Opportunities to enrich your regular routine

Author: Peter Nicholls

Published on: 14 December 2021

‘Becoming’ is a process; it takes time, and the process itself is the key benefit.

Here at Hethel, the journey began – unwittingly – several decades ago when the churchyard was first mown once in late summer, then cleared of herbage. Wildflowers have since proliferated and the grasses teem with life. Doing less achieves more – we don’t have to cut grass every week, biodiversity goes up and we can claim 40 points. We cut a meandering swathe and during the pandemic dotted it with small lecterns with pictures and quotations. Scores of people and their children came and were blessed by the beauty of nature and the apposite text. Another 10, points.

The Eco Church questionnaire is an excellent audit tool that helps you feel positive about what you’ve already done and prompts what’s next. Having an Eco Church “champion” makes a big difference – someone or a small committee to take the lead and prod the PCC; it’s that journey: someone needs to drive. In our case, back in 2018 I ran our church through the survey with no idea of the outcome. I was surprised that we were close to silver in several of the five areas. I then did some exploring: ticking boxes and seeing the effect on the score and what we needed to do to get over each line.

The great thing is that there’s so much beneficial that can be done without much sweat. Switching to 100% renewable electricity is a bit of a faff but scores 20 points. The questionnaire prompted a bike rack. £60 and we have another 10 points. Using recycled printer paper is cheaper – five points. Use both sides? Another five points. Swap the fluorescent tubes for LEDs, get instant ‘striking’ and a warmer ambience to the church. £50 and up to 20 points. Then there’s kairos: God’s moment to do things. In 2017, shaped by a commitment to a low-carbon solution, I researched possible heating solutions, concluding that air-source heat pumps were the best way forward. Our system cost less than many, is cheap to run and scores 30 points in the survey. Using ‘renewable’ electricity means a truly zero carbon footprint and 20 more points. It’s an example of doing what you’re going to do anyway with a sharp eye on sustainability.

The worship and teaching section suggests opportunities to enrich your regular routine, to connect faith with issues that may be preoccupying congregational minds and to take seriously the fifth mark of God’s mission.

The lifestyle section is, in my view, the most challenging and the area in which Hethel will need to work hard to encourage members to make changes. I know, too, that we need a formal policy that enshrines what we do and keeps us on track when the carbon champion retires. It will help to ensure that activities and events are regular rather than occasional, tick the ‘targets’ box and nudge us towards gold.

The Eco Church survey is very fair to small churches (Hethel is tiny): numerous questions, for example about church halls, or youthwork, can be answered “not applicable” and scoring is adjusted accordingly. I’d urge everyone to see how many boxes they can tick now, remembering that bronze requires just 25% of the maximum points in each section. Your church – and the planet – can only benefit.

The author...

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Peter Nicholls

Churchwarden, Hethel (Parish)

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