Y12 student reflects on his experience of supporting his church an Eco Church

First published 14th July 2022

Aidan, a student at a Chippenham secondary school, reflects on his experience of helping his church become an Eco Church.

Hi, I’m Aidan, a Y12 A level science student in Chippenham. I’m working towards my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, and for the volunteering section I have chosen to commit 18 months to support my Benefice in progressing their Eco Church journey. I am grateful to Clare Fussell for agreeing to be my assessor, and her ongoing encouragement and support.

Eco Church is a scheme to encourage all sorts of churches to become more environmentally aware and eco-friendly. It is run by A Rocha UK, which offers a straightforward survey to work through and a load of helpful resources. In 2020 our group of churches embarked on an Eco Lent Challenge and registered as Eco Churches, but the Covid pandemic diverted attention. Each of our 5 churches has an Eco rep, and we are now working together to remotivate our congregations.

It’s an unusual area to choose for D of E, but I thought it would give a lot of opportunities for trying out things that small rural congregations often feel overwhelmed or threatened by, and a great way to share learning and enthuse others. It won’t surprise you to learn that I am passionate about caring for the environment, but I wanted to offer my interest and growing knowledge of green science as well, not just my youthful muscle power!

Since September 2021 I’ve carried out a land management assessment with the support of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and presented a plan of action to one PCC. I have planned and helped lead informal services to encourage lifestyle changes, including working out carbon footprints and championing Fairtrade.  One of our churches is less than keen about the bats who use the nave as a playground and port - a loo (!) so I have been working with a volunteer from the Wiltshire Bat Group and the Bats in Churches project to educate and encourage a more positive approach to our bats. I am also part of the North Wiltshire Mission Area Wild Church team, planning and running monthly events.

My next challenges (when I’ve finished this piece) are speaking at our deanery synod, looking at alternative heating options for one church, another land management plan and putting into action some of the recommendations (e.g. making my first bug hotel!)

So far, it has been a very positive experience - I really enjoy talking to people who are passionate about caring for the environment, who are generous with their time and expertise. It is good to be involved beyond the church community and showing others that the church is committing to bringing about lasting change. Although the PCCs are supportive, it is a challenge to inspire wider engagement, and, initially, to get beyond being asked to dig in churchyards.

Eco Church has resonated with our local primary schools and inspired joint projects: Forest & Field in churchyards when other visits were impossible; Green Teams recycling, litter picking, and making bird & bug boxes. Wild Church also attracts younger people and supports Eco Church, whether it was around COP26, the Big Harvest, or building log piles on Palm Sunday. However, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme might provide useful openings for relationships between churches and young adults, bringing mutual benefit. So, if you are part of the Eco Church scheme, talk to your local secondary schools or your local authority youth council, let them know what you are doing, identify possible projects and opportunities and ask if they would like to get involved. And, if you haven’t yet registered, perhaps you can ask local young people to help carry out the survey and agree an action plan?

To find out more about how you can help your church become an Eco Church, visit https://www.bristol.anglican.org/churchlife/resourcesforparishes/environment/.

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