URC achieves 100% Eco Synods on World Earth Day

The United Reformed Church (URC) is celebrating a significant milestone! All 11 Synods in England and the National Synod of Wales have now signed up to become an ‘Eco Synod’. 

This is part of the wider commitment made by the Church in 2019 to act urgently to reduce carbon emissions across the whole of church life.

Eco Synod is part of A Rocha UK’s Eco Church scheme, which sees churches and synods awarded bronze, silver, or gold status as they take action to improve their environmental footprint.

The Eco Synod criteria was developed in partnership with the URC to help and encourage Synods as they supported local churches to engage in creation care through Eco Church, as well as to look at Synod-level activities and policies.

World Earth Day is celebrated around the world and this year the theme was ‘Invest in Our Planet’, where people were encouraged to take part in activities to care for the planet, like picking up litter and planting trees.

Simeon Mitchell, URC Secretary for Church and Society said: “It’s brilliant that all Synods are now engaging with the Eco Synod programme as a structure to take forward their environmental commitments. The leadership in this area shown by Synods is vital and encouraging as we seek as a denomination to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis by renewing our Environmental Policy and setting a more ambitious target for reaching net-zero carbon emissions across the whole of church life. We are grateful for the support provided by A Rocha UK through the Eco Church programme, and the dedicated work of Synod Green Apostles in championing this crucial agenda for people and the planet.”

Almost 300 URC churches – almost 25 per cent of the total – are now registered with the Eco Church programme. Ninety-three of these have achieved bronze awards and 38 silver awards.

Three churches have achieved gold awards, with St John’s Marsh Green as the first URC church to do so in 2019, followed by Tavistock URC and Emmanuel Church in Bungay in 2021.

Some inspiring recent examples include Cores End URC, in Bourne End Buckinghamshire, which achieved the bronze award in March 2022 and have exciting plans to turn their newly acquired field into a wildlife area. Beulah URC in Cardiff, which achieved their silver award in August 2021, have been working actively with their MP and participated in The Climate Coalition’s ‘Show The Love’ campaign, and grow vegetables on their church land with their junior church.

The URC West Midlands Synod in 2021 was the first to achieve a Bronze Eco Synod Award. The award encourages Synod-level change and complements the local church-level engagement with Eco Church.

Helen Stephens, Church Relations Manager at A Rocha UK, said: “At the start of 2022, we all know the scale of the challenges we face to avert catastrophic climate change and the loss of nature – and what’s needed to avert this.  The steps taken by the URC Eco Synods reflect a united commitment to encourage action locally and regionally.  As each Synod progresses through the Eco Synod scheme, more churches will become Eco Churches, a growing church community that cares for creation across all aspects of life, and Synods will be taking action towards net-zero carbon emissions in their own activities. We commend all of the Synods for making this commitment and look forward to many more award applications as they continue to take action.”

There has also been inspirational leadership from the URC Youth, which A Rocha UK recently acknowledged in a letter of endorsement when they met for their 2022 annual Youth Assembly.

In Scotland, many local URCs have registered with Eco-Congregation Scotland, a movement of Scottish churches, of all denominations and of none, committed to addressing environmental issues through their life and mission.

Last year, Oakshaw Trinity Church, in Paisley in the United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland, achieved an Eco-Congregation Scotland Silver Award.