Making it easy to track each aspect of environmental impact
Many Christian churches are seeking a way to align all their activities in the way that is kindest to the planet. Their task has been made easier by Eco-Congregation Scotland, a group which has created a ‘Church Check-Up’ toolkit.
The group is run by volunteers but its focus is on rigorous practicality, starting with a guide which enables churches to conduct an assessment of their environmental work, and identify where progress needs to be made.
Topics of assessment range from worship and liturgy to church property and land. There are also sections for individuals to assess their own lifestyles. The group's work takes place in Scotland – but it provides a template that could be adapted for an environmental audit of any place of worship.
Wildflowers in a churchyard: Enrichening the wildlife habitat on church grounds is just one strand of the Eco-Congregations Scotland programme Picture: Andreas-photography, Creative Commons
Eco-Congregation's website includes a map of all participating churches in Scotland – there are 500, from the Borders to the Shetland islands, comprising about 12% of all Scottish churches are now taking part. The group also operates more than 20 local networks, run by volunteers, who are supported by a small staff based in Edinburgh.
‘Without minimising the gravity, scale or urgency of environmental issues, the starting point for caring for the Earth for Christians is as a proper response to a loving, creating God'
The Ecco-Congregations programme has three strands:
Spiritual living Making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith
Practical living Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact
Global living Influencing attitudes and take action in the local or global community on issues like climate change.
Activities are held weekly, ranging in a single month from expert advice on the challenges of making historic buildings more energy-efficient, to Green Travel advice, reducing food waste, and learning about electric vehicles.
The website contains resources on climate-friendly topics such as renewable energy, wildflower gardens in churchyards, and suggestions for every season on worship ideas, practical activities and personal reflections.
Why is there a Christian approach to the environment?
The group seeks to answer the question why Christians should take their own approach to environmental issues. The EcoCongregations website states: 'Approaching environmental issues through Christian lenses offers valuable ethical and spiritual dimensions that may contribute to environmental work both within and outside the church. It is also an approach filled with hope.
'So often, environmental issues are dealt with against a background of fear and threat. We should stop doing activity ‘x’ because otherwise environmental problem ‘y’ will happen. Without minimising the gravity, scale or urgency of environmental issues, the starting point for caring for the Earth for Christians is as a proper response to a loving, creating God. Caring for creation is a key Christian task.
'Exploring green Christianity can be a positive, enjoyable and fulfilling part of Christian discipleship. As with all theology, Christian care for the environment needs to be rooted in a consideration of the Biblical heritage.'
The group has called on member churches to take an anti-fossil fuel stance in advance of the COP26 climate summit in November 2021.
The Eco-Congregations Scotland COP26 Pledge: Divestment and the Just and Green Recovery
We believe it is unethical for Churches to invest in an industry that is harming the planet, as seen in ever more extreme and life-threatening weather events locally and globally.
We support the campaign for fossil free Churches and are conscious of the increasingly severe impact of the climate crisis, especially on people living in poverty and on all life in our common home.
We recognise the urgency of the need for a just transition from fossil fuels to clean alternatives that offers jobs and wellbeing to people in Scotland and across the world.
We commit ourselves to using our financial resources to contribute to the flourishing of God’s creation, both now and for generations to come. Therefore:
As denominations, regional Church bodies and Christian organisations in Scotland, we commit to divest any existing fossil fuel investments within the next two years and to seek investments with positive environmental benefits and which support a just and green recovery.
As congregations we call on our national and regional Church bodies to divest from fossil fuels and will work towards divestment of our own funds as soon as possible, seeking alternative ethical investments where possible.
As individuals, we commit to review our own investments and pensions and will seek alternative ethical investments where possible.
Check-Up toolkit: ecocongregationscotland.org/materials/ideas-for-action/church-check-up/ (available in PDF and Word)