Journey to building a sustainable church: All Saints, Harnham

In light of the fifth mark of mission, "To strive to safeguard the integrity of Creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth," one of the priorities of our new diocesan vision focusses on championing climate justice. 

We want to share stories of parishes and communities seeking to live and worship more sustainably. Today Joanna Woodd describes her five-year experience in developing All Saints, Harnham as an environmentally friendly church. Joanna thought it would be easy, but she discovered that the journey would be a process of "discovery, frustration and enrichment". 

The church formed a small working group and joined the A Rocha Eco Church award scheme, which helped them set goals. They also produced a parish policy with the PCC. 

"Having a 'parish policy' has been invaluable to our church communities," said Joanna, whose multiple churches are made up of many active people, each with their own gifts and interests: those who clean, those who offer refreshments, the many hall users - the list goes on. As a parish they asked everyone to work within the policy: to use fairtrade produce, china or recyclable mugs and to use eco cleaning products. 

When the group reviewed its  worship against A Rocha's criteria, they discovered that they already were scoring gold, so this gave them enormous momentum. 

"We began by asking lots of questions from those who knew the answers" said Joanna  For instance, who supplied the energy and was the water metred? Were LED light bulbs already installed in the buildings? Were the cleaning products, toilet paper and office paper all eco-friendly? They also needed to discover the church's carbon footprint. 

Measuring their carbon emissions is an interesting exercise for the group, as it is their ultimate goal to reach net zero by 2030. The diocese and Church of England has various tools such as the Energy Footprint Tool, which enables churches to collect their energy use. All Saints has already reduced its emissions from 2.3 to 1.5 in one year through using these tools. 

Looking at two churchyards in the parish, the group saw potential for bird feeders, bug hotels and hedgehog boxes. Involving the wider community, they enlisted a couple of groups of young children to help build two bug hotels. The youth were eager to take on further responsibilities, such as maintaining the bird feeders. 

The group was fortunate to have a couple of knowledgeable friends, who over the years spent many hours in the churchyard planting bee-friendly flowers and creating wildflower areas. 

The wilding in the churchyards has slowly blossomed, and people are beginning to comment on the beauty of these natural spaces. With its age (nearly 900 years in one case), some plants have re-discovered themselves, such as patches of wild clary, harebells, and a few orchids. Lady's bedstraw gives off a lovely perfume that has been enjoyed by many. 

In the autumn of 2019, the group organised walks through the two churchyards in order to learn, listen and find ways forward that would benefit everyone. 

They heard that some people were finding it difficult with the longer grass growing around their family gravestones. The church took action, made changes and monitoring this as an ongoing area. 

Wanting to make sure that the wider parish were kept up-to-date with the latest developments, the working group arranged a series of articles to be published in the monthly parish magazine on different aspects of environmental issues, such as ecofriendly Christmas gifts, Harvest and Ride and Stride. 

The bees, dragonflies and frogs are thriving in the rich churchyards. Three types of dragon flies have been seen and heard, and even a grass snake graced the entrance to one of the churches. 

Joanna said, "We certainly have seen God's revelation in creation. The sacred energy of the first 'Let there be' that brought about God's presence in every atom, every leaf and breath of life." 

Salisbury Cathedral has been supportive in the church's efforts and has provided some of its literature for use in the parish, such as their leaflet "Let's Go Green" and a congregational questionnaire. 

Joanna said: "This is certainly a journey worth embarking upon and is so very important if we are going to leave some of this beauty for our children and grandchildren to enjoy, and to live in safely with reasonably habitable temperatures." 

Powered by Church Edit