(pictured: Diocese of Southwark’s Eco Award)
This award marks A Rocha’s confidence that the Diocese has embarked on its journey towards greater sustainability and that creation care, the 5th mark of Anglican mission, is a serious priority across the Diocese. This is measured in two very important ways. The first measure of success that A Rocha is looking for is the number of parishes across the Diocese who are engaging in the Eco Church awards scheme. For the bronze award that is a minimum of 10% of parishes signed up with 5% holding a bronze award. The Diocese of Southwark has over-delivered with 137 churches, nearly 40% of the Diocese, signed up for the awards, with 41 Bronze and 16 churches holding a silver award!! Without these Eco Church sign ups and awards we would not be an Eco Diocese.
The other criteria for an Eco Diocese Award are structural changes from the diocesan leadership showing true commitment to creation care. In the Diocese of Southwark we have a paid part-time environment officer to support churches and diocesan staff in understanding how to pursue the goals we have set ourselves. Diocesan Synod passed an environmental policy in 2020 and set up a working group to pursue the Eco Diocese goals under the leadership of Bishop Richard of Kingston, and the Venerable Moira Astin, Archdeacon of Reigate. This working group was tasked with ensuring every department in the Diocese is including creation care in their planning for the future.
We have also had to include courses and education on the environment in our training offering (see the discipleship and ministry brochure). Our offices have also had to reach bronze on the Eco Church buildings criteria, and we have to work with other dioceses on promoting each other’s environmental projects.
These are the hurdles we have had to overcome to reach the bronze level of the Eco Diocese accreditation. As with the Eco Church awards silver is another level entirely, one which no diocese in the Church of England has yet achieved, I secretly hope that with our ongoing momentum we might pip everyone else to the post. Our greatest challenge will be encouraging and supporting many more parishes to start and complete the Eco Church journey which I think is the only true measure of the diocesan commitment to creation care. For the Diocese to reach silver Eco Diocese level we will need 40% of churches at a minimum of bronze award standard. This means moving all the churches who have already signed up for the scheme up one award level! We will be encouraging and supporting all churches on this scheme with a monthly drop in with the Diocesan Environment Officer on the final Monday of every month, termly introduction to Eco Church zoom sessions (next on the evening of Monday the 3rd of October, see the Diocesan events page for more details), and by offering the support of the Episcopal Area Environmental advisors who will be happy to come and talk at your Church.
The work to get to silver level is not just on the shoulders of our church communities. In Trinity House we will have to examine our banking and land management practices, promote understanding of the Eco Diocese goals among all diocesan staff, have the Diocesan Office reach a silver award, and continue all of the steps we have taken to secure the bronze award.
As you can see the role parishes have in us reaching Eco Diocese award standards is huge, without you we are going nowhere. We are still looking to find the first church to reach a Gold Eco Church award. Fame and fortune, or at least great praise in the Bridge diocesan newspaper awaits the first community to achieve that honor!
Diocesan Environmental Office: Jack Edwards
Croydon Area Advisor: Revd Dr Timothy Astin
Kingston Area Advisor: Ian Christie Senior lecturer in Sustainable Development, Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey
Woolwich Area Advisor: Revd Dr Catherine Shelley