THIS week the Church Times launches its Green Health Awards. In partnership with the Guild of Health and St Raphael, and the Conservation Foundation, and with the backing of the Church of England, we want to highlight churches that are using their gardens and churchyards to promote well-being.
The awards follow the success of the Church Times Green Church Awards in 2017. This year’s focus is on the increasing number of church projects that use churchyards and gardens to improve the mental and physical health of their communities.
The award scheme is supported by the Mercers’ Company, among others, and is being launched in National Gardening Week, and shortly before Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May).
Mental-health problems are now one of the biggest social issues that Church of England clergy encounter, research published earlier this year suggests. A survey of more than 1000 senior clergy found that the proportion reporting that mental health was a “major” or “significant” problem in their area increased from 40 per cent in 2011 to 60 per cent in 2017.
Research collated by the King’s Fund in 2016 suggests that gardening reduces depression, social isolation, anxiety, and stress, and alleviates symptoms of dementia.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who is the lead bishop on healthcare, said: “These awards support a vital part of the Church’s mission, and can make a real difference to the well-being of those in communities across the country.
“Christians believe that we are called to care as much for the mind and body as we are our spiritual health, and neglect of the mind and body can harm spiritual health.”
One example of a church project is at St Mary the Virgin, Lewisham, which began working with volunteers and patients from Ladywell NHS Mental Health Unit in the church garden some three years ago. The Vicar, the Revd Stephen Hall, said: “We believe there is great therapeutic value in gardening for mental health and well-being.
“St Mary’s Therapeutic Garden has truly become a community project, bringing around 60 volunteers together, with a sense of therapy, healing, and fun for everyone involved.”
To qualify for the awards, projects must promote mental and/or physical well-being, and take place on ground belonging to a Christian church or organisation anywhere in the UK. The awards are fully ecumenical.
Winners will receive their awards during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 2 October, as part of the Green Health Live conference (details to be published shortly). Ten projects will be chosen purely on merit, and presented with a certificate, and a set of gardening tools restored in prisons as part of the Conservation Foundation’s Tools Shed project.
The Growing Calm Award, presented by the Mind and Soul Foundation, will focus on gardens that provide meditation, contemplation, and silence. The overall Green Health Awards winner will receive a cash award and the Gardening Against The Odds trophy for a year.
The deadline for applications is 31 July 2018. For more information, and an entry form, visit www.churchtimes.co.uk/green-health-awards.