Eco-Congregation is an environmental programme for churches. It developed from a partnership between the environmental awareness charity ENCAMS and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. In Scotland, the programme is supported by ACTS, Action of Churches Together in Scotland, which means that it is recognised and owned by most denominations. In Scotland, the programme is jointly co-ordinated by Margaret Warnock, who works for Keep Scotland Beautiful, and Victoria Beale, working for the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology Project.
Eco-Congregation has two starting points - one is our environmental concerns as both individuals and community bodies.As individuals we each have environmental concerns, and you may identify with some of those issues listed.Eco-Congregation has been designed to help Churches move beyond the sense of powerlessness that these big concerns can bring about and together with support from local authorities and other environmental bodies, move towards a more sustainable way of living.
The first starting point was our environmental concerns. The second is a motivation that arises from our faith in God. Christianity has a positive environmental ethic. Christians believe a God who brought this world into being and who sees value in the whole of his creationthe Church calls us to exercise good stewardship of what we understand to be gifts from God, including the created orderThe Church is called to care for the poor and suffering - this includes the many people affected by environmental degradationthe Church values the opportunity to work with people and groups in our neighbourhood on issues of mutual concern including the environment and well-being of the communityEco-Congregation is designed to enable us, the Christian community, to respond to our environmental concerns, with the key aim to: encourage Churches and their members to celebrate the gift of creation and care for it in appropriate practical and spiritual ways
Eco-Congregation is designed to help churches put into practice what they are called to preach. It was designed collaboratively with churches to have something to offer every church context, regardless of size, geographical location or denomination.At the heart of the programme are the written resource modules, which are free to registered churches. These contain information on environmental issues, a Christian perspective and suggestions for action. They do not have to be followed to the letter. Instead, they are designed in the form of a toolkit from which a church can pick and choose those bits which are most relevant to them. At the back of each module is a list of further resources and relevant organisations, for churches who want to pursue an aspect in more depth. As well as the written resources, there is an Eco-congregation website providing lots of information. Margaret and I provide a regular newsletter to keep churches up to date and share ideas and stories from participating churches. We are able to help churches link up with their local councils and other community organisations. And we’re always on the other end of a phone line to answer your questions and offer advice.There is also an Award scheme, aimed to recognise and affirm the good work that churches do.
Module 1 is a basic environmental audit designed for churches, called the “Church Check-Up”. It is simply a series of questions about what your church is already doing on environmental issues, with boxes to tick.Once your church has completed Module 1 and established its priorities for action, the rest of the modules are resources that support different areas of church life. Module 2 is designed for those in the church who lead the worship. It contains ideas and inspiration for prayers, addresses, sketches and relevant hymns and songs. Module 3 is designed for those who would like to explore “green theology”, I.e. what the Bible and its interpreters have to say about the environment. The module effectively grounds the Programme in the Christian faith. Module 4 is designed to assist those who work with children, whether on a Sunday morning, mid-week uniformed groups, after-school or holiday clubs or youth groups. It contains ideas for environmentally orientated activities. The target age range is Primary School.Module 5 is similar but designed for older children in youth groups . The target age range is Secondary School.Module 6 is designed for house groups. It contains two sets of Bible studies which draw on the environmental themes in the Bible.
The first group of Modules was aimed at helping the whole church make the connection between their faith and environmental issues. The next three modules are concerned with practical things the church can do.Module 7 is designed for property committees to help them care for the church premises in an environmentally responsible way. The module includes many ideas that churches can implement on their own, and also information on obtaining a professional environmental consultation. Module 8 is for those responsible for church finance. It looks at ethical options for savings, banks, and the purchasing of goods such as recycled paper and eco-friendly cleaning supplies.Module 9 is for those who care for church grounds and land. It contains material both for rural churches Churches with large plots of land that may be very rich in wildlife and also urban churches who may only have a small paved area to work with.
Modules 10 to 12 are about helping churches look outwards, taking the message and action home, into the local community, and out to the wider world.Module 10 contains information and advice about greening personal lifestyles. It is aimed at all members of the church and of course is just as appropriate for those in the wider community. It has sections on the home, gardening, shopping, travelling, spending free time, money matters and even looks at green burials. Module 11 includes stories about working in and with the local community. The Pilot Study highlighted the benefit of working with other organisations. We’ve made a list of some local contacts that you may find helpful. Do take one away. Module 12 is designed to help churches think globally and act locally It contains information on trade, including fair-trade, and development issues including the World Development Movement and the Christian development agencies like Christian Aid and Tearfund.
Sunday services - ideal time to make members aware of how environmental issues are linked to Christian faith: addresses, songs, confession, prayers. Some churches now have one or two Sundays a year that are dedicated to focussing on environmental issues. Young people in the church often enjoy environmental care through:Having a speaker on a particular issueSponsoring an endangered species through the ZooMaking and playing board games with an environmental focus (e.g. Eco-Bingo, Green ladders and blue rubbish chutes – a version of snakes and ladders)Planting bulbs in the church grounds, or in pots to be given to elderly people in the communityDoing a survey on how people get to church, and encouraging more walking/cycling through a sketchSetting up recycling points for drinks cansGoundsCallander Church created a Millenium garden - restful and beautiful Dalbeattie Church created a Biblical garden Inverurie Church are creating a wildlife garden and are benefitting from a grant from the local landfill tax schemeSome local authorities have “Green Graveyard” initiatives or Habitat Action plans for burial grounds. Churches could get involved.Dalbeattie Parish Church - brownies made bird boxes helped by a member of a local RSPB group. They also put up bird feeders which are now maintained by all the community groups that use the church hall.
Church of Scotland Better Heating scheme can send you their consultant.Popular - saves money too!Simple things: energy-efficient light bulbs, turning lights off!, timer on the heating systemMore complex things: insulating the roof, more efficient boiler, system that allows for heating one room only etc. Encourage switching to renewable energy suppliersOne church on Orkney now is totally self-sufficient in energy with a wind turbine and a heat pump!
North church, Perth - whole church involved in recycling their milk cartons! Also printer cartridges, paper etc from the Church officeBarclay church - spectacles and stamps collected for charity. Had a ‘fashion show’ with the old spectacles first!Churches should also “close the loop”, i.e. buy recycled products.
Many churches have organised litter picking in Church grounds and the local neighbourhood. Often councils have helped by providing equipment and guidelines. Some churches have not just sent their own members out but invited the whole community to take part.
Displays in the Church buildings, to make people more aware of environmental issues and what the church is doing about them. Sometimes this forms part of community boards in church halls. Perhaps your group could contribute some materials about your work for display in local churches?
Callander Church in Perthshire publishes “green tips” in its monthly magazine and these have also been taken up by the local community paper. I’ve been asked to speak about “Green Lifestyles” to church groups. Some churches have had outside speakers about Environmental issues. Could you be a speaker?
This is St Fergus Roman Catholic Church in Paisley getting involved in a project run by the local rangers on the edge of Paisley. They are planting trees as part of a habitat creation project. The church members are learning more about their local environment and learning practical skills while the Rangers get a group of willing volunteers to help them with the work.
Almost all churches are involved in some way with development and aid work overseas. It is a natural step then to supporting Fair Trade. Many churches now only use Fair Trade tea and coffee and several run fair trade stalls at the church to sell products to members. Recycled products and eco-friendly cleaning materials can also be promoted and sold in that way.
The first two steps many of you will already have already undertaken, which is to request an introduction pack and gather together a group of interested people to fill in the ‘churches environmental check-up’ (Module 1). The check-up is arranged in 12 sections which reflect the mission and life of church. The check-up is designed to:1. Help churches identify and affirm current good environmental practice 2. Prioritise what the church would like to tackle firstOnce they have identified what they would like to do, the group should order the modules that will best help them and gain the approval of a church decision-making body. The modules are then free. Make sure you pick up your resource order form tonight.Then get going with your chosen projects!
Having undertaken some environmental initiatives, we hope that churches will seek to have their good work recognised by going for an Eco-congregation award. To do this a church should undertake initiatives in three key areas:1. It should make the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith.2. It should undertake some practical initiatives in the church buildings or grounds3. It should have a positive impact on or work with the local community. Callander, Dalbeattie and St John’s Hamilton have all received Eco-Congregation Awards and now display their award plaque outside the church.Other Partners and Projects to which SRT has contributed environmental expertise in the last year or two.
an environmental toolkit for churches
a partnership programme
What are your environmental
• too much waste going to landfill ?
• traffic congestion, air pollution and asthma ?
• loss of rainforests and species extinctions ?
• declines in UK farmland birds ?
• more storms and floods and rising sea levels linked
to global warming and climate change ?
• more housing built on green field sites ?
• litter on your local streets ?
• Skin cancer and the hole in the ozone layer ?
1. Belief in God as creator
2. Christian principles of good stewardship
3. Care for the poor and suffering, including the many
people affected by environmental degradation
4. Caring for the environment as a missionary activity
Eco-Congregation aims to encourage Churches
and their members to celebrate the gift of
creation and care for it in appropriate practical
and spiritual ways
Eco-Congregation - the toolkit
12 written modules designed to cover every aspect of
• web site: www.ecocongregation.org/scotland
• contacts with local authorities and environmental
• support and advice
3. Award scheme
Growing in Faith and
Module 2 Celebrating creation
Resources for worship
Module 3 Creation and Christianity
Overview of ‘green theology’
Module 4 Acorns to oaks
Ideas and suggestions for children’s work
Module 5 Tread gently – go green
Activities for environmental youth work
Module 6 How Green is God’s word
Bible studies for House Groups and leaders
Putting God’s House
in Green Order
Module 7 Greening the cornerstone
Guidelines on caring for
Module 8 Greening the purse strings
Stewardship of financial,catering &
Module 9 Planting and conserving Eden
Ideas to care for church grounds and land
Module 10 Green choices
Tips for greening
Module 11 Community matters
Ideas to help churches work with and
through their local community
Module 12 Global neighbours
Sources and resources for churches to
think globally and act locally.
What are churches doing?
Holding special “Creation Care” services
Teaching their young people environmental
Improving their grounds for wildlife and
Making and installing bird boxes
energy audit and
e.g. using energy-
efficient light bulbs
e.g. making the
in renewable energy!
in the parish
Helping countryside rangers with local
wildlife conservation projects
Promoting and selling Fair Trade goods
and Eco-friendly products
How to get going
1. Request an introduction pack and get together a
‘Green Team’ of interested people
2. Fill in the churches’ environmental check-up
(Module 1) to identify current good practice and
3. Order the free resource modules of your choice
4. Get the support of a church meeting and send of the
5. Dip into the toolkit and get going!
Eco-Congregation - the Award
given in recognition of
• linking environmental
issues to the Christian
• practical work in the
• having a positive impact
on the wider community
Other Partners & Projects
Environmental Issues Network (EIN) of CTBI & ACTS
European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) – website
C of S General Assembly - Environmental Policy, Reports &
Church without Walls - booklets and conferences
C of S Stewardship Dept. - training in “Creation Stewardship”
Board of Ministry – teaching opportunities
Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office – elections material
Scottish Churches House – conferences on environment
Scottish Sustainable Development Forum
Scottish Civic Forum – working groups & conferences