NEARLY 12 months ago, the churches-and-theology director with the Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK, Dr Ruth Valerio, launched a new push to get Britain’s churches to take green issues seriously: Eco Church.
The project sought to encourage churches to take a survey to assess how ecologically friendly they were — in their buildings, lifestyle, and even worship and teaching — and then offer ways to improve their score, building towards bronze, silver, and eventually gold awards from Eco Church.
The scheme was set on its way in January in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral with Lord Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, warning that caring for the environment is not an “optional extra for tree-hugging eccentrics” (News, 29 January).
This week, Dr Valerio said that the first year of Eco Church suggested the Church had responded to Lord Williams’s call. “It’s gone really well, I’m massively encouraged,” she said. “We have got more than 450 churches who have registered and that number goes up every week.”
Sixty of those have already successfully met the criteria to claim an Eco Church award, and the scheme has expanded in collaboration with the Church of England’s Shrinking the Footprint campaign to create Eco Diocese awards also.
“I have been surprised [at the success],” Dr Valerio said. “And really pleased — it’s not just the C of E but the Methodists, United Reformed Church, the Baptists, and non-denominational churches.
In 2017, Eco Church would hold its first annual conference and had also begun a campaign to encourage parishes to hold a “Green Communion” on 5 February, including using a green altar frontal and a special liturgy devised by the Precentor of Canterbury Cathedral, the Revd Matthew Rushton.
Lord Williams’s address in January also urged Christians to inspire those outside the Church on environmental issues, and Dr Valerio said that this had started to happen. A rabbi enthused by the scheme had approached her and now discussions on creating Eco Synagogue had begun.