Nearly 40 people from the Diocese of Canterbury met at Pines Calyx, Dover, Europe’s first ‘carbon negative’ and ‘energy positive’ conference facility. Made from reclaimed materials and generating its own heat, the venue launched a new quest for local Anglicans. Even a temporary power cut failed to disappoint delegates, who responded in good humour.
A Rocha UK’s Churches And Theology Director Dr Ruth Valerio helped them to start putting together an environmental policy for the whole diocese, which stretches from Maidstone to Thanet, the Isle of Sheppey to the Romney Marsh. It includes 334 churches in 247 parishes, along with 103 church schools and a university with a Church of England foundation.
The Environment Forum focused on all aspects of church and parish life – from buildings and land to hospitality; from the needs of the local and global community; and how people can help each other to ‘live mindfully’ on a shared planet.
‘They’re developing a policy to help parishes integrate environmental concerns in church life,’ said Ruth Valerio, ‘and they want it to be very action-oriented. This was the day to kick-start that process.’
Archdeacon of Maidstone Ven Stephen Taylor (pictured with Dr Ruth Valerio) opened the event with a time of reflection and prayer. Ruth gave an overview of the environmental theme within the Church of England, and explained what is happening in different dioceses.
‘I wanted to show people they’re not on their own,’ said Ruth, ‘but are part of a movement happening across the Church of England. It’s a sleeping giant that’s beginning to wake up.’ Hannah Swithenbank of Tearfund presented a biblical overview.
‘The core of the day was time spent in groups,’ Ruth pointed out. ‘We looked at areas based on A Rocha UK’s Eco-congregation themes. The main aim was to come up with action points on what parishes can do.’
Feedback sessions produced many practical ideas for churches. ‘From out of all this, we’re going to put together a document to present to Synod in November,’ said Ruth. ‘It was really good, and people were so positive. There was a real sense of togetherness. It was a privilege to have been invited to help facilitate the day.’
Archdeacon Stephen Taylor said, ‘We were all delighted with taking the environment agenda seriously as a diocese. We were able to take a way forward that isn’t just about agreeing a policy paper – but something that incorporates values and actions.
‘Ruth facilitated a number of contributions to enable us to understand how we might best affect some lifestyle changes – both corporately and individually – which would put us in a much better place than we are at the moment.’
Churches interested in exploring what Eco-congregation has to offer can find out more here.