How one Llangors church earned eco award
Today is World Environment Day, encouraging awareness and action to protect our environment. Many of our churches have been playing their part by participating in the Eco Church scheme, and St Paulinus Church in Llangors is the latest to celebrate achieving Bronze Award status. Here, eco team member Kath Johnson tells us more.
In March, as lockdown closed churches, St Paulinus Church, Llangors, received some good news: we were given an Eco Church bronze award.
Eco Church is an initiative that encourages churches to focus on caring for the whole of God's creation in their worship, activities and individual lives. There are bronze, silver and gold awards which a church applies for by registering with Eco Church and filling in an on-line survey with five categories, worship; buildings; land; community and global action; and lifestyle. As your church takes steps to become more sustainable and environmentally aware you up-date the survey until you reach the required level for an award. I first learnt about Eco Church when I was invited to join a diocesan eco working group set up by Archbishop John and it seemed such a good idea that I suggested Llangors Church should register and aim for an award. At first the project was managed by members of our church committee, usually meeting round my kitchen table. After reviewing all aspects of church life, we completed the survey and submitted it. From that beginning evolved our eco-team of three, Rev Trina Lodge, one of the clergy team, Dr Norman Lowe, church warden and naturalist, and me, up-dating the survey as we made even quite small changes.
It was encouraging to find that much of what our church was already doing counted towards the award: in the worship category we even found we were approaching gold level. Perhaps this was because in our rural parish services like Plough Sunday, Creation Sunday and Harvest Festival are specially important features of the church year and have always emphasised stewardship of God's earth and an appreciation of the natural world.
Managing an old listed building in a sustainable way presented a bigger challenge but the survey is designed not to penalise churches like ours by making parts of the survey not applicable to them. Comparatively simple changes like replacing older types of light bulbs with LEDs, being careful not to waste energy and considering greener sources of energy, changing to eco-friendly cleaning materials and doing more recycling counted towards the award. As we already use recycled paper and recycle the usual paper, glass and plastics we explored ways of dealing with difficult-to-recycle items. A local veterinary practice was collecting crisp packets for recycling via Terracycle so, as the church (in normal times) is always open, we offered it as a collecting point for this scheme available to the whole community. Encouraging biodiversity on church property gains points in the land section of the survey. It was not an option for us as the churchyard is owned by the community council but, as with the building, the survey makes allowance for that.
Our monthly charity coffee mornings, commitment to Fairtrade and support of Christian Aid all earned points in the community and global action section of the survey and giving activities like the seasonal children's workshops an eco-friendly slant was not too difficult. We got a commendation for helping with the 'welcome days' for refugees, organised by the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees in Llangors Community Hall. For some time church folk have helped at these days which give a break for refugees living in often difficult conditions in South Wales' cities. This year the Rev. Trina came up with the great idea of inviting the refugees to a multi-faith service in church. Although the appealing alternative activity was a country walk the church was crowded with visitors and locals. At one point in the service a lady from Georgia was moved to stand up and say an Orthodox prayer in her own language prompting other refugees to follow suit in a wave of different languages and peoples all praising God together in our small Welsh church. This was the stand-out moment in a service that was full of music, colour and dance. Afterwards we were told that many of the refugees had said the service was the best part of the day.
Becoming an Eco Church has been so worthwhile: getting the award was exciting but more important has been discovering a relevant and practical aspect of our faith and through it developing a closer relationship with the local community and the natural world. Now we are planning for the next stage looking to the silver and gold awards. If you, too, would like to start your own Eco Church journey you will receive help and encouragement from the friendly Eco Church staff and there is a helpful website.
A Rocha has suspended the Ecochurch scheme to new registration and award applications until July 1. If you've already registered you can still log on to work on your survey.