Once again we approach the shortest days of the year full of anticipation and hope for the future, but as the earth is now resting and storing up energy, so are we as we pause to welcome the Christmas season and the coming of our saviour Jesus.
This update looks back on some of the environmental achievements of the past year, to inspire us and give us hope for what we can accomplish together in 2022.
Dozens of churches have made eco-conscious changes this year as part of work towards an Eco Church award. Forty-five per cent of parishes are now registered for an award, with 20 having gained Bronze and seven having gained Silver award status already. It’s proven a hugely useful tool for moving forward with churches’ ecological activity, and if your church has not yet engaged with the scheme do find out more here.
This progress has been fuelled and supported by the wonderful new network of Eco Champions, who are the people on the ground making sure that all parts of the diocese are rising to the challenge set in our climate emergency declaration two years ago. We have deanery champions in six out of seven deaneries, as well as over 50 churches. These champions have helped lower the carbon footprints of their churches, shared knowledge and ideas, and kept the momentum up. If your church or deanery doesn’t yet have an Eco Champion, perhaps make it your New Year’s resolution to identify someone – or volunteer yourself!
Each month this year a roundup of parish activity has been shared via the monthly diocesan newsletter, and bi-monthly Environment Briefings have provided more detail of news, resources and opportunities. Some examples of church activity in the past month have been:
Cotham Parish started hosting the new Green Cotham initiative in partnership with High Kingsdown and other communities, which supporting biodiversity through urban greening, planting and growing. The sessions are free and inclusive to the community; truly a “centre for creation care” in the city!
St Philip and St James Neston hosted a coffee morning on the Global Day of Action for COP26 which raised £227 for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and increased awareness of the climate summit as well as actions people can take locally to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. They’re also replacing all their lightbulbs with LEDs and trialling a summer/winter church model with services taking place in a smaller room through the colder months to reduce heating in the main church. We look forward to seeing how that goes!
Finally, below are a few highlights from the year that exemplify the joy and ambition we’re striving for in Bristol Diocese.
In April, the Diocesan Board of Finance officially divested from fossil fuels, pledging not to invest in fossil fuel companies in the future. We’re one of only a handful of dioceses to make such a pledge.
As spring sprung into bloom, so did many church grounds, as an increasing number of churches have thought carefully about the environmental stewardship of their church grounds and, like St Mary’s Seagry, have planted wildflower meadows to encourage biodiversity.
In July, we welcomed the Young Christian Climate Network on their relay from Cornwall to Glasgow. Churches hosted the walkers during their ‘residential week’, and Bishop Viv joined eight other denominational leaders in recognising the climate emergency in an address on College Green, Bristol.
In September, there were too many Climate Sunday services held across the diocese to keep count, but many of us used the occasion to lift up creation and call for greater awareness and ambition in the run up to the COP26 climate summit.
As we moved through the Autumn, 44% of churches submitted their energy footprint as part of their Parish Returns (if you weren’t one of them, the tool will open again in January). Dozens of church groups also made prayer boats to send to the climate talks, and held prayer services and vigils as the crucial talks took place. A parishioner from Holy Trinity Hotwells was inside the negotiations and kept us all informed of progress.
And finally, Wroughton Parish Church ended the year by installing new solar tiles on their parish hall which look stunning and are a fantastic vision of the church of the future.
Overall the diocese is more environmentally sustainable than it was this time last year. Flowers, renewable electricity, and joy and hope for the future have been springing up across parishes from the farthest east to farthest west; and it is you who have made that possible.
As we travel forward into 2022 we pray that God will open up even more opportunity for our churches to become centres for creation care in our communities, as we journey together towards net zero carbon.
For now we wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
If you have any stories to share, please contact Clare Fussell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: credit Green High Kingsdown