour and have a lesser impact on nature. Read her blog here. Buy …

100% Eco Dioceses registered and EcoChurch reaches further in Wales and North of England

Image of Salisbury Cathedral by: Ash Mills A milestone we celebrate at the start of 2022 is the exciting news that all 42 of the Church of England dioceses have now registered for the Eco Diocese scheme. This shows a significant commitment to getting more churches signed up to Eco Church but more importantly, that all dioceses in the Church of England are united in taking collective environmental action. This is also the case for the Church in Wales where all six of its dioceses have already registered for Eco Diocese. In just 6 years since Eco Church was launched, we have met our ten year goal to reach 10% of churches across England and Wales. That’s over 4,500 churches across England and Wales now part of the Eco Church community, with more than 1,500 awards achieved. We are now looking forward, over the next five years, with a new goal to reach 25% of churches across the UK. This goal is in conjunction with Eco Congregation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with whom we look forward to closer collaboration, building on the work we have done together in the Climate Sunday campaign. A future focus within Eco Church is …

The 12 Days of a Green(er) Christmas

A 12 days of Christmas poem for some green inspiration, written by Jean Burrows, a member of the Eco Church team at recently awarded Bronze Eco Church, Hutton and Shenfield Union Church The 12 Days of a Green(er) Christmas On the first day of Christmas Buy a real Christmas tree from a sustainable source. After Christmas plant it, or take it to a local recycling centre On the second day of Christmas If you need some new Christmas lights or electrical goods don’t bin the old ones, donate them or take them to your local recycling centre.    On the third day of Christmas Buy recycled Christmas cards, send an e-card or make your own.  On the fourth day of Christmas There’s nothing worse than smiling a grateful thanks for a present you don’t really want, so give consumable presents, buy a membership or an experience day or go for a luxury meal and/or the theatre. On the fifth day of Christmas Are you buying presents that use batteries? If so, why not add recycled batteries and a charger? On the sixth day of Christmas When shopping use your LOAF (Local ———————– Organic ———————– Animal friendly ———————– Fairtrade) On the …

Eco-friendly Christmas Wreaths – Pershore Abbey

This is part of a Diocese of Worcester campaign backed by Bishop Martin Gorick for churches to take a more sustainable approach to flower-arranging and to stop using floral foam – often sold under the name Oasis – in displays. Bishop Gorick said: “Like many, I love to see flower arrangements in church, and always admire the ingenuity and skill of flower-arrangers; however, I have recently been made aware of the damaging impact of floral foam. As a diocese, we are committed to playing our part in tackling the climate crisis, and stopping using floral foam is one change that we can make in the fight to reduce single-use plastics. The Royal Horticultural Society have now banned floral foam in their displays at shows, such as Chelsea and Malvern, and I urge churches to also take a lead in this area to ensure our wonderful floral displays are as sustainable as possible.” Creative Abbey members have made wreath rings using willow from a branch that broke from one of the trees during Storm Arwen. The storm also brought down large branches of Cedar and other pieces that were used to create stars and cross frames. Foliage was used from the …