Representatives of twelve networks met on Saturday 8th September 2012 in Bridge of Allan to discuss the development of Eco-Congregation Scotland. The report and presentations are available in this news item and on main network page.
Here is a report of the meeting:
The meeting opened with a welcome and prayer led by the Rev John Butterfield
1. Relaunch 2012
Over the last year ECS has been looking at updating processes and resource materials.
Members of the two working groups involved gave presentations on their findings. A
summary of the main points from their presentations and the ensuing discussion at the
seminar is given below. Copies of both presentations are attached with this report.
1.1 Changes in the registration and awards process – Rennie McElroy
(To view full presentation click here and scroll down to bottom of webpage)
A group of Board members and staff was formed to review these processes. This was in
response to comments from member congregations and award assessors re:
• “Limited market penetration” – how to improve the recruitment process?
• A high incidence of congregations registering, but not proceeding to award status.
• Assessors reporting varying arrangements made for visits from church to church.
• What happens once a church has gained a third award?
The group recommended the following changes:
• Simpler registration and better introductory information
All that will now be needed is for congregations to just write in and express interest;
they will then be registered and receive an information pack. The self-analysis and
environmental audit now come after registration, so that it may be seen as an aid to
approaching the first award, rather than a possible hindrance to registration.
Clearer award application form
Still covers the main areas of ECS interest as explained in the website, but,
congregations should now also provide a brief analysis of their work and it is stressed
that congregations should give clear information about their plans and hopes for
The same form will continue to be used for all three award levels, as people said they
found the familiarity helpful when applying for second and subsequent awards.
Peer mentors for new eco-congregations
As soon as possible in future, new eco-congregations will be assigned a peer mentor
from an award holding congregation – whenever possible in their own region, to
advise them as they progress from registration to applying for their first level award.
See website for further information about the Mentoring programme
This is intended to address the present problem of congregations registering, but not
applying for an award – partly through inertia, partly through lack of confidence.
The aim is twofold: to share experience and so, help new eco-congregations move
to awards; and keep them focussed and moving. It will take time to identify potential
mentors and put the system in place but we believe it can be done and that people
will be willing to take part. The job will not be arduous, being mainly about staying in
contact, encouraging and helping resolve doubts.
Sharper guidelines for assessment visits
This will now be a single document for both assessors and congregations, so that
both have the same advice, and each can read about the expectations that the other
brings to the event. The revised guidelines also clarify who is responsible for taking
the lead on what.
The guidelines now include a fairly detailed description of what an assessment
meeting should be like – its tone and character, and how assessors and assessed
An important side point here: Easier registration and mentoring are both intended to
increase the number of active eco-congregations; this will in turn increase the administrative
load. So, to counter this in some small way, the revised guidelines remove some
administrative tasks from office staff and lay more organisational tasks on assessors and
congregations – not sure that office staff have worked all of this out yet!
The message for congregations preparing for awards, especially if they’ve been thinking
about it for some time, or if they’re going for a second or third award is – read the guidelines
again – carefully, because there are detailed changes; don’t just assume “We’ve been
through it before, we know how it works.”
These changes are in the process of being implemented and will be available on the ECS
website (www.ecocongregationscotland.org) from October onwards.
Discussion (this is a brief summary of points raised – all will be fed back to the ECS Board):
Keeping congregations involved:
Concern was expressed about congregations registering but not being committed, as
a whole, to the ethics of ECS. However, with the new two stage registration process,
congregations are still required gain the approval to apply for full registration through their
church decision making body (kirk session / parish council etc).
What about “backsliders” ie people who start with the programme but then appear to drop
out? To help deal with this the award is deliberately time limited to 3 years (as shown by
the dates on the plaque) to encourage congregations to reapply when their award “runs
out”. The review group also recommended the introduction of peer mentors, who would be
drawn from first award (experienced) eco-congregations and who could be linked with those
enquiring about or just having registered as an eco-congregation. The mentor’s role would
be to support the new congregation through to their first award.
Will it be possible to reapply for the same level of award? It is difficult to progress if a lot has
already been achieved for the first award. Could what has been done for the first award also
be submitted for a later award and could congregations simply by pass the first award and
apply for a second award?
First / second / third award levels – are they a progression or are they different levels? Is
there a need to decouple progression from award levels?
Different levels of the award have different criteria (see http://
www.ecocongregationscotland.org/award/) and so congregations should be able to show
Beyond the Third Award
Eco Schools have a system whereby 11 targets are set and schools work to meet and
maintain these, before taking on new ones. Eco Schools continue the assessment process
beyond a fourth award (Green Flag) – assessment seems to go on and on.
The wish was expressed that congregations should to be free to move in their own
directions, without too much control from ECS. It has been suggested that awards beyond
the third award are made on the basis of work in a specialist area eg energy, waste, youth
work, liturgy etc
Churches are very variable and it is therefore important not to be too prescriptive. Award
assessment starts with considering the capacity of the congregation.
ECS should recognise the need (if it doesn’t already) to consider social and economic
issues, as well as environmental ones. As we strive to live more sustainably we should
recognise that we need a good (healthy) environment to create a strong and vibrant
community and we need a strong and vibrant community to promote economic growth.
We should also recognise that there is more to prosperity than GDP. Wellington Church
in Glasgow is, for example, addressing social and economic justice as well as caring for
1.2 Redrafting the resources: Alan Werritty
(Full presentation available here – scroll down to bottom of page)
Reasons for re-drafting modules:
• original versions of modules approaching 10 years old and with very dated content –
especially church stories
• “module” terminology has been found to be off-putting. The term “Ideas for Action”
will now be used instead
Approach adopted in re-drafting modules:
• web-based resources now platform for delivery (with hard copy option)
• new introduction plus new design – text plus lists of further resources (mostly web-
based) – timetable for completion depends on finding willing authors for re-drafting
• a new introduction to the resources has been written showing just three sections
(spiritual, practical and global living) – all referring to the Christian perspective.
• “ideas for action” will give a point of entry and a Christian perspective. Web pages
will also list links to other sources of information / advice. They are available as a
resource and their use is not compulsory for eco-congregations.
• two examples of the text from the new “Ideas about theology and the environment”
and the” Ideas for managing church finances and purchases” were also shown.
Quantity of information:
There is so much information out there, should the resource pages on the website evolve
into a database? Information is changing rapidly and needs to be kept up to date Networks
could help with this. Learning from others is important
The resources give some answers to the “what can we do?” and “what contacts could we
2. Swap Shop
A variety of ideas were contributed from the different networks and congregations /parishes
represented. These included ideas on:
Food: using the “Just Eating” course – see
Waste: update on local recycling policies and initiatives from council rep. Waste talk
repeated for other groups in local congregations (eg Guilds)
Recycling: out of “out of date” First Aid kits through Cosalt (further information from
Sheila Gray at Skene Parish Church (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Energy: engaging with the government’s “Green Deal” initiative, a complex area see
Beach Clean: practical project involving network congregations, co-ordinated with
schools and council
Environment Community Day working with local schools, community council.
EcoHeatWise (a company specialising in heating Churches, Village Halls and places
of worship in general).
Talk on decline of honey bees
Book aid event (see http://www.bookaid.org/ )
Greening outdoor spaces in urban church grounds
Having a “nice night out /social meeting” eg when Dumfries and Galloway network
had a summer walk around Dalbeattie – taking in community environmental projects.
Networking – swap shop between networks and just “getting to know each other”
3. Youth Works
Catherine Falconer from Christian Aid demonstrated resources (both on line and hard
copies) on relevant topics aimed at young people. Resources and websites from SCIAF
were also made available (see list below).
Catherine stressed the potential for communicating a message that young people have
through their wide range of social networking contacts. Youth leaders should be aware of
this as a resource, which may be used by churches. She was also more than willing to come
and visit networks (or individual churches) to talk about / demonstrate Christian Aid’s Youth
work. Contact: email@example.com (please note Catherine is out of the country until
the end of October).
List of websites: