Caring for the world in Summerbridge

Summerbridge Methodist Church, in the Yorkshire North & East Methodist District, is one of six Methodist churches to have achieved the A-Rocha Gold Eco Church award. Reaching the standard required for the environmental award required motivation, commitment and resourcefulness.

The church’s net-zero journey began in tragic circumstances when the building was struck by lightning in the 1980s. The fire destroyed the pews and the organ, even melting the pipes. Out of this disaster came an opportunity to improve the building by adding insulation in the roof and the ceiling, and by making changes to the original church layout, adding a large glass screen between the main worship space and the entrance.


When the church was refurbished in 2011, secondary glazing was installed on most of the windows, more efficient boilers and further insulation were added. Later, they replaced the incandescent bulbs with LED lighting. Having knocked down the vestry, they built an annex that incorporated a multipurpose room with a small kitchen, constructed to modern, eco-building standards.

Located in the Pateley Bridge Methodist Circuit, Summerbridge is a small, pretty, village a few miles away from the ever-expanding centres of Harrogate and York. Many people have moved to this rural area and some joined the church, many of them passionate about environmental issues.


With their enthusiasm, the church increased its focus on climate concern, holding environmental Bible studies and environmental holiday clubs for children. “Our focus is on God, creation care and the importance of caring for the world. It's about having a real passion for the world around us,” says Rose Gosling, Summerbridge’s Senior Steward.

When they heard of the Eco Church Awards, they studied the categories and pinpointed what they needed to improve. “We felt a little bit ashamed really, because we thought we were doing so much better than that”, remembers Rose. Preparing for the award motivated the church to try harder and so they created an action plan. One of the initiatives was led by young people who improved the small patch of land with raised beds, planters and a bug hotel. Bird boxes and bat boxes made from old wood have also been added.


The most striking feature is the recycling boxes at the entrance to the church, allowing people to recycle significantly more than through the local council recycling scheme. There are currently 15 different waste streams included in the scheme, with the items taken to TerraCycle who recycle them into plastic pellets that become PE equipment or playground flooring.

Summerbridge’s recycling is a great resource for the environment and for local people, “We are trying to save people from having to take a special journey to drop off recycling,” adds Rose.
Summerbridge keeps working to reduce its environmental impact and they will soon be installing photovoltaic panels as part of the Net Zero Near You scheme – Summerbridge and three other churches (Northallerton, Woodlands and Willerby) were supported by Churches, Circuits and District, the Benefact trust and an Enabling Fund grant. The team is very active in sharing their ideas with the community in Yorkshire North & East.  
When they revisited the Eco Church survey, they were delighted by the improvement they had made. They were awarded their Gold Award in August 2020.