If you walk by All Saints Church in Blaby right now it’s difficult to miss the stunning display of wildflowers in the corner of the churchyard, swaying in the summer breeze.
The blooms have been lovingly planted and cared for by the church family, who are making great strides in their efforts to address climate change and preserve nature – in their homes, at church, and in the world around them.
What began with seed swapping and a scavenger hunt as part of a ‘green event’ in a pub carpark during autumn 2020, has today grown into an active Eco Group working together with the church and community for the greater good of God’s glorious creation.
Stephanie Snart has been involved from the outset. A lover of nature and disciple of God, she felt the call to get involved and was encouraged by the then Pioneer Ordinand, Revd Sharon Plant, who guided the church in their initial eco efforts.
An inspiring Zoom call followed with St Catherine’s Church in Burbage, talking about how they’d achieved the Gold A Rocha Award, and All Saints set out on their own path to Eco Church status.
Stephanie says: “For me, it began in the 60s with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and the realisation that we’re ruining the earth, but no one is listening.
“When the opportunity to join the eco group came about it seemed right that I’d been asked, and that my response should be to take action. I have been blessed with three children and five grandchildren and do fear for what they’re inheriting,” she continues. “As a Christian, I feel it is important to get the message out about climate crisis, both serving God, my community, and the world around us.”
With the support of their vicar, Revd Jane Micklethwaite, and driven by a group of like-minded individuals who regularly meet as the church Eco Group, over the last few years they have completed everything from surveys on birds, butterflies and stars, counting plastic and collating lifestyle habits, to running eco-craft and coffee mornings and promoting the use of FairTrade and eco-friendly products in the home.
As a church, and as individuals, the changes and lifelong commitments they have made - and the impact that’s had on the community - all contributed to the church gaining an A Rocha Eco Church Silver Award in February.
The evolution of a wildlife area in the churchyard has been one of the group’s biggest, and most rewarding, challenges to date.
With advice from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, a space was marked out in the churchyard last summer and purposefully left to become a little unruly.
It’s taken a lot of thought to get it to the stage it is now, but you’ll spot everything from thyme and Nigella love in a mist, cyclamen and wood anemones, to bluebells and snowdrops, depending on the season. “The wildlife area has been a challenge and a lot of hard work because we’ve wanted to do it properly,” explains Stephanie. “It’s a lovely mess right now, but a fabulous provider of shelter for birds, nectar for insects when in flower, and berries for the birds in the autumn. It’s also a great conversation starter for us with people walking through the churchyard – not to mention a more recent nature count and craft activity session that we held which was publicised by Blaby Stokes CE Primary School and welcomed children and their families into the church.”
As an eco-group, they’ve hosted outside speakers and interest groups, supported and represented their cause at a wide range of church events, and actively witness their beliefs by writing to their local MP regarding pressing environmental issues, regularly inviting him and other local councillors along to their events.
In the same regard, the loving service carried out by the eco-group as they engage with their community is vast and varied, including helping to create Glenfield Hospital’s quiet garden, involvement with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and litter picking with the South Leicestershire Wombles.
“Creation is included somewhere in every Sunday’s intercessions, and our eco consciousness as a church has become really important,” says Stephanie. “We keep our community informed through our Creation Matters articles in the parish magazine, making people aware of Church of England webinars, about the wildlife area and sustainability, alongside our own area on the parish centre noticeboard which is constantly updated, as is Facebook and the church website.”
In addition to one of their toilets, their parish centre fridge is also ‘twinned’ through an appeal which donates money to foodbanks and projects at home and overseas – a parting gift from Revd Sharon. Aswell as bits and bobs such as recycling paper, stamps, empty toothpaste tubes and used toothbrushes and pill blister packs, going forward, they hope to change all the lights in church to LEDs.
“Our congregation isn’t huge, we do what we can,” says Stephanie. “My prayer would be for church to use all FairTrade and eco-friendly products across our hospitality and cleaning in the future.”
Stephanie’s advice to other churches seeking to improve their eco credentials, would be to “go on the A Rocha website and look at the survey and be surprised at how much you already do,” she says. “Talk to other churches and experts, get the church wardens on board, and start small - even the smallest of changes help.”
Stephanie is keen to mention that they seek permission from and keep the PCC informed at all times, and value the support of their church wardens.
We recognise and appreciate that many of our church communities are working hard to be eco conscious and care for their environment and God’s wonderful creation, through everyday action, eco groups and working towards the spectrum of A Rocha awards.
To mention a few, this year Holy Apostles Leicester received the Bronze Award, while Scraptoft Eco Group recently celebrated their first year together, having also gained Bronze Eco Church status.
This fabulous Bug Hotel was the work of members of All Saints Church, Hoby, and the wider community, who came together one weekend to put together the fabulous home for their local wildlife and creepy crawly friends.
Could your church be more environmentally friendly? Do you already have things in place that could be the foundations for gaining an Eco Church award? It’s time to start taking everyday eco action.
Eco Church - An A Rocha UK Project
Eco Communities - Diocese of Leicester (anglican.org)