Bishop Nicholas Holtam, of Salisbury Diocese, and the Church of England’s outgoing lead Bishop on the environment, led our fifth anniversary service on 26 March 2021. He has been a stalwart supporter and advocate for Eco Church since its inception. During his inspiring talk at the service he said ‘Eco Church has gained a response within our various churches; now it’s clear that the care of God’s creation is absolutely central to Christian life and discipleship. [..] This is core to what it means to be a Christian in our day. But we are still way off the pace. Eco Church is still only a small proportion of our churches [in England and Wales – Scotland and Ireland have the sister-scheme, Eco Congregation)]’.
‘Bishop Nick’ as we have come to know him, ended his sermon with the following prayer by Dag Hammarskjöld, former UN Secretary General.
“For all that has been,
For all that is to come,
So what are we saying ‘yes’ to over the next five years? Andy Atkins, A Rocha UK’s CEO points to four key themes for the next five years:
–Growth with depth. The climate science shows that we need to go much further, much faster. We’re already three quarters of the way to our original 10-year target of reaching 10% of churches in the UK (Wales, England and Northern Ireland*). We now aim to get to at least 15% of churches registered by the next five years (end of 2025). However, we also need to see a much greater depth of action with many more churches achieving awards and engaging with their whole communities.
–More diversity. It’s great that the major denominations have embraced Eco Church but there are new streams and networks that Eco Church has hardly reached. Whilst there are other ways that churches can act on the environmental crisis, we believe that Eco Church can offer all churches a useful framework for action and that in turn, we will be even more effective as a more diverse community.
–Increased benefits for all aspects of Church mission. For example, A Rocha UK’s Wolf Fields reserve in Southall is now part of a local GP prescribing service where people with physical or mental health issues are prescribed a weekly hour at our reserve. Hence by caring for creation we can, as Christians, also provide care for the vulnerable in our midst – in gospel terms, caring for our ‘neighbour’. Churches showing an active care for creation are attracting a younger generation, helping point them to God and encouraging them in their wider discipleship.
–Harnessing all our knowledge and gifts. We want to see our diverse gifts, experience and expertise as a community being released for the benefit of all. As an example, we now have a network of volunteer advisors who are sharing specialist knowledge with others within the Eco Church community to help many more churches and individuals tackle the environmental crisis. If, for example, you’d like to get your church involved in Churches Count on Nature between the 5 – 13 June but don’t know where to start, do get in touch with our network of volunteer naturalists who would be delighted to help.
If you’d like to learn more about Eco Church, it’s not too late to sign up for our next half-day conference, ‘Eco Church South East: Going Beyond Bronze’ on 8 May.