Celebrations all round as local congregation and Synod gain eco awards

Last Updated on 18 July 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye

Congratulations to Eastern Synod and Clitheroe United Reformed Church which are celebrating after gaining prestigious awards for work towards helping to protect the environment.

The church has become the first in the North Western Synod to achieve an A Rocha UK Gold Eco Church Award and it’s now the 35th Gold Awarded Eco Church in England and Wales, and the fourth URC in England to be awarded.

The achievement has been a long journey coming, having started in 2007 when the congregation expressed a wish to make the church more of a resource to the community as well as being more environmentally aware.

In recent years the church has opened a wildlife garden developed from wasteland which helps to offset some of its carbon footprint as well as aiming to increase biodiversity.

A part of the garden is also used as a kitchen garden to organically grow salads and herbs for Tom’s Table, a restaurant.

The church has also made simple changes like using environmentally-friendly cleaning products, selling locally produced organic food and/or Fairtrade goods for events, and being careful about recycling waste including composting of items.

At the inspection visit, Rose Gosling from A Rocha UK said her visit to Clitheroe URC was “very inspiring” and that she “enjoyed meeting a large and enthusiastic team, who had embedded environmental principles in everything that they do”.

Eastern Synod has gained a Bronze Eco Synod award and the Synod Office a Silver one.

Helen Stephens, A Rocha UK’s Church Relations Manager, noted the following: “As the Synod with the largest proportion of rural churches in the whole of the URC, this was no small achievement.”

The journey to becoming an Eco Synod began in 2020 when the Synod’s environmental policy was adopted, committing Eastern Synod to significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Since then it has divested from fossil fuels, embedded environmental issues into its mission and training, including having the climate as a key part of synod events, integrated sustainability into synod grants, works to improve the carbon footprint of manses, celebrates eco achievements of churches and has regular eco updates in synod newsletters.

The synod office was also awarded a silver eco church award where, for example, electric car charging points have been installed.

So far there are currently 49 churches registered with eco church in Eastern of which 20 have achieved awards including Emmanual Church in Bungay which is one of only four URC churches to have achieved a gold award.

Jeremy Flack, Eastern Synod Green Apostle said “This is a fantastic achievement and shows the Synod’s commitment to safeguarding creation. It is testament to the hard work of Synod staff, volunteers and all of our churches who have engaged in Eco Church so enthusiastically.

“We are now looking forward to working towards the next stage and achieving a silver award.”