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Bishop Graham supports new Land and Nature motion highlighting biodiversity ahead of General Synod.

“My dream is to see churchyards as places for the living, as well as the dead.”

The Church of England has unveiled proposals to strengthen its response to the biodiversity crisis as part of its wider climate plans.

The new Land and Nature Motion aims to bring biodiversity up the agenda so that it is given equal consideration with the Church’s net zero aims. General Synod will vote on the plan later this month.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher is the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Environment and is passionate about nature.

On Tuesday 13 February, he spoke about diversity on Radio 4’s Today programme making it clear that the proposal is not about leaving churchyards unmown.

Bishop Graham said:

“What we’re suggesting is that there’s careful management of churchyards to get that balance right, to have some areas that are mown, perhaps around more recent graves and other parts where biodiversity can thrive. These are wonderful resources in our communities, both in urban areas and in rural communities and we want to play our parts in restoring the biodiversity that has tragically been lost across this nation.

He also spoke about how biodiversity and wildlife can be a solace for people who are grieving.

As part of the mourning process often caring for your loves ones grave is a very important aspect of that but I think also people gain a huge amount of solace from being around nature and I can think of nothing more wonderful than visiting your loved one and seeing butterflies and hearing birdsong seeing wildflowers around you, which I think helps people in that time of grief or sadness and brings joy.

Bishop Graham also spoke to BBC Look East who visited St Andrew’s Church in Eaton. He recently visited the churchyard there for a community Eco event where young people gathered to identify bugs and plants and learn how to be good stewards of creation.

There is an Eco church group at St Andrew’s church and three years ago, they decided to stop cutting all the grass in the churchyard.

James Cook is the curate of St Andrew’s church. He said:

“When I’ve conducted funerals up at the burial ground, people have always commented on what a beautiful place it is, with the richness of flowers and bird song, and wildlife more generally and it seems to be what helps people to grieve, to have that beautiful space full of wildlife, to sit and reflect in.”

Graham Bensley is part of St Andrews Eco team. Graham says:

“you have to look after the birds, we have so many up here of various species, the deer in the morning, seeing the Muntjac when you walk up, its quite remarkable,”

General Synod will vote on the Land and Nature motion on 24 February. You can read more information about the motion here: General Synod February 2024 | The Church of England

Bishop Graham also featured on BBC Look East. (14 mins in)

BBC iPlayer – Look East – Evening News: 13/02/2024

Bishop Graham in the Bishop's Garden surrounded by wildflowers