09 May 2002

Green sweep nets Evesham church national award

Practising what they preach has won Evesham Methodist Church a national award after members of the congregation combined their faith with a love of the environment.

The congregation's pioneering work has been achieved with the help and support of Eco-Congregation, a programme run by secular national charity ENCAMS in partnership with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Eco-Congregation encourages churches to rejoice in God's gift of creation through worship and identify simple ways in which they can care for the environment.

Providing a framework for environmental action, practical and spiritual activities Eco-Congregation also encourages participating churches, of all Christian denominations, to apply for the prestigious Eco-Congregation Award - given in recognition of their commitment to bring environmental issues in to every part of their lives.

Embracing the programme whole-heartedly the church has become the first in the UK to receive the prestigious award.

"We're delighted Evesham Methodist Church has become the first church to gain the award," explains Rev Dr David Pickering, Eco-Congregation Co-ordinator. "I hope their endeavours will encourage other churches to follow in their footsteps and witness to the world that churches are concerned with the stewardship of the environment."

Graham Gooderham is the leading light behind the church's award-winning efforts. Dubbed the "Green Apostle" the retired conservation architect and keen organic gardener began by introducing simple aluminium can and tin foil recycling initiatives to the church.

Interest soon caught on and as Graham spread the recycling/reuse word recycling rates soared and now includes paper, stamps, spectacles and even mobile phones.

However, his efforts didn't stop there. Encouraging members of the congregation to clear out their garages the church started collecting non-ferrous materials for recycling. Swapping recyclable items for cash has already netted the church over £1,800 for its refurbishment fund.

Since signing up for Eco-Congregation recycling efforts have trebled, explains Graham Gooderham. He adds: "Everybody is involved, from pensioners bringing in the odd tin can to my four-year-old grand-daughter bringing in the foil her friends wrap their sandwiches in at school."

Supported by the Rev Stephen Mullins the environmental bug soon spread through the whole congregation. Members can now be found attending to flowers and shrubs planted in the church grounds, enticing wildlife into their newly created wildlife area on the banks of the River Avon, or spreading the environmental word through everyday worship and community work. Graham even acted as an advisor to a local nursery school to help them combat litter and organise a clean-up involving staff, parents and pupils.

Mr Gooderham continues: "The programme has been a huge success. It's made people realise they really were very wasteful and by introducing recycling, reuse and environmental schemes we can all do our little bit to help. We are now trying to share the message with others so we can preserve our surrounding environment for future generations."

The President of the British Methodist Conference, Rev Christina Le Moignan, was delighted to hear about the national recognition received by Evesham's congregation. Rev Le Moignan adds: "I welcome the fact that Christians are now taking environmental issues more seriously than ever before and are taking positive steps to use church buildings and the land in more environmentally sensitive ways. I congratulate Evesham Methodist congregation for their commitment and urge other churches to follow their example."

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