Eco Church at St Anne's

A church community on the western side of Leicester is making great progress in the challenge to safeguard God’s creation and address the issue of climate change – in faith, practice and mission.

During the first lockdown some members of the congregation at St Anne’s in Leicester began to think about how the church could respond to the climate crisis. A committee of people who had an interest in all things eco was set up, led by Margaret who is a Reader in the West Leicester Mission Partnership.

Margaret feels passionate about the cause. She says “In Genesis we are told to care for the world  - we have been very selfish, taking rather than giving. We have all had a wakeup call about the issues and this is part of responding to our Christian call to care.”

The group sought support from Anne who leads the Greenlight Missional Community at Holy Trinity in Leicester. They also used the resources available online from A Rocha, a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the environment. Through their Eco Church scheme A Rocha provide a questionnaire that can help assess where you are at as a church and give you hints on what you can work on. St Anne’s quickly obtained Bronze Eco Church status with A Rocha and then moved onto Silver.

Margaret tells of how they started work on the church grounds doing some very simple things – “We installed bird boxes and feeding stations, bug hotels (one was even made by one of our young members with help from his grandma). We planted high pollination plants and created areas that are not mown. We’ve put up notices in the church grounds to explain to the community why it looks a bit different now!” The team have looked into the chemicals they use on the lawn areas and have switched to more eco friendly products.

Another new addition to the church grounds is a children’s garden area. The group transformed a bit of land that had been fenced off and had been used as a bit of a ‘dumping ground’ into a veggie garden space. The children’s church have been planting and harvesting vegetables which they have then taken home for tea! There is also a small pond with frogspawn. It is a place where the children can learn about the earth and feel safe. There are hopes to link with this garden in their harvest festival later this year.

The team also looked into the heating and fuel bills in the church building and church hall, switching to renewable energy providers. They reassessed the way in which they were disposing of waste; making recycling easier. They have put up signage to explain what products can be recycled and which bin to use.

This has also been a blessing for wider community. The transformed grounds were open as part of the Open Gardens event so that the local people could come and see the changes that the church had made and be inspired to take some eco steps in their own gardens. Some local people also used the church hall during the national RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch Garden Survey, recording the birds that they spotted in the church yard. Recently the church yard has been used as a venue for residents to bring their bikes to be repaired and ready to ride, in partnership with Northside Bikes and Leicester City Council.

The lawn has truly become an extension to the church building with more events taking place outdoors. A Songs of Praise service was held in the summer, a great act of Christian Witness, which has encouraged people to come to other services too. The team have even used the lawn for their committee meetings, saving fuel in the church.

There have been innovative ways in which the group have shared the message of being environmentally conscious with the wider congregation. This includes a Zoom quiz all about the environment, a fun way to give the facts and get people thinking about the issue. The team also hope to reflect more on the subject as part of their regular services, it doesn’t just have to be a topic for the harvest season. They are planning a special service in November to mark the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and hold the conference in prayer.

There have been challenges along the way but Margaret explains it is a lot easier than you might think, she says “there is some paper work that can be difficult but we’ve had help from the council and from the diocese to know the best way to do these things – we haven’t been on our own. We are fortunate to have a green space, you’ve got to decide these things based on what you have got. The first step would be to go through the A Rocha questionnaire. At first it might look daunting, work through it a second time and you’ll find you are half way there! With lockdown there has been a relatively small group involved but lots of people are seeing the benefit!”

So what is next for the group? They would love to reach gold status with A Rocha but recognise that that may be a way off for now. In the meantime they are investigating installing bike parking to encourage people to travel by bike rather than car when visiting the church and hall. Check out St Anne’s on Facebook to keep up with their progress.

How could your church make some simple changes to become more eco friendly? Could this be part of your #EverydayAction?

First published on: 13th September 2021

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