Caring for God's Earth
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835–1917
View of St Paul's Clapham from Eden Nature Garden
Eco Church Action Group
In November 2020 the first meeting of the Eco Church Action Group was held. Four working groups were established to accomplish the following: 1) get solar panels installed to the church roof 2) engage the community in eco-friendly projects 3) promote a sustainable lifestyle to others 4) calculate the carbon footprint of St Pauls. Please get in touch via the Parish Office if you would like to be involved in this action group which meets every 2-3 months and publishes a quarterly bulletin.
What is Eco Church?
Eco Church is an awards scheme run by Christian charity A Rocha UK. The scheme is for churches of all denominations in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that they care for God’s earth.
St Paul’s earns Eco Church Silver Award
After obtaining the Eco Church Bronze Award in April 2020, St Paul’s is delighted to have been awarded Silver status in June 2021!
We’re thrilled with our silver award, but we won’t stop there. We already have lots of ideas for how to progress to gold now. We want everyone to get involved, so look and listen out for more news and initiatives.
There are five categories on which the Eco Church award is judged - how we express our care for God's earth in our Worship & Teaching, how we look after the Management of Church Buildings, and the Management of Church Land, how we engage with our local Community & Global Engagement and in the personal Lifestyle(s) of our congregation.
In applying for the silver award we were asked to write a short description on how working towards Silver in each section has impacted our Eco journey. You can read these in the boxes below with updates since then in brackets.
St Paul’s is blessed in having an extensive churchyard, as well as being home to the multi-award-winning Eden Nature Garden. As you may already know, Eden’s aim is to create and maintain a sustainable habitat for wildlife and promote bio-diversity by planting British native species and through organic gardening.
As well as bird boxes and feeders and bug hotels Eden is also home to several hives, managed by the London Beekeepers Association. The Eden gardener, Benny Hawksbee, is immensely knowledgeable about environmental matters and is supporting us in our Eco Church journey; in particular he is advising us on our ‘adopt a tree’ planting scheme that was initiated in March 2021 with the planting of two silver birches and an oak that will grow to replace the mature trees in the churchyard that are reaching the end of their natural lives.
The Eden Garden had already established ‘no mow’ areas to encourage the growth of wildflowers and associated wildlife; in 2021 we persuaded Lambeth to agree to a No Mow May in the churchyard itself, which was a great success and inspired many visitors to the churchyard to follow suit. (This was repeated in 2022.) See Benny's report on this here. We are hoping to work with the council to agree a new mowing regime for the churchyard in the future. In June 2021 we took part in Churches Count on Nature which included a special Sunday School event where the children identified 40 species.
Our bi-monthly Eco Church bulletin goes out to the whole congregation and indeed the wider community who are part of our mission. In it, we cover both local and global issues, and always include a final section on green lifestyle tips. We also share eco news via our social media platforms.
In our March 2021 bulletin we shared our findings on different personal carbon footprint calculators including links and tips on how to use them and how much it would cost to offset one's footprint. We encouraged all newsletter recipients to work out their own footprints and intend to repeat or update the research each New Year as an annual reminder and resolution.
Our annual Summer Fair which took place on 10 July 2021 rebranded as an Eco Summer Fair. Features included: plenty of plant based food options; no single use plastics; preloved clothing stall; upcycled gifts and furniture stalls; and a Fairtrade stall. (See further details on the fair here.) The Parochial Church Council (PCC) asked the Eco Church Action Group to nominate an environmental charity to receive a share of the profits from the fair and we chose one local - Trees for Cities and one global - Water Aid.
As part of Creationtide we are planning an Eco Outreach day on 26 September 2021, when we will invite all the local community including local schools to visit the church and churchyard and learn about our commitment to environmental issues in general and climate justice in particular, tying the occasion in with our work towards racial justice.
Our Eco Church commitment is a key element of our Mission Action Plan, as we strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth. As well as environmental issues being a regular focus of our prayers and of Father Jonathan’s sermons, in Autumn 2020 we marked Creationtide with a weeklong series of events culminating in an outdoor service for Climate Sunday, to which the local community and their pets were invited.
We had several outdoor services in 2021 including - Racial Justice Sunday (14 February) and Mothering Sunday (14 March) where we launched our tree planting programme with the planting of an oak sapling, a reminder to us all of our duty to care for and nurture God’s creation. At the end of September we again celebrated Climate Sunday with an outdoor service which flowed directly into our Big Green Day community event described here. (This was so successful that the event has become an annual one.)
Caring for God’s earth is a frequent focus of teaching for our children and young people. The Sunday School has the benefit of our spacious churchyard and Eden Nature Garden for many of their sessions, where they can explore the beauty of creation firsthand. We are proud to have supported the Young Christian Climate Network’s Relay to COP26 – a 1000 mile relay from Cornwall to Glasgow. (It passed through London in early August 2021 and St Paul’s was the first port of call for the pilgrims. On 4 August we hosted them for a special service of prayer for climate justice, followed by a shared meal and entertainment outdoors which we reported on in the parish newsletter the next day.)
Our last MP Kate Hoey was a regular visitor to St Paul’s and ‘opened’ the Eden Nature Garden pond. We have already established a good relationship with our new MP Florence Eshalomi who visited the church with her daughter to mark the anniversary of George Floyd's death in May 2021 and we hope to consolidate that relationship in the future. (Florence has since attended our Eco Summer Fair in 2021 and opened the fair in 2022.) Through climate charity Hope for the Future, a member of the Eco Church group was mentored on communicating the urgency of climate change to our local politicians, especially in the run-up to COP26. We are lobbying our local councillor Nigel Haselden for bike racks outside the church, and collaborating with him on a local tree planting scheme. We have invited him to one of our Eco Church meetings to discuss the creation of a ‘green corridor’ leading up to the churchyard. (Sadly, he did not attend and we are still no further with getting bike racks for the church.)
We have actively approached other local churches to share our Eco Church ideas and resources and to encourage participation; as a result, an A Rocha speaker was invited to the July 2021 meeting of Churches Together in Clapham.
One of our congregation is an active member of Young Christians Climate Network, and is helping to organise the Relay to COP26, which St Paul’s will be involved in hosting when it passes through London on its way to Glasgow in the summer. (This happened in August 2021.) We share news and reflect regularly on these and other issues relating to climate justice in our monthly Eco Church bulletins.
In Lent 2021, St Paul’s provided one of the stations in the Lambeth North Deanery nine-mile Passion Trail. Set in the beautiful and tranquil Eden Nature Garden, our station related the Passion message to our Christian responsibility to care for all God’s creation. Station 3: St Paul’s, Clapham — Lambeth North Passion Trail (lambethnorthdeanery.org) We received over a hundred visitors on the day.
Our historic church built in 1815 proves a challenge in terms of heating and insulation. We set up a working group to calculate the church’s carbon footprint using the tool on 360carbon.org, and have set ourselves targets to reduce our carbon footprint. What we can’t reduce we have agreed with the PCC that we will offset: we offset last year’s carbon usage by donating the equivalent amount to Climate Stewards and its projects as part of our charitable giving. We have switched our gas supply to a ‘green tariff’ and will switch our electricity as soon as our current contract expires. We are in discussion about having our water supply metred, and Eden Nature Garden recently completed an ambitious fundraising campaign for improving our rainwater collection system. (This was installed in spring 2022, photos below).
We currently have working groups researching possible solar panel installations either now or in the future; the best way to replace our ancient and inefficient gas boiler (a new boiler was installed in autumn 2021); and on ways of heating and insulating the vestry/office without having to heat the whole building.
In smaller ways we are able to reduce our negative environmental impact by the use of dual flush toilets, recycled toilet paper, LED lightbulbs, green cleaning products and compostable cups and cutlery; and by reducing our paper usage by double-sided printing and emailing wherever possible.
We petitioned Lambeth Council for two years to install cycle racks on the street outside the church, but without success. (Finally, in October 2022 we put in our own racks just outside the community centre.)