Green sweep nets Evesham church national award

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

The congregation's pioneering work has been achieved with thehelp and support of Eco-Congregation, a programme run by secularnational charity ENCAMS in partnership with Churches Together inBritain and Ireland. Eco-Congregation encourages churches torejoice in God's gift of creation through worship and identifysimple ways in which they can care for the environment.

Providing a framework for environmental action, practical andspiritual activities Eco-Congregation also encourages participatingchurches, of all Christian denominations, to apply for theprestigious Eco-Congregation Award - given in recognition of theircommitment to bring environmental issues in to every part of theirlives.

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

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

Graham Gooderham is the leading light behind the church'saward-winning efforts. Dubbed the "Green Apostle" the retiredconservation architect and keen organic gardener began byintroducing simple aluminium can and tin foil recycling initiativesto the church.

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

However, his efforts didn't stop there. Encouraging members ofthe congregation to clear out their garages the church startedcollecting non-ferrous materials for recycling. Swapping recyclableitems for cash has already netted the church over £1,800 for itsrefurbishment fund.

Since signing up for Eco-Congregation recycling efforts havetrebled, explains Graham Gooderham. He adds: "Everybody isinvolved, from pensioners bringing in the odd tin can to myfour-year-old grand-daughter bringing in the foil her friends wraptheir sandwiches in at school."

Supported by the Rev Stephen Mullins the environmental bug soonspread through the whole congregation. Members can now be foundattending to flowers and shrubs planted in the church grounds,enticing wildlife into their newly created wildlife area on thebanks of the River Avon, or spreading the environmental wordthrough everyday worship and community work. Graham even acted asan advisor to a local nursery school to help them combat litter andorganise 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 byintroducing recycling, reuse and environmental schemes we can alldo our little bit to help. We are now trying to share the messagewith others so we can preserve our surrounding environment forfuture generations."

The President of the British Methodist Conference, Rev ChristinaLe Moignan, was delighted to hear about the national recognitionreceived by Evesham's congregation. Rev Le Moignan adds: "I welcomethe fact that Christians are now taking environmental issues moreseriously than ever before and are taking positive steps to usechurch buildings and the land in more environmentally sensitiveways. I congratulate Evesham Methodist congregation for theircommitment and urge other churches to follow their example."