An eco journey
In 2016 Christchurch Baptist Church set up a small Creation Care Team. One of its members Meg Brockway explains what's happened since
They say a journey begins with one step, but for us at the Baptist church in Christchurch, Dorset it was more of a wake-up call. God has given us a wonderful world but it seemed that only a few of our folk were actively taking steps to make our lives more eco-friendly. What could we do to enthuse others? Then one person saw an article in an A Rocha magazine about EcoChurch. That gave us a place to start, and a small Creation Care Team was set up.
We decided on a three-pronged approach – our premises, our congregation and our community. Initially we would start to address issues raised in the EcoChurch award scheme and find out what our congregation felt about the climate and environmental situation through a questionnaire.
The results of the questionnaire were very mixed with responses from positive through to negative! There was clearly a need for education, and we knew that would include ourselves. We were able to get a page on our church website keeping folk up to date with what we were doing and also a small regular spot in our weekly church notices for a “Creation Care Challenge”. These include things like buying more seasonal UK produce to reduce transport needs, water saving tips, changing to a green energy provider and reducing single use plastic by taking your own containers for butcher or fishmonger items. We had a three-week sermon series addressing Creation Care including a Green Communion, which is now celebrated at least annually. Many church groups have had speakers about green issues.
Our premises and congregation
Our premises include a worship area more than 100 years old with various additions, the latest being in the 1980s. However, we are moving towards building completely new premises, so no-one was happy to spend too much improving the existing rooms. We looked at recycling more waste in offices, kitchens and activity rooms. All cleaning materials were changed to eco-friendly products. We bought recycled toilet and towel rolls and put Hippos in the cisterns to reduce water use. All of our toilets are now twinned, some being sponsored by individuals or church groups, and our congregation has been challenged to twin their own at home. Any disposable cups used are Vegware which are recyclable with normal household waste.
We have recently installed bike racks, which are being very well used, and car sharing is being promoted. Craft items (e.g. glitter) are either not used or replaced with environmentally friendly ones. A small bulk purchasing group for fair trade and sustainable goods has expanded its numbers. We had hoped to change to green energy suppliers for the church premises, but that has to wait a few more months to let existing contracts which cannot be cancelled run their course. In May this year we achieved our EcoChurch Bronze Award.
Reaching out to our local community
This year we have worked towards reaching out to our local community. Unexpectedly our local Carnival committee approached the church to see if we would like to have a float as part of their parade. We decided it had to be environmentally friendly. There would be no powered vehicles, except mobility scooters, and as far as possible materials used would be either recycled, or recyclable, or preferably both. The theme “Love Christchurch” was chosen with three sections, waterways, gardens and the Forest, and a local primary school and summer holiday club (both non-church) were invited to join with us. More than 50 people took part in our “float” with all age groups represented and we won first prize! In her speech, the mayor had immediately seen the focus of our theme and commended us for it. The prize money was donated to our local food bank.
At the same time we were working on a Harvest Show which we renamed the Green Fair and Christchurch Show. This is our most recent event taking place in early October. We had more than 80 entries for the Show section which included vegetables, fruit and flowers from your garden, cakes, recycled craft displays and upcycled items.
Alongside we had several “shop window” stalls from local suppliers and information groups. They included a local veg box supplier, an eco coffee supplier, a local fair trade shop, vegan produce, organic skin and beauty care, Win on Waste, which can recycle some materials not recyclable by local councils, and Friends of the Earth. There were demonstrations of how to make beeswax wraps to replace cling film. A local technology teacher made wooden items on his home-made, human-powered pole lathe, and there was a display of ideas for making Christmas more environmentally friendly, such as wrapping presents in material (reusable next year) and Christmas Tree decorations from popcorn. Craft activities for children were provided during the afternoon by the Dorset Scrap Store.
It was estimated that more than 400 people came through the door with many positive responses including one from a blind man who was so pleased he could was able to talk to people on the stall to get information rather than struggle with the internet.
Our Creation Care Team has been just five people. In two-and-a-half years we have moved our church forward in thinking and action on climate change and environmental issues. There is still a long way to go and it is high on our list of things to take into account with planning our new building, but it only took a handful of people to start the ball rolling.