Seven churches in one benefice each get an Eco Church Award

29th October 2021

Seven churches in Ham Hill Villages Benefice have gained an Eco Church Award. Six; Montacute, Stoke-sub-Hamden, Norton-sub-Hamden, West Chinnock, Odcombe and Middle Chinnock, received a bronze award and one, Chiselborough has a silver. Almost 20 per cent of churches in Bath and Wells now have Eco Church Awards. Almost 20 per cent of churches in Bath and Wells now have Eco Church Awards.
Revd Annie Gurner the Team Vicar across all seven parishes says the Ham Hill awards came about as a result of working together and a determination to tackle some of the issues.“One of the things I was asked to do was to take a lead in our climate response. As a benefice we’ve been trying for a couple of years to get the Eco Church award, but with all the difficulties of Covid and other things it always got put in the ‘too difficult to deal with box’. Recently we decided the time was right to put our heads together and come up with a plan.”
One of the first things they did was nominate one person from each PCC to take the lead in their area. Over a number of months each parish then undertook the A Rocha Eco Church audits, “A free online survey and supporting resources designed to equip churches to express their care for God’s world in worship and teaching; in how they look after their buildings and land; in how they engage with their local community and in global campaigns, and in the personal lifestyles of the congregation.”
Revd Annie said, "It does involve a few people, but once we were underway others became enthusiastic. The A Rocha questions are comprehensive and involve quite a bit of work as people have to check things like electricity suppliers and policies in the graveyard. They also include teaching and worship so there has been a very concerted effort to add Climate Sunday, Environment Sunday, and special Rogation services. It includes buildings and land management, particularly land management for biodiversity, but also things like renewable energy for our heating and lighting and so on, in the churches and the vicarages too. So, it does take quite a long time, but it is well worth it. And doing it together meant we could support each other.”
Each PCC approached the process in a different way; In Middle Chinnock one lady took the lead, but many others shared the role with her. One other aspect of the process was community engagement. Revd Annie is now working with all four primary schools in the area and is inviting all the schools in walking distance to come to help dig ponds and plant wildflower bombs. Something they’ve also been working on with the Somerset Wildlife Trust. They have also contacted the district and parish councils and are partnering with several of them to harvest rainwater for use on allotments.