THE 2017 Church Times Green Church awards were announced on Monday at Lambeth Palace.
Among those honoured were a church that shares its heating with a neighbouring school, another that has transformed an area of waste ground, a congregation that has replanted its neighbourhood, and a congregation who are building their church hall out of straw bales.
In addition, five “green champions” were identified: individuals who have spent years — and in most cases decades — campaigning for a safer planet and a more environmentally aware Church.
In a message to those attending the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote: “Responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation. Meanwhile, to love our neighbour — particularly, in this case, our neighbour whom we may never meet, but who lives daily with the profound threat posed by this moral crisis — is at the core of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.
“The dedication and devotion of those shortlisted for the Green Church Awards is extraordinary, and their recognition well deserved. I hope that those of you here today, and those who hear about these projects, will be inspired to pray, and to act, for the care of God’s creation.”
The awards were presented by the Bishop of Salisbury, and the C of E’s leading spokesman on environmental affairs, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam. After giving out the awards, he spoke of Hurricane Ophelia, then battering the west coast of Ireland. Later that day, it turned the sky over southern Britain yellow with Saharan sand and Spanish ash.
“Any particular storm cannot be blamed on human-made global warming. But the increased incidence of extreme weather events is almost certainly caused by human activity, consuming fossil fuels that took millions of years to lay down in the ground — releasing energy into a finely balanced environment that has supported and sustained our lives.”
Bishop Holtam had chaired the panel of judges. They included the CEO of Christian Aid, Loretta Minghella, who is shortly to begin work as the First Church Estates Commissioner; Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, and a former BBC environment correspondent; and Ruth Knight and David Shreeve, from Shrinking the Footprint, the C of E’s environmental programme.
The awards were organised jointly by the Church Times and Shrinking the Footprint. Other sponsors were Good Energy, the Levy Restaurant chain, and Ecclesiastical.
KT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESKT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESSea levels or spiders — creation deserves our care
Today’s is the first generation that cannot say it does not know about the impact that it has on the earth, says Nick Holtam, who chaired the Green Church Award judges
MOST diocesan meetings in Salisbury begin with the question: “What has renewed your hope since last we met?” The answers are not meant to be only optimistic, glass-half-full responses, but witness to the deep issues of where hope is to be found in the fractured world that God made and loves so much.
These Environmental Awards have renewed the hope of the judges. We were impressed by both the number and the quality of entries. You have provided evidence that the local church is deeply engaged in the care of God’s creation.
That our striving to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth is one of what, for Anglicans, are “the five marks of mission”, makes it clear that the care of creation is core discipleship. It is part of the mission of the Christian Church: a joyful thanksgiving for creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, and a commitment to the redemptive healing of the world.
These environmental awards were presented as people prepared for ex-Hurricane Ophelia to batter the west of Ireland. Any particular storm cannot be blamed on human-made global warming, but the increased incidence of extreme weather events is almost certainly caused by human activity: consuming fossil fuels that took millions of years to lay down in the ground, releasing energy into a finely balanced environment that has supported and sustained our lives.
The international agreements to move to a low-carbon economy are now global policy. There are exciting technical developments, and we are living in what feels like the early stages of an industrial revolution.
The Church of England’s commitment to Shrinking the (Carbon) Footprint is at one with this. Its delivery does not depend on some central body, but on the efforts of thousands of local churches. We have seen some wonderful projects.
Similarly, there is growing concern at the loss of biodiversity. It has been estimated that the impact of people has destroyed 50 per cent of species in the past 40 years. The numbers are imprecise, but the science says that the speed of destruction is increasing.
While we may not be very keen on mosquitoes, or funnel web spiders, we are deeply concerned about the destruction of pollinators and natural medicines, and now know that environmental diversity is a key to healthy life.
We are at a new stage in human history: what is being called the “anthropocene” era, in which human activity is having a defining impact on the “natural” world. We are the first generation that cannot say “We did not know.”
Whenever members of the Anglican Communion gather, there is talk about the care of God’s creation. At a meeting of bishops from the Communion’s environmental network, Bishop Api, from Fiji, talked about the impact of rising sea-levels, and Bishop Jonathan, from Davao, in the Philippines, of the death and destruction caused by some of the strongest typhoons the world has known. Bishop Griselda, from Cuba, keeps in touch by email about the impact of hurricanes in Cuba and the Caribbean. One of the strengths of the Church is that we are local everywhere.
Before the UN meeting about climate change in Paris, in November 2015, Christian Aid took me to Malawi. Farmers said they used to know when the rains would come, but now the patterns have changed, and the weather is more extreme. That year, there were both floods and drought. The poorest people we met were a small group of farmers who sought to prevent soil erosion by planting trees that would not fruit for five years. They guarded them with their lives, and demonstrated a commitment to change that put me to shame.
The costs of mitigation and adaptation in response to climate change around the world are huge. It is 11 years since the Stern report estimated that the impact of climate change would reduce gross domestic product globally by five to 20 per cent per year (Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2006). At the time, Stern was much criticised for overstating the problem. More recently he has said he underestimated.
The Development Agencies agree with him that we will not make progress with the Sustainable Development Goals unless we also make progress with climate justice, which is at the top of their agendas.
Each church is the world’s local church, with a glorious connection between heaven and earth, and a connectedness across the whole earth. There is an ecumenical consensus about the care of creation. The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, is known as “the Green Patriarch”. Pope Francis refered to him in the encyclical Laudato Sì on care for our common home. The World Council of Churches, Lutherans, and Anglicans all say similar things about the urgent need to safeguard God’s creation.
In the 117 projects entered for these awards, Christians are exploring how best to respond to the environmental challenges, setting new standards for themselves and others, church and community. Some wonderful partnerships are taking place, such as at St Wenn’s, Bodmin, a small rural church in Cornwall partnering with the school next door to install a biomass heating system, and building connections that make a parish church into the people of God.
This is how national projects such as Shrinking the Footprint, the Big Switch, and Living Churchyards gain local expression, as we seek to be renewable, sustainable, and environmental. We do it for the love of God and of our neighbours, including those yet to be born.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam is the Bishop of Salisbury, and chaired the judges of the Green Church awards.
KT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESGreen Building: St Wenn’s, Bodmin, CornwallGreen Building Award
St Wenn’s, Bodmin, Cornwall. A small, rural church that entered into partnership with the next-door school to install and share a biomass heating system, resulting in warmer, greener, and more efficient heating for both. Most of the work was done by volunteers. Bishop Holtam said: “It is a beautiful example of the pastoral mission of the parish church being to care for the community, and the members of the community caring for and becoming the parish church;” and he described it as “the David” in this category.
Highly commended: Gloucester Cathedral; Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon.
Award: £1000, sponsored by Good Energy.
KT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESBiodiversity: St James’s, FinchampsteadBiodiversity award
St James’s, Finchampstead, Berkshire. Volunteers converted scrubland into a biodiverse churchyard extension and garden of remembrance. The land was transformed into a wildlife haven, including bat boxes, bee hotels, and wild flowers. The judges praised this celebration of diversity, the wide range of small measures, and the community engagement in the project.
Highly commended: Bradford Cathedral; Oasis Community Church, Worksop; St Asaph’s, Denbighshire; St John’s, Sharrow.
Award: £1000, sponsored by Levy Restaurants.
Green Congregation award
St John’s, Shildon, Durham, the Shildon Alive! Guerilla Gardening Team. The congregation started this project in 2014, to counteract the decline in community engagement and increase in vandalism. More than 1000 young people have been involved in planting, in more than 70 locations. The scheme also has two community gardens and a food-waste scheme; and its foodbank now gives out fresh fruit and vegetable grown as part of the scheme. “The judges loved the passion and engagement of this project, and the evidence of remarkable community impact,” Bishop Holtam said.
Highly commended: St Catherine’s, Burbage; Campoverde Church, Spain; Inverkip Church.
Award: £1000, sponsored by Ecclesiastical.
KT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESGreen Champions: left to right: Victoria Gilbert, Judith Allinson, Brother Hugh SSF, Suzanne Dalton (absent: Martyn Goss)Green Champion Award
Martyn Goss, the director of church and society in the diocese of Exeter (absent from photo): judges praised his determination, skills in engaging people, and leadership. Left to right in photo: Victoria Gilbert, St Catherine’s, Burbage: judges loved the variety of ways in which Victoria had found to engage people, and her continued ambition with the next goal being the installation of a green roof. Judith Allinson, St John’s Methodist Church, Settle: the judges praised her passion and enthusiasm for communicating and educating, and also her ecumenical approach and tireless dedication. Brother Hugh Cobbett SSF, Hilfield Friary: the judges praised the patient support of others, his championing of hope, and his quiet and persuasive leadership. Suzanne Dalton, St Chad’s, Far Headingley: the judges loved the inclusive way in which Suzanne had involved everyone, and her infectious enthusiasm for the environment.
Award: £200 to each on the shortlist, sponsored by Shrinking the Footprint.
KT BRUCE/CHURCH TIMESGreen Futures: Holy Trinity, Tulse HillGreen Futures award
Holy Trinity, Tulse Hill, London, an innovative church hall using only recycled material, which engaged with the entire community. The project will be the first straw-bale church building in Europe, and the largest straw-bale building in London. The foundations are old tractor tyres filled with gravel, and the building will incorporate solar panels and air-source heat-pumps. Bishop Holtam said: “The judges loved the way this project engaged with the entire community, involving everyone in literally building their church, creating a sense of pride and ownership and combining inventiveness with practical action.”
Highly commended: Baildon Methodist Church; Hamutua Quarterly Meeting Friends Church, Kenya; Sheddingdean Baptist Church; St Mary’s, Cannington.
Award: £5332, sponsored by Shrinking the Footprint, supplemented by competition entrants.