19th October 2020
In May 2020, we were delighted to announce that we've been awarded a Gold Eco Church. John, who heads up our Eco Group, shares some of our journey.
As 2013 started, our Church was following a pattern common with other churches. Our congregation was dwindling to about 45 in a rigidly-structured sanctuary and an inefficient system of heating (for ankles only). For about 15 years we had been an active Fairtrade church, and there were sparks of change. A ‘Renewal’ project, renewal of building, welcome and mission, started out in the following year. By mid 2015, the church was transformed into a welcoming, flexible, well-heated and -insulated space, but the tricky question was what to do with it!
When A Rocha UK started Eco Church early in 2016 we were offered one of the answers on a plate. Eight volunteers formed a group, and over coffee first tried the online survey for all to see. Some told us that this was a box-ticking exercise, but, in reality, it has given us an external guide for what boxes we could not tick. This helped us reform as a church. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we had already reached the standard for a Gold award for the category Worship and Teaching. We think that having creation care embedded into our core has enabled us to transform other matters. Very soon we could attain a Bronze award overall.
Our planning for the future changed. We not only thought about utilities as bills to reduce but carbon footprints to shrink. Our electricity supplier was switched to a green one, and we offset the carbon from our gas consumption through the very ethical Climate Stewards. Our Lifestyles were challenged by our weekly Eco Tips. Our engagement with our Community was enhanced by Wellbeing and Green Fairs and Curious Cafés, bringing different individuals and groups into the church. Ny the end of 2017 we had reached a Silver Award overall.
A Gold Award seemed very distant. What, us? Looking back, we might say that the Spirit was at work. We understood more and our priorities had changed. Little by little, different folk in our church community brought something new. It seemed very much like 1 Corinthians 12: one body of differing parts. As a result, in January of 2020 we could submit a plausible case for a Gold Award.
This has been one element in our church’s journey. Now we have congregations of about 80, sometimes over 100 are in the building on a Sunday, and activities span the week. Last year we estimate we had 20,000 visits. We have greater involvement with community groups in our town and we work with other churches around Romsey, with our Circuit (which holds the first Eco Circuit Bronze Award), our District of 180 churches and beyond. Eco Church has helped us take ventures from the nest and grow our flight wings; now we are equipped to fly! Perhaps COP-26 might shape some journeys?