(From left to right: Pam Martin – ARUK volunteer, Lucy Foster – Eco Church Officer for Northern England, Jo Phillips – Churches Together in Cumbria, and Anna Newlove – Carlisle Diocese)
Lucy Foster, our Regional Officer for Northern England, and Delyth Higgins, our Regional Officer for Wales, joined the Eco Church team six months ago. Here is a reflection from each of them on their first few months in post at A Rocha UK (ARUK).
From Delyth, our Regional Officer for Wales:
It was a privilege to be appointed the new (and first) Eco Church Officer for Wales in mid-April, and what a busy first few months!
My first task was to look at Wales’ engagement levels and registrations. As I write, almost 300 chapels and churches have registered with the scheme, and we have 28 silver-awarded churches. But the figure is growing all the time, which is so encouraging.
From all corners of the country exciting activity is happening; in the North, ranging from creating bug hotels in Corpus Cristi Church, Tremeirchion, to the Bryn a Mor Mission Area leading a lent course (called Tenants of the King), and prayer sessions where people were outside in nature, connecting with God.
In the south, members of St David’s Church in Loughor, Swansea are undertaking regular community litter picks, and Barry Uniting church, which, while building their new building, carefully and painstakingly transferred hundreds of slow worms from one site to the other.
In west Wales, Llanpumsaint Church holds pop-up cafes where they only sell products that are locally produced, organic, animal friendly, or fairly traded, and the Eco group at St Paulinus Church, Llangors, near Brecon, initiated a community wildlife garden on a derelict piece of land in co-operation with the local primary school and the village hall committee. There is such a good mix of things happening!
A valuable action point for churches is to share their stories, both with us at the central team, but also with each other – why not link up with other Eco Churches in your area, work together, and learn from each other’s experiences (both the challenges and the highlights) to see what else is achievable?
My early highlights in the role are contributing articles to several denominational publications, live radio and television coverage of the scheme, and overseeing the creation of bilingual publicity materials for Eco Church. Also, more recently, attending the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod under the banner of Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) to help raise the awareness and profile of ARUK and the Eco Church programme in Wales, make new connections, and build relationships.
It’s good to know that so many people are passionate about caring for God’s earth, and I look forward to meeting and visiting more of you over the coming months and years.
From Lucy, our Regional Officer for Northern England:
It’s been such a pleasure speaking with passionate people from all over the northern counties of England in the past six months. There is a real sense of the Spirit moving throughout churches, stirring up the hearts and minds of ministers and congregations alike, calling people to this vocation – across denominations and at all levels, backed-up by rightly ambitious national carbon reduction targets. While in the face of so many other challenges and competing priorities as we continue to deal with the impact of Covid, confront a cost-of-living crisis and address perennial building matters. Northern Eco Church registrations and awards increase on an almost daily basis.
There are now a magnificent seven Gold Award churches in northern England from St Mary Magdalene in Hart and Summerbridge Methodists to a holy trinity of churches on Merseyside. I was inspired to visit Christ Church in Higher Bebington, Wirral as part of their Gold Award assessment and hear what they’ve achieved – addressing mental health issues through their Beb Shed project, providing fresh fruit from their community orchard and planning to improve traffic flow on nearby roads with local partners.
I criss-crossed Cumbria in the early summer with the Diocesan Environmental Officer, the social responsibility officer for Churches Together In Cumbria and a wonderful ARUK volunteer, Pam Martin delivering Eco Church workshops to over 50 individuals. We finish off Great Big Green Week and Creationtide with a final workshop of the year in Kendal in October.
Amongst the media highlights was an interview with BBC Radio Cumbria, and featuring on the back page of the Church Times. You can read the interview here.
My tips for churches from these first few months:
Take the first step. Speak with others who share your concern/passion. Pray together. Put it on your church’s council agenda and persevere. Register on the Eco Church app.
Your Eco Church will be beautifully unique. Do what you can. Look at what you’re already doing well – it will be a lot more than you think. Celebrate your achievements and use them as a springboard to go further in your journey.
Find out what others are doing. Reach out to other Eco Churches and community groups for good ideas that you can adapt to your context. Look at the resources and stories on the Eco Church website.
A Rocha UK thank Delyth and Lucy for all they have done at the beginning of their journey with us. Do explore our websites (including our new A Rocha UK website) to find out more information about registering for Eco Church, our fantastic resources for churches and schools, or local Eco Churches near you.
With thanks also to the Benefact Trust for funding the Eco Church Officer roles.