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Land and Nature motion approved by General Synod

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

The Church of England General Synod has voted to give biodiversity equal consideration with net zero in the overall Environment Programme by approving the Land and Nature motion brought by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher.

The decision is intended to strengthen and give focus to the existing commitment expressed by General Synod to achieve Net Zero by 2030. The route map agreed by Synod in 2022 did not set out to cover issues of biodiversity and habitat.

At a parish level, the most common area where there is notable biodiversity potential is within the churchyards. Their significance and primary role as burial grounds means that increasing biodiversity within churchyards needs to be balanced with public access and consideration for mourners.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher is the lead Bishop on Environment for the Church of England. On Tuesday 13 February, he spoke about biodiversity on Radio 4’s Today programme making it clear that the motion 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.

The land and nature motion was approved by General Synod on Saturday 24 February 2024.

You can read the full Land and Nature motion here: gs-2319-land-and-nature-motion-.pdf (churchofengland.org)

If you’d like to find out more about how to increase biodiversity in churchyards, you can get involved here: Love your Burial Ground Week & Churches Count on Nature – FAQs – Caring For God’s Acre – the conservation charity for burial grounds across the UK (caringforgodsacre.org.uk)

To find out more about Eco Church and who to contact: Environment – Diocese of Norwich

Wild flowers growing in Wroxham churchyard.