The Eco-Congregation Story
Eco-Congregation developed from a partnership between the Government funded environmental charity ENCAMS (now known as Keep Britain Tidy) and the Environmental Issues Network (EIN) of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
Some of the earlier Eco-Congregation logos:
Eco-Congregation was developed from a Pilot Study involving 22 churches from across Britain and Ireland, including four Scottish congregations. These churches undertook a range of local initiatives, and also tested three sets of information packs from the United Reformed Church, the congregations of the London and Southwark dioceses of the Church of England, and Christian Ecology Link. The Eco-Congregation Resource Modules used today were developed on the basis of feedback from the pilot churches.
Eco-Congregation was dedicated on 19 September 2000, at a special service in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, in the presence of representatives of most main denominations. For the Church of Scotland, Margaret Warnock, who was the stimulus for the four Scottish congregations in the pilot scheme, was commissioned as a “Green Initiator”, and SRT Director Donald Bruce was commissioned as part of the ecumenical Steering Committee for Eco-Congregation. The Bishop of London, himself strongly committed to raising the profile of caring for God’s creation, challenged the churches to take a lead in the country in putting our beliefs into practice. A special mulberry tree was planted in the cathedral grounds.
Eco-Congregation Scotland is Launched
Eco-Congregation was officially launched in Scotland at a special dedication service at Dunblane Cathedral on 28 March 2001. Senior representatives of all the major denominations signed a pledge committing the churches to the Programme. People came from congregations all over Scotland to worship, to be challenged and to make a statement as the churches of Scotland. Canon Kenyon Wright preached on the biblical basis for caring for the earth, exhorting the churches to focus on loving not only God and our neighbour, but also God’s creation.
Here is the pledge that was signed by all the main Christian denominations in Scotland (click on it to see a larger version):
Alongside the service, practical workshops were held on how churches can reduce their impact on the environment. These looked at worship, young people’s activities, buildings and energy use, and working together with local authorities and community organisations. Together, we explored these issues and shared our varied experiences of finding positive ways to care for God’s creation.
Eco-Congregation Scotland Today
Since the launch, hundreds of congregations in Scotland have begun to explore ways of using the Eco-Congregation resources in their own contexts. These churches are members of the the Baptist Union, Church of Scotland, Jesuit Community, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Religious Society of Friends, Roman Catholic Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Scottish Congregational Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, United Free Church and United Reformed Church. Our registered churches are already are well on their way with environmental initiatives and many have gone on to receive Eco-congregation Awards.
From 2003-2006 Eco-Congregation Scotland was funded by a three year grant from the Scottish Executive’s Sustainable Action Fund. Since 2010 the managers post has been funded by a grant from the Scottish Government.
The programme has continued to develop. In 2003, Module 1 – the church check-up – was re-structured to make it easier for churches to use. In 2004, modules 2-12 were fully updated to include new material, more examples of what other churches had done through the programme, and up to date contact details for useful organisations and resources. In 2005 over 200 people from Eco-Congregation churches gathered in Dunblane for workshops, worship, and a celebration of the programme. In 2006, in recognition of the value of bringing people together in this way, regional networks were established, a process which continues into 2007.
One full time and three part time members of staff administer the programme and provide support to churches through provision of resources, regular contact, regional networks, talks and workshops, a monthly newsletter and by arranging to have churches assessed for an Eco-Congregation Award.