Climate change and mission: an opportunity

First published 16th September 2015

At the July meeting of the General Synod there wasa discussion on combatting climate change and a motion was passed committing us to various work in support of the pursuit of a low carbon future.

Archdeacon Christine invites churches across the Diocese to consider how they might play their part in Shrinking the Footprint.

In the course of the General Synoddebate, delegates were reminded that the fifth mark of mission is to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth.

One contributor to the debate challenged the Church to take an incarnational approach to that mission by demonstrating in perhaps small but nonetheless powerfully symbolic ways our commitment to a less environmentally harmful way of life.

I know that many of you will already be taking this challenge seriously but I have been challenged personally as I look around the Diocese by the amount of energy that is being consumed in order to heat our large numbers of ancient buildings, often inefficiently and ineffectively, in order to sustain regular worship, especially during winter months.

Not only does this seem to be hugely costly in both economic and environmental terms but I also wonder what sort of hospitality it models when we invite people including, we hope and pray, new people into a cold building where it is at best uncomfortable and potentially unhealthy to sit for any period of time.

Alternative premises for worship during winter

In the light of all these factors, I am writing to advise you that Bishop Mike has indicated he would be willing to licence, on a case by case basis, the use of alternative premises for regular worship during the winter months for congregations where this may be appropriate.

These alternatives might be a school hall or other similar community facility, or even in some contexts a private home, and the licence would allow for a period lasting from the end of October to the end of March (i.e. the period during which the clocks go back). Exceptions would be made for significant festivals such as Christmas or Remembrance Sunday.

I realise that this would not be an appropriate change in every context but I do ask that you and your PCCs and/or Leadership Teams consider carefully whether it might be one way in which you could play your part in making a difference to our overall consumption of energy in the diocese.

Further guidance is available here on making the most of this opportunity and suggestions for resources which you may want to consult as you discuss it.

Even if you do not feel the use of alternative premises would be right for your church, I hope this letter may nonetheless provoke some discussion about the issues of climate change and, indeed, the place of our buildings in worship and what it means to be church outside of familiar surroundings.

The Ven Christine Froude

Archdeacon of Malmesbury and acting Archdeacon of Bristol

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