At the March 2023 Synod we produced a short survey form to take stock of where all of our churches are with energy supply and efficiency in our buildings, and to get an idea of future plans to make our buildings "greener".
We only had fifteen responses to this survey(!) so would like to encourage you to download the survey form and complete it, and return it to the Synod Office by Friday 30th June. (If you're one of the fifteen, thank you very much - there's no need to fill it in again.)
Data will be held in accordance with the Synod Data Protection Privacy notice, to help us planning support for churches and as some anonymous statistical data to progress our accreditation as an Eco Synod. Personal data will not be shared with any third parties.
What is Eco-Chat?
It’s an ecumenical partnership in Stratford-upon-Avon that promotes discussion and action about Eco-issues. We founded the group nearly two years ago and we meet monthly on the first Saturday morning in each month. Initially, this was on Zoom but now they are all ‘in person’ meetings. We meet from 10.30am till about 12 md. The subject of the meeting changes each month, and we frequently invite an outside speaker. The meeting always starts and ends with prayer. Before the final prayer we have a discussion session amongst those present. It involves most, but not all, the denominations that make up Stratford Churches Together (SCT). The Baptists, the Methodists, two church of England churches, the URC and the Roman Catholic Church have been involved. SCT have adopted the group as an associate member, and Eco-Chat appears as an item on the agenda of the two-monthly SCT Church Leaders Meeting.
Our meetings are advertised in all the churches in Stratford, and the meetings are open to the general public. We have attracted Extinction Rebellion members, Stratford Climate Action members and non-churchgoing members of the public.
There is a steering group of about six people, that decides on the subject for each meeting and works out the format of the meeting. We get together after each meeting to ‘debrief’.
The subjects discussed include:
Is Eco-Chat all talk?
No, the name might suggest that, but we are keen to promote Eco action. There are a number of actions that have followed from the group meetings. We have attempted to influence the various councils in the area of South Warwickshire. In fact, at the present, and over the next three months ,we have invited the Town Council, the District Council and the County Council to come to tell us what their actions are going to be in promoting a ‘Net Zero’ Energy Policy. We are currently working out our questions for each of the three councils. We organised Prayer Vigils for both COP 26 and COP 27. We joined in with the ‘Great Big Green Week’ in Stratford last year and our emphasis then was on Climate Justice. We joined the ‘Global Day of Action for the Climate’ at the end of last year and demonstrated on the streets of Stratford. We have sent a petition to our local MP asking that he supports eco-issues in the House of Commons. Three of the Churches have attained Eco-Church status, in the time that the group has been active – others are working towards it. We have produced leaflets for all the churches and for people outside the churches: there is a ‘Sustainable Living’ leaflet and an ‘Eco Friendly Christmas’ article.
What are the advantages of Eco-Chat?
It is a great vehicle for ecumenical partnership – we all have the same aims. We have got to know our partners in other denominations much better. It demonstrates to non-churchgoers that Christians DO have a strong interest in looking after creation. It has stimulated several churches interest in Eco Church. As mentioned above, three churches have attained Eco Church status. We have had interest from churches outside Stratford, who wish to do something similar – the word is spreading! It is sometimes hard work stimulating interest in eco matters in our own churches, but advertising Eco Chat helps to raise the profile. We now have a ‘Green Corner’ in our monthly magazine and a ‘Green Space’ noticeboard in church.
I can thoroughly recommend the concept to other Areas and Districts.
Elder in Local Leadership
We continue to monitor the carbon footprint generated by activities relating directly to the Synod. This graph shows the values for 2019-2021:
The travel data relates to business miles travelled by the Moderator and Synod officers and staff, the miles the office-based staff travel between work and home, and the journeys undertaken to Synod meetings.
Once again, the restrictions caused by the pandemic have reduced significantly our carbon footprint. Our hope and intention is still to see a year-on-year reduction, but the 2020 and 2021 data must, at this stage, be seen as exceptions rather than (necessarily) successful progress. Nevertheless, we will continue to use online and hybrid meetings alongside or instead of physical gatherings. We should expect to see some increase in the footprint now that legal Covid restrictions have ended, but we will continue to work towards a “true” reduction over time.
The October 2021 Synod meeting also authorised carbon offsetting our footprint through Climate Stewards from 2022 onwards. Climate Stewards are a charity, recommended by Assembly’s Mission Committee, which supports community forestry, water filter and cookstove projects in Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Tanzania and Uganda. Offsetting the 2021 carbon emissions will cost £295.42. For information only, the 2020 carbon emissions of 26.85tCO2e would have cost £537.04.
The United Reformed Church’s 50th Anniversary falls in the same year as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Her Majesty the Queen has asked people and communities to consider “planting a tree for the Jubilee” if they wish to mark the occasion.
Two truisms come to mind: the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the second-best time is now, and it’s an act of ultimate altruism to plant a tree that we won’t see reach maturity.
Given our concern for the environment, the Synod Executive warmly embraced the suggestion of putting out a challenge to each of our churches. The Queen has asked us to consider planting trees to mark her Jubilee; we would like you to do that same.
Specifically, we are challenging each local church to plant FIFTY trees to mark the URC’s fiftieth jubilee.
This can be done in a wide variety of ways: the church might be set in land where trees can be planted, members might plant trees in their own gardens, or you might approach other landowners for permission to plant trees there. It would be good to look for other eco- and community groups in your area and work with them in partnership – they may well have access to spaces where you can plant your trees or, if physically planting is beyond your own capacity, they may plant tree which your church could supply.
The Woodland Trust website (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/) has a lot of information about suitable trees – do try to plant native British trees to help support wildlife – and is a good source for trees for you to buy, or even receive saplings for free.
We know that (at the time of the March 2022 Synod meeting) we are at the end of the tree planting season, so it may be better to make plans for planting from October or November onwards, to save you having to water excessively as your trees are established.
This is a chance to invest in our planet, support wildlife, build community partnerships and reduce your local carbon footprint. We commend this initiative to all of our churches. Plant some trees for the URC’s jubilee.
In line with the Synod Environmental Policy, the Synod Office recycles as much of our waste stream as we can. First Mile Recycling have just calculated how we are doing and have sent our latest certificate. We will continue to look at how we can further reduce waste and send more of it for recycling. For the most recent year, 100% of what First Mile took from the office was recycled and 0.4Tonnes of CO2 equivalent was saved, earning us Silver level accreditation again
Congratulations to Broadway URC who became the first of our new award holders for 2021, now that they have gained the Bronze Eco Church Award. This brings our current total to 10 Bronze Award holders and 5 Silver Award holders. Of the 108 churches in the Synod (including our LEPs), 39% - almost 2 in 5 - have registered for Eco Church, and around 1 in 7 of our churches have already gained an award. Who will be next to gain their first award, or to "upgrade" from Bronze to Silver, or be the first in the West Midlands to gain Gold accreditation?
We are delighted that the Synod Office in Birmingham has received the Bronze Eco Church Award. Synod Moderator, Stave Faber, says, "This is an important milestone on our way towards treading more lightly on the earth and preserving the integrity of creation. It recognises what we've already been able to do at the Synod Office to make it a 'greener' place to work, and we've already identified some steps that we intend to take as we work towards further ecological improvements at the office, whist we will be trying to put in place during 2021."
This is a visible mark of the Synod's commitment to supporting A Rocha's Eco Church award scheme, and we hope that it will encourage more churches to make changes in their practices and gain Eco Church accreditation as well.
Great News. We now have 37 URC churches in the West Midlands Synod who have signed up with A Rocha. Of these 9 have received a bronze award and 2 a silver award. All these churches were commended by the Moderator at the Synod Meeting at Sutton Coldfield URC on 16 March 2019.
For churches that have not signed up, can I encourage you to do so. The process cannot be more simple. This is all you have to do:
There is just one more suggestion I would make. I would encourage all churches to contact Mark Rudhall at Green Energy Consulting. Mark will come to your church free of charge and will undertake a survey to see how energy efficient the church is. He will then produce a report of recommendations. This will tick boxes on your A Rocha Survey especially if you decide to change your energy suppliers to ones that are more environmentally friendly.
Mark can be contacted through Green Journey on 03330 067 177 - Email email@example.com or go to their web site www.greenjourney.org.
John Davey 22 March 2019
Just an update, we now have all three churches in the Pastorate awarded Bronze for Eco-Church
And Wombourne URC has started an eco-garden at the church
I am pleased to see we now have 29 churches in the West Midlands Synod who have signed up with A Rocha. Of which 1 has achieved a silver award and 3 others a bronze award.
I would be delighted to hear from all 29 churches as to what you have been doing to help the environment. Remember, good news stories are always worth sharing. (Please email your stories to Rachel Vernon in the Synod Office)
For those 25 churches who have not yet applied for an award, can I encourage you to do so.
What we would really like is for all churches in the Synod to have signed up with A Rocha. So for those who have not yet done so, please do. It only takes 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire and you will find the experience rewarding as you discover how eco friendly your church really is.
Items from the Synod Eco Group.