23 April 2004

Eco-Congregation inspires green mission in churches and local communities

Project 'Eco-Congregation' continues to help churches and their local communities go green. Control of the initiative passed from Environmental Campaigns (ENCAMS) to the Arthur Rank Centre earlier this month.

Methodist churches around the country have embraced a project that encourages them to focus on the environment and take action in their buildings, churchyards, worship and community groups:

Evesham Methodist Church in Worcestershire was the first church in the country to receive the eco-congregation award, and they continue to set an example through strict recycling practises. Their 'Green Apostle', Graham Gooderham, explained one of their most wacky initiatives: "We even recycle broken biscuits that get dropped on the floor at our twice weekly toddlers group - as we overlook the river Avon, they go to feed the ducks and swans."

Saffron Walden Methodist Church in Essex is another proud eco-congregation. Green Apostle Jean Wheeler: "Working for the award made the congregation much more aware of the need to conserve the resources the Lord has given us and to consider how our way of life can affect people in other parts of the world and in generations to come.

The new 'computer mountain' has been in the news lately, but there is no problem in Saffron Walden. Mrs Wheeler again: "Unwanted computers are taken to 'Interact', an Essex based charity which supports established and registered training centres and selected NGO's in many African countries with computer equipment.  Through our re-cycling scheme, two or three computers are taken to 'Interact' each month."

On receiving the eco-congregation award, Selly Oak Methodist Church in Birmingham were especially commended for rooting the environment ministry in worship. Their Green Apostle Prof David Edden: "Some of our initiatives are relatively small, but many small projects add up to something much bigger. More significantly, we sense that through our environmental initiatives we have encouraged our members and some people in the neighbourhood to think about caring for the environment in all their lifestyle decisions."

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs at The Methodist Church, said: "The ECO-Congregation programme provides a wealth of well-produced materials aimed at various groups within a church to inspire young and old, ordained and lay.  As well as taking action in the management of resources, the churches involved have encouraged members to think through their own personal lifestyles and initiated projects in the wider community." 

The Methodist Church believes that mission includes 'caring for the earth', and an objective of the Methodist Church Environment Policy, says Ruby Beech, Co-ordinating Secretary for Human and Financial Resources, is to "encourage us to take seriously our responsibility as co-partners in the on-going creative and renewing activity of God."

Funding from the Methodist Relief and Development Fund will now help the Arthur Rank Centre carry the work forward, with guidance, modular resources and an award scheme to help participating churches.


Eco-Congregation was developed from a Pilot Study involving churches from across Britain and Ireland and dedicated in a service at St Paul's Cathedral in September 2000.

The Arthur Rank Centre, a collaborative unit supported by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the National Churches and the Rank Foundation serving the rural community and its churches.

19 out of the 61 churches registering for the Eco-congregation award in 2002/3 were

Methodist churches, and 5 out of the 57 churches registering in 2003/4 were Methodist. 7 out of the 36 churches which have achieved the Eco-congregation award are Methodist churches.

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