'Creation care is a part of our overall calling from Jesus to love others'
A focus on High Street Baptist Church in Tring, Hertfordshire during the Season of Creation
In September 2020, High Street Baptist Church in Tring, Hertfordshire, became the first Baptist church to achieve a Gold Eco Church award.
The church signed up to A Rocha UK’s Eco Church scheme in February 2016. They were the first Baptist church to divest from fossil fuels in 2017 and use energy generated from renewable sources, including their own solar PV panels.
They achieved ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, but even after achieving their Gold Eco Church Award, their journey of caring for creation throughout church life continues.
‘As a church we see creation care as a part of our overall calling from Jesus to love God and love others,’ explains minister, the Revd Joe Egan.
The congregation feels passionately about resource depletion and climate change, using Fairtrade products and recycling materials (even using some for art activities in their children’s group.) The church has a recycling area which has grown to encompass a number of items which cannot be recycled in the usual council collections, such as batteries, printer cartridges, corks, bras, pens, stamps and plastic bottle tops. They even recycle nappies to make into fuel bricks for hospital heating, and therefore avoiding landfill.
They face all the usual challenges associated with churches – lack of insulation and limited budget. Nevertheless they have been able to reduce the waste of energy and installed solar panels. Although they have only a small area of land they have put up bird and bat boxes and leave an area of the grass long for wildlife.
Throughout the church has raised awareness, both among the regular congregation and also among other members of the local community who use their building regularly. They support the ‘Make Tring a bee town’ campaign, launched by Tring’s Justice and Peace group.
‘As a church the focus we've given to environmental justice issues has opened doors into our immediate community, and beyond, to be able to share the Good News of our loving creator God,’ says Joe.
Each year the church undertakes a Lifestyle Survey. This is a really helpful way to gather information about how they are doing as well as share experiences and eco tips. This quote from a member of the congregation in the survey summarises aptly all that Eco Church is about:
'High Street Baptist Church has really challenged me over the last decade or more to see that creation care is at the heart of the gospel message. It’s not an add-on or a nice to have but intrinsic in how we live out our faith in today’s world.
'We are reminded that the teaching of Christ centred on love of neighbour and care for the poor, and that the opening chapters of the Bible tell us not only that all of creation is loved by God but that he made it and saw that it was ‘very good’. Furthermore, he called humankind to share in the task of caring for all of creation. At High Street Baptist Church, Tring our mission statement is to be ‘growing in the message and challenge of God’ and creation care is a central part of both the message and the challenge.'
‘It has been nearly one year since we gained our gold Eco Church award and therefore a healthy time to reflect on what we have been doing,' said Polly Eaton, the church administrator.
'It is a reminder that getting to gold is not the end of a race, but rather another step on the journey. While it is great to look back over the last year and see that despite the challenges we have managed to keep creation care on our agenda we are very aware that there is much more to do.
'As COP26 looms and the climate crisis is prominent in the news and headlines, it is a challenge to us to do more.’
The church is also keen to help others on their eco journey. It has created resources relating to creation care so they have created a useful list of study guides, websites, courses, campaigns and movements to help others get started. This includes encouraging other churches to hold a climate-focused service, to explore the theological and scientific basis of creation care and action on climate, to pray, and to commit to action.
‘We are aware that being part of the Eco Church process is different for each church, whilst experiences may vary we can learn so much from each other,' says Polly.
'We are really keen support other churches, of any denomination, who are also exploring issues of creation care and sustainability and are pleased to be approached by individuals or churches respond to questions on this topic.
‘It is great to be part of BUEN (Baptist Union Environment Network) and promote awareness of creation care in our Baptist family.’
The vision of A Rocha UK is for churches of all denominations to care for creation as an integral part of loving their neighbours and following God faithfully.
They invite churches to complete a survey addressing five key areas of church life – worship and teaching, management of church buildings and land, community and global engagement and lifestyle – and to become part of the growing community of churches across the country all taking action to care for the earth. Click here for more on Eco Church.
The Season of Creation, held during September each year, is a global movement of Christians seeking to renew our relationships with our Creator and all creation through repenting, repairing and rejoicing together.