CONSERVATION CHARITY A ROCHA UK has announced that 5,152 churches of various denominations have signed up to their Eco Church award scheme. This signals an intent to engage in deliberate, ongoing action to care for nature and the climate on church premises and in the local community.

Of those churches, 36 per cent have achieved a bronze, silver or gold award. For example, St Paul’s Marylebone is the second church in the Anglican Diocese of London to receive a gold award. They are adding taller plants to their outdoor space to increase biodiversity, have created a water area for birds and other wildlife, and installed a water butt. St Paul’s eco-team work closely with children from the local Christ Church Bentinck Church of England Primary School, who helped plant a tree as part of the gold award celebration.

In Leicestershire, Oadby Baptist Church achieved their bronze award in March. Their aim is to draw the community into the church space. Vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown in a community garden behind the church and the wildflower gardeen while bird boxes and insect hotels all help to attract insects and birds. Last year the church led a Climate Sunday service and more recently young people ran a service where they shared their concerns about the environment.

Beulah United Reformed Church in Cardiff is the first church in Wales to divest from fossil fuels. Here, creation care has regularly been at the heart of teaching and worship. Their Canolfan garden gained a Green Flag Award in 2020 and children from the church grow vegetables and herbs. This silver-awarded church also engages its MPs and Assembly Members in its services and events. They are measuring their carbon footprints (using Climate Stewards’ 360 Carbon tool) and will be encouraging members to switch to green energy suppliers.

A Rocha UK believes that Eco Church, now in its seventh year, is helping to bring about a step-change in Christian action on the environment. Eco Church is an ecumenical scheme that helps churches see the connection between their faith and the environment, and take practical action in response. It considers how the environment is addressed within worship and teaching, buildings, land, community and global engagement, and lifestyle. But it is more than an award scheme – it is a growing, learning community of churches all wanting to play their part in responding to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Helen Stephens, A Rocha UK’s Church Relations Manager said “We are hugely encouraged to have passed 5,000 churches in the Eco Church community but given the scale and urgency of the climate and biodiversity crises we are certainly not complacent. We can all do something – Eco Church is for all church communities, from small rural parishes to those on urban estates, regardless of where or how they meet and whether or not they own land. An important step and something very achievable for any church is gaining their bronze Eco Church award. The bronze award milestone greatly encourages a congregation and demonstrates what’s possible, inspiring them to take further, deeper action, and providing a good basis for making links with the wider community.”

* Eco Church is a free online award scheme for churches in England and Wales. More information here.

* Source: A Rocha UK