New Eco Church awards across the Diocese of Oxford

Churches across the diocese have received new Eco Church awards in recent weeks as part of the A Rocha UK scheme taking the diocese a step closer to becoming an Eco Diocese.

In total, 37 churches in the diocese have an Eco Church award and another 68 are registered with the scheme and progressing towards an award. Of those with an award, 29 are Bronze and eight Silver.

The diocese is very close to achieving the level needed for a Bronze Eco Diocese award, only four more churches need to receive the Bronze Eco Church award to reach that criterion for an Eco Diocese application. The A Rocha scheme is one of the ways the diocese can measure and demonstrate its progress towards reaching net zero.

The A Rocha award scheme recognises churches for their commitment to good environmental and ethical stewardship in five key areas of parish life: worship and teaching, buildings, land, lifestyle, and community and global engagement. The changes churches can make towards becoming an Eco Church can be as simple as completing an energy audit, switching to low energy lighting, and hosting churchyard wildlife projects.

St Peter & St Paul and St Andrew’s Churches in the United Parish of Chinnor, Sydenham, Aston Rowant and Crowell, South Oxfordshire, were both awarded Eco Church awards by Ian and Pamela Gamble from A Rocha on Sunday 5 September during their Climate Sunday Services. The churches have been working to switch to more environmentally sustainable practices.

St Peter & St Paul and St Andrew’s Churches in the United Parish of Chinnor, Sydenham, Aston Rowant and Crowell receiving Eco Church Award from A Rocha representatives

St Mary’s Church, Wargrave in Berkshire, progressed to Silver Eco Church status in the summer, shortly after declaring a climate and environmental emergency in May of this year.

The church has switched to using sustainable building materials for building work, ended the use of single-use plastic, switched to green energy, installed bike racks to encourage a switch to cycling, and introduced a wildflower ‘let it grow’ zone in the church yard. They have also worked with the local community in Wargrave to create two nature reserves and a communal orchard in the village.

Wildflowers in church yard. White sign reads: 'Let it grow' Zone, Psalm 96:12. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Mike Buckland, St Mary’s Church environment lead, shared why creation care is important:

“Everything we do should be God-driven and this includes how we treat the world. Creation care is at the core of being a Christian and mission in our local communities. It is an excellent opportunity to be an example to the people living around us and the Eco Church scheme helps us to demonstrate the actions we are taking as a church.

“We are all part of the body of Christ and each of us plays a part in working together to look after the environment. With creation care it is about doing the best you can and every change and action we take can make a difference.”

The climate crisis is one of the of the diocese’s main priorities and, as part of the Common Vision, is committed to responding to the climate emergency. Diocesan Synod declared a climate emergency in March 2020 and the diocese completed divestment from fossil fuels earlier this year. The Diocesan Environment Task Group, led by Bishop Olivia, is working to help churches plan action, prayer and advocacy at every level to play their part in tackling climate change. Read more about the diocese’s commitment on the environmental action page.

Find out more about how your church can be part of the A Rocha Eco Church Scheme and support the diocesan commitment of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030 on the environment page of the website. You may find that your church is already committed to many climate actions to easily qualify for an Eco Church Award.

This interactive map shows all of the churches registered with the A Rocha Scheme in the diocese. If your church is not marked on the map, please let us know.