What is Eco Church?

Eco Church is an initiative of A Rocha UK for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth.

Through an online survey they help churches understand and express their care for God’s world in worship and teaching; in how buildings and land are looked after; in engagement with the local community and in global campaigns, and in the personal lifestyles of the congregation.

Depending on their scores from the survey, churches can then apply for an Eco Church Award at Bronze, Silver or Gold level. Many churches have found that having such an award is a powerful opening for both engagement with their community and in evangelism.

What’s happening at St James?

In 2018, the PCC resolved that, “St James engages with the Eco Church initiative and completes their online survey with a view to registering and seeking ways to fulfil the fifth mark of mission.”

We registered with Eco Church and an informal group met to evaluate our outcomes against their survey. Our initial scores were promising but showed the need to improve in several areas. We plan to revisit these soon as we emerge from the pandemic and hope to soon be in a position to apply for an Eco Church award.

Among the things we’ve managed to achieve so far, are:

  • Improved management of churchyard – especially through the creation of the wildflower area and working with the council to improve their mowing regime
  • Bug hotel created by our children’s groups in autumn 2019
  • Improved provision of recycling bins and installation of a compost bin in the churchyard
  • Regular Eco church articles in our church magazine
  • Joining with other local churches (sadly on hold due to the pandemic)
  • Ongoing botanical surveying of the churchyard

In July 2022 we held a Jubilee Fun Day with lots of activities. Our Eco Church group contributed with such things as finding our prized rare plant in our meadow area and visiting the bug hotel.

The bug hotel in the churchyard

Beyond our local patch, one of our members was part of the team which drafted the Bath and Wells diocesan Environment and Climate Change Policy in 2020.

If you want to find out more, do, have a chat to Richard Carpenter or Susie Peeler. Sue Carpenter has overall responsibility for management of the church garden and oversaw the creation of the wildflower area in the north-west corner of the churchyard.

Botanical Surveying of the churchyard

The churchyard is being monitored by the Somerset Botany Group and other local experts. For a general descripion and a list of what they found in 2021, please click here. What follows is the interim report from their 2022 survey:

“St James Churchyard is being managed very much with an eye to the wildlife it supports. A botanical survey in June 2021, and follow-up survey a year later, revealed more than 120 species of vascular plants (wild flowers, trees and ferns) growing in the churchyard. One highlight of the survey this year was a single flowering spike of Bee Orchid growing in the area sown with Yellow Rattle and being managed as a ‘hay meadow’.

“Gravestones, tombs and old walls have an interesting assemblage of lichens, with the 46 species recorded including no fewer than nine different Caloplaca species. The list includes several nationally rare or scarce species such as Lecanora hybocarpa and Verrucaria ochrostoma.

“The grassland supports a potentially rich and varied invertebrate fauna, although our surveys so far have barely scratched the surface. At least five bumble bee species and several solitary bees and wasps have been recorded to date, while butterflies have included Brimstones, Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Speckled Woods.  A survey of arachnids this year turned up some interesting species such as Woodlouse Spider and Cucumber Green Orb Spider.

“A wide range of birds make use of the area, including Fieldfares and Redwings in the winter. There is evidence of the graveyard being used by Grey Squirrels, Foxes, and probably Badgers.

“It is hoped that recent ‘fine tuning’ to the management of the churchyard, in particular a relaxation of the mowing regime in some of the grassland areas, will allow it to further develop as a haven for wildlife – and one which both the church community and the general public will have opportunities to enjoy.”

What More?

Looking at the wider issues of creation care, there’s lots of information on the A Rocha website – especially in the Eco Church section – you may though find a different or wider perspective from organisations such as:

The John Ray Initiative – bringing together scientific and Christian understanding
Caring for God’s Acre – advice for those with responsibility for the care of churchyards.
Bath and Wells Environment and Climate Change policy
Plenty of practical advice and guidance on the environment and climate change, including in the ChurchCare section
Wild Christian – another initiative from A Rocha aimed at families and individual
Christian Climate Action
Faith for the climate
Green Christian
Wilder Churches – a joint initiative between Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Diocese

Action you can take at home

Looking for inspiration to take action every day in your garden or home? By taking action for nature, no matter how small, you can make an impact and invite more wildlife back into our lives. Follow this link to the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Team Wilder website.

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