THIS WEEK, we announce the shortlist of finalists for the Church Times Green Awards. The awards, launched in the spring, are designed to celebrate the strides that many churches have made in improving the environment, both locally and globally.
The leading Christian environmental agencies have done the judging: A Rocha, Christian Aid, Christian Ecology Link, the Conservation Foundation, Eco-congregation, the Marches Energy Agency, Operation Noah, Shrinking the Footprint, and Tearfund.
There were originally to be eight awards and a ninth, overall winner. The judges felt that none of the entries in two of the categories merited an award, so the six awards are:
Action with the community
Campaigning to cut the carbon
Energy-saving in church buildings
The prize in each category includes £500 cash, and the six winners are eligible for the overall prize of an environmental make-over.
The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in central London on 15 November.
The shortlist of churches, in alphabetical order, is:
St Aldhelm’s, Edmonton, London
St Andrew’s, Fulham, London
St Barnabas’s, Queen Camel, Yeovil, Somerset
St Bartholomew’s, Great Barrow, Cheshire
Bramford Road Methodist, Ipswich, Suffolk
St Chad’s, Far Headingley, Leeds, Yorkshire
Holy Trinity, Cleeve, Somerset
St James’s, Piccadilly, London
St John’s & St Philip’s, The Hague, Netherlands
St John the Evangelist, Hurst Green, Lancashire
St Mary’s, Cowley, Oxford
St Mary’s, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Mill Road Baptist Church, Cambridge
St Peter’s, Bexhill, Kent
St Peter’s Spixworth, Norfolk
Nurtured with the waters of baptism
ST MARY’S COWLEY
IN THE PAST seven years, a haven of green space has emerged from a once-derelict Victorian churchyard in built-up East Oxford. But the two-acre cemetery by St Mary and St John, in the parish of Cowley St John, is more than just a nice place for people to wander. Its protection of animal and plant habitats has made it a place of increasing biodiversity.
During the 1990s, the neglected churchyard became a dense tangle of tree and scrub, a hideout for drug-dealers and rough sleepers. But, in 2000, the church took up the challenge of restoring the churchyard, in order to express its care for God’s creation. Funding, planning expertise, and practical support came from charitable trusts and local groups.
The army’s help was enlisted, and volunteers cleared away rubble and litter, and cut back the undergrowth. They planted hedges to ensure that the birds remained, created woodpiles, set up bird- and bat-boxes, sowed wildflowers and bulbs, felled old trees, and planted replacements. They resurfaced existing paths and created new ones. They also installed lighting, and pruned down shrubs to make the place safer.
The churchyard now has a wildflower Garden of Remembrance and Thanksgiving. A Blenheim Orange apple tree, set in a cleared space surrounded by upturned logs, draws the children. After a baptism service, children water the tree with the water used for the baptism. At present, volunteers are working on creating a butterfly garden.
Welcome boards and wildflowers planted at the entrances invite visitors to come in. Within the churchyard, display boards tell of local history links, the wildlife, and how to manage the different habitats; and during the annual Cowley Road Carnival, the church offers guided churchyard trails.
Janet McCrae is one of five regular volunteers, amid a large number of temporary helpers: students, refugees, homeless people, visitors, and people recovering from mental illness.
She experiences the benefits at every level: “I enjoy working quietly here with the birdsong. The physical exercise is rewarding, and it’s also a good way of meeting people. Lots of people now pass through the churchyard, and families appreciate being able to picnic here.
“I hope people who come might try to do something similar with their own gardens, so we can have a mosaic of green spaces across Oxford.”
Children’s idea that spread
ST BARTHOLOMEW’S GREAT BARROW
WHEN it comes to changing lifestyles, St Bartholomew’s, Great Barrow, has discovered “a mustard seed can become a mighty tree”. What started with the children has spread through the whole church and out into the community.
Under the leadership of an ecologically-minded Reader, the church-based club for 8-11-year-olds, All Sorts, spent 2006 on the “Super Kids” project, learning what sort of a difference they could make to the world. Activities were backed up with weekly written challenges sent home to families. The children put articles in the monthly magazine, prompting church members to tackle the green challenge afresh.
Already a fairtrade church, St Bartholomew’s began recycling and using environmentally friendly cleaning products; and it explored ways to conserve energy in heating and lighting. But the process is not finished. The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Jane Turner, says: “We’re still working at being green.” Her own lifestyle has been affected: “I’ve bought a compost bin, and now make sure I switch my computer off at night.”
Change is happening beyond the church walls. The village shop had been up for sale for three years when, in 2006, a benefactor bought it. A rota of church and community volunteers ran it for three months until a manager was appointed. During that time, church members asked for fairly traded goods, locally grown and organic products, and, more importantly, signed up to buy these new product lines.
Regular church teaching on the interconnectedness of God, creation, and humankind is underlined through special events. This year, a family service and a service run by the children’s group were held on Sundays close to World Environment Day on 2 June.
And the church’s annual community festival week incorporated a “Waste Watchers” Holiday Club, as well as the launch of the RSPB Wildlife Action Award, encouraging families to complete it over the summer.
Enter the Greens
BRAMFORD ROAD METHODIST, IPSWICH
WHEN Bramford Road Methodist Church in Ipswich redeveloped its church buildings in 2001, it was mindful of ecological considerations. But when plans to install solar panels were frustrated by insufficient funds, some church members founded the “Green Team”.
The team’s agenda is to find practical ways of becoming an eco-congregation. It researches issues, gives presentations, and lobbies for change. It places monthly one-liners — for example, a disturbing statistic about energy use — into the church magazine, alongside short articles.
The Green Team has encouraged the church to set up recycling facilities for batteries, mobiles, and ink-jet cartridges on its premises; to build links with a local scrap-metal merchant; and to run two “charity-shop” coffee mornings a week to recycle goods for sale.
It has also promoted good housekeeping by timing and zoning the heating in the church for maximum efficiency; buying an eco-friendly dishwasher; and keeping a watchful eye out for dripping taps.