Who cares about the environment?
Do you? Are you worried about air pollution in our cities causing premature deaths among children and the elderly? Are you concerned about the rising tide of plastics filling the seas? Concerned enough to get your own reusable drink containers? Have you watched in horror as tropical storms have devastated the Caribbean while floods have driven millions from their homes in Asia and drought has brought further millions to the brink of starvation in East Africa?
Something needs to be done! But whose responsibility is it? Is it the job of environmentalists and ecologists? Will governments act? Or businesses? Or is it down to individuals? What about the church? Do Christians and the church have a duty to act, or is the environment beyond the responsibility of an organisation whose primary purpose is the glory of God and the care of souls?
The exhortation to look after God’s creation has been with us since the beginning of humanity. The way the heavens and the earth display the glory of God is woven throughout the Bible. Our responsibility to ensure we manage our resources so there is enough for everyone is shouted in the voices of the prophets. And the Biblical principles of Sabbath and Jubilee demonstrate how we should live in harmony with the earth and its seasons, not exploiting it for every last grain or drop.
When we care for our world, we care for its people too. Or, conversely, if we want to serve our communities, we must also be concerned about the environment in which they live. And that includes our sisters and brothers in the poorest communities in the world, bearing the brunt of the dramatically changing climate caused by the carbon emissions of the rich.
So, now that I’ve convinced you that action to tackle climate change and take care of the planet is part of the church’s mission to love God and all his people, what are we going to do about it?
I spent last Saturday at A’Rocha’s Northern Eco Church conference, with a bunch of other people with a desire to green the church. A’Rocha is a Christian conservation charity at heart, and out of this passion it has devised a toolkit to help churches do what they can to become more involved with care for the environment. The Eco Church scheme provides a structure to help churches act and the award recognises and celebrates what has been achieved.
The award covers five areas. Worship and Teaching encourages churches to include climate and environmental themes in its songs, prayers and sermons across all ages and groups. Management of buildings covers issues of heating, lighting, renewable energy, insulation and energy efficiency. Management of land considers how churchyards are managed for the benefit of wildlife and the people in the surrounding area. Churchyards are now the last remaining homes of some of our most endangered indigenous species. Global and community engagement gets churches involved with wider environmental issues on a national and global scale and encourages them to engage with the holders of power who can make a difference. And the final section, lifestyle, challenges us all to consider our own carbon footprint, what we eat, how we travel, what we buy, so that the whole congregation can act to transform our world.
In the Sheffield area, 6 churches are registered to become eco churches. Christ Church Stocksbridge and St Leonard’s Dinnington are on their way. Bannercross Methodists and Dronfield Baptists have a bronze award, and Holy Trinity Thorpe Hesley and Saint Andrew’s Psalter Lane are silver award holders. On Saturday I met people from St Luke’s Lodge Moor, St Thomas Crookes, St Thomas Philadelphia, Crowded House church and the Cathedral. Along with my church (All Saints Ecclesall) I wonder which one will be next. Perhaps it will be yours?