A Rocha UK is expecting a surge in international interest in Eco Church after we were invited to showcase the programme at the ‘London Day’ of the Lambeth Conference on 4 August.
The London Day is the day when, traditionally, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all of the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion who are attending the Lambeth Conference to his London home, Lambeth Palace, for a more relaxed day after two weeks of formal debates and discussions at Canterbury.
This year the focus was on care for creation and sustainable development, with the Anglican Church launching the Communion Forest, its major new environmental initiative. As a small charity, being invited to showcase our work was a significant recognition of our growing impact. In collaboration with A Rocha International – the coordinating body of the worldwide A Rocha network – we presented a colourful exhibition about Eco Church in the UK and the forest restoration work being done by our sister A Rocha organisations in countries such as Peru, Kenya and Ghana.
The A Rocha team – CEO Andy Atkins, and Head of Church Relations, Helen Stephens from A Rocha UK, and Dave Bookless and Rachel Manders from A Rocha International, had conversations with dozens of bishops and their spouses from all corners of the world. They heard both heartbreaking and inspiring stories and helped guests identify sources of information and support for their particular needs. Bishop Abram Ngor Mangong from Southern Sudan spoke of the urgent need to replant forests after decades of war has destroyed them. Now climate change is worsening the plight of the poor in his country, causing devastating droughts and floods. Bishop Daniel Genovesi from Uruguay explained his plans to transform the environmental impact of his diocese, which include setting up an environmental and theology institute. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also visited our gazebo with his wife and daughter and thanked us for our work.
Messages to the gathering underlined the importance of the Church taking action. The first came from the unprecedented heatwave: on a day of extreme heat in the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out the totally parched ancient garden to guests and referred to the truly terrible consequences of the climate emergency unfolding in other countries. The Bishop of London read a special message from the Queen which emphasised the need for environmental action and guests watched a video message from António Guterres, the United Nations’ Secretary-General, urging faster action by governments and faith groups. These interventions underline that many now look to the Churches to lead on action, in a situation where governments have glaringly failed to do enough.
Following interest in Eco Church at the Lambeth London Day, A Rocha UK is preparing for many more international enquiries about the programme, which was developed for use in England and Wales. Currently, outside the UK, adaptations of it are being run by a handful of sister organisations including A Rocha Switzerland and A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand. We are grateful to A Rocha International who have recently offered us some capacity to help make the scheme available in other countries.
Find out more about Eco Church at: ecochurch.arocha.org.uk