Six City Deanery churches partnered with Leicester City Council in June to offer guided bike rides for families as part of the city’s Open Streets initiative which encourages active travel.
St Anne’s, St Deny’s, Church of the Martyrs, St Phillip’s, St Andrew’s, Aylestone and St Andrew’s, Jarrom Street provided pick-up points for the cycle-rides which took place in June. All they had to do was to open their buildings so people could use the toilets or get a drink of water, but it served as a way to engage with members of the community and to encourage environmentally-friendly forms of transport.
For St Anne’s, who have Silver Eco Church status, this is an example of how incorporating care for creation has become part of mission and ministry as normal. From preaching to picking gas and electricity providers, the call to be good stewards of the natural world has become “an everyday part of our life and our mission”, Revd Liz Wilson explains.
It is also an opportunity to build relationships with the community. Dovelands Primary School’s Eco-Warriors club, for example, have spent time on the church’s new allotment, and the school, local community organisations and the city council are supporting the summer playscheme at St Anne’s where the theme will be the environment. For four days, up to 60 children will spend time in St Anne’s Hall and the local park doing arts and crafts, outdoor games, musical activities and baking. Then, on the Friday, all the families will take a trip to Conkers.
Getting involved in Eco Church, Revd Liz says, has “encouraged us to look outwards and to get involved with what the community is doing. God is already at work there, so we’re just looking for ways to join in” whether that’s the local scarecrow festival or litter-picking.
A key relationship St Anne’s has been able to build is with the city council, thanks to the experience of congregation members and having the council’s Cycling Officer as a neighbour. Through this partnership, they’ve been involved in providing a pop-up bike repair shops as well as the summer playscheme and guided bike rides.
For other churches who want to build relationships with the local authority, Revd Liz recommends building relationships with local councillors – “they can open a lot of doors, and they also have access to pots of funding”. St Paul’s and St Augustine’s, for example (the other church served by Revd Liz) recently received £500 of ward funding towards their foot-care project, Sole to Soul.
“When we see opportunities in our local community, we don't have to lead them or run them ourselves, we just go and get involved. We can just be the church, present with and for our community” and, where engaging with environmental issues is involved, for creation and for our global neighbour.”