This is a tumultuous time few of us would have predicted six months ago. The world economy is in turmoil not because of international armed conflict, a trade war, an oil-price rise or a financial crash, but a microscopic organism, the coronavirus. As a result, it is also a period of great anxiety for many readers, serious hardship for some and deep mourning for any who have lost family members or friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Yet, in the midst of the current darkness there are some chinks of light.
We Christians, who care for creation, must hold both terrible and good before God. Many people are experiencing a sense of neighbourly care and community, that they have not known previously. A generation who have never given a thought to God’s book of ‘works’ in nature, are amazed at the birdsong – now they can hear it above our usual motor traffic. Urban air pollution, which in a normal year kills 40,000 people in the UK alone, has plummeted, making the basic act of breathing much easier for hundreds of thousands of people.
While some will say ‘this is no time to talk about the environment’ others are waking up to its importance for them individually like never before. Scientists too are making the connection between environmental and public health at big picture level: they warn that pandemics, caused by pathogens ‘jumping’ from animals to humans (believed to be the origin of Covid-19 itself) will increase in frequency if we continue to destroy wild animal habitat.
While Covid-19 has postponed COP26 it has not cancelled the existential threat of catastrophic climate disruption, itself a growing contributor to habitat destruction.
Christians and churches are called to usher in more of God’s Kingdom on Earth, as it is in Heaven. We do this in the way we respond now to the pain of the current situation, and in the way we discern future opportunities for good, work for and pray them into being.
A unique opportunity is approaching. The eye-watering expenditure and radical actions by governments in response to Covid-19 shows what is possible. Further gigantic sums will be borrowed and spent on rebooting the economy post Covid. The fundamental question facing society is not whether we rebuild the economy, but in what form? Will the government waste taxpayers money and more years we just cannot afford, to go back to dirty ‘business as usual’? Or will they invest in moving fast-forwards to a green and fairer – low carbon, low pollution, high nature, high health – economy?
Christians and churches, as citizens and institutions, through our actions and our voice, have a critical role to play in making the latter happen. Nothing will replace the loss of those who are grieving loved ones. But converting the evil of Covid-19 into a powerful impetus for establishing an economy which respects God’s creation will at least make life safer for future generations and nature.
We are an Eco-Church/Eco-Congregation
See Eco-Church website for scheme details.
In 2019 we became the first Methodist Church in the country to receive a Gold Eco-Church award from environmental charity A Rocha.
This followed on from three Eco-Congregation awards – in 2006, 2009 and 2014 – and recognises the progress we have made over more than 17 years in relating our faith to the care of the environment.
To find out more about our greening measures in the building refurbishment programme(2013-14), please click here to read more…
We have had a good start in our greening journey but we have to do more to deal with the climate crisis. We are continuing to focus on environmental issues by:
(1) Strengthening our stewardship of God’s creation with regular publication of The Green Corner in the monthly church magazine, regular Environmental Sunday services and speakers on environmental concerns in church based groups.
(2) Finding more ways to save energy and investigating how in the future our church premises can be a net zero carbon emissions building. We will also work with other local churches to encourage them to become Eco-Churches.
(3) Working more closely with other local organisations for social and climate justice including Stratford Climate Action, Stratford Friends of the Earth, Harvest share, Garden share, Community Energy Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon Fairtrade Town and Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank and Stratford Churches Together.
For more about our plans for the future as we strive further to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and continue to integrate care for the environment into the life of our church see below.
Our journey to become a Gold Award Eco-Church
We registered for the Eco-Congregation programme in 2003 and a green group was formed to identify what we could do to:
- Help the whole congregation to make the link between their Christian faith and environmental concerns (growing in faith and understanding)
- Taking practical action in the church and/or church grounds (putting God’s house in green order)
- Having a positive impact on and/or working with our local community (changing lives: changing communities).
Like many churches we started with small practical actions.
In the first three years we established annual Environmental Sunday services and introduced stewardship theme into church events.
The Green Group completed an energy usage audit and worked with the Resources Committee to replace all the spot lights with low energy bulbs.
A recycling Centre was set up for the congregation and users of the building to recycle plastic bottles and aluminum foil before Stratford District Council provided the kerb collection. The kitchen green waste was also collected for compost making for the church garden.
We promoted Fairtrade and became a Fairtrade Church in 2005 with fortnightly Fairtrade stall after Sunday service.
In 2006 we were awarded a 1st Eco-Congregation award.
In 2007 Warwickshire Climate Change Partnership used our church as a case study and the success story of the Eco-Congregation programme in Stratford Methodist Church was made known to the County.
In 2008 we worked with Stratford Climate Action Network to organise and host the first Stratford Eco-Fair in May 2008. The Green Group started a Green Corner column in the monthly church magazine “Reporting”.
In 2009 we were awarded a 2nd Eco-Congregation award.
In 2010 the church joined the Carbon Reduction Benchmarking Scheme. It was found that the annual carbon footprint of the church building was 35.2 tonnes CO2, which was 11% higher than that of the standard building carbon foot print. The building’s environmental performance was rated as poor. We were expected to achieve a 27% reduction by 2015 to achieve an average carbon footprint for our type of building.
The decision to refurbish the church building in 2010 provided an timely opportunity for us to make a step-change in reducing our environmental impact.
The Green Group researched options and submitted ideas for how the church could make the building greener. All of its recommendations were incorporated into the plans and the group, along with the redevelopment steering group, worked closely with the architects to incorporate as many green features into the plans as possible. These included:
- Double glazing for doors and windows
- Improved insulation of the wall and ceiling
- New, much more efficient, gas boilers for the central heating
- Installation of solar panels and a ground source heat pump in a new room
- Installation of rainwater harvesting system to flush the toilets
- More efficient lighting throughout the building i.e. rewiring and LED lighting with microwave sensor control of public passages
- A wildflower garden to increase biodiversity
- Recycling as many materials as possible – for example the wooden pews were donated to Grassmarket for furniture making, the old curtains were recycled to make shopping bags and old carpets were re-used for the stairs.
After 4 years of fundraising and 14 months of building work the refurbishment of the building was completed in 2014.
Because of all the measures that we were able to incorporate into the scheme the church premises has successfully reduced its carbon footprint from 40 tonnes (2005) to 16 tonnes CO2 emission annually.
The redevelopment opened up new spaces and better facilities for church and community use. Although the number of people using the church has increased substantially, we have been able to reduce our overall environmental impact.
Alongside the massive amount of work associated with the redevelopment, much work continued to deepen the integration of environment concerns into the life of all church activity.
The theme of stewardship was included in various church group programmes:
- Speakers from Stratford Transition Town, the Director of Recycling from Stratford District Council, Acton Energy Warwickshire were invited to the Men’s Meeting Point.
- A visit to the recycling firm “Pure” was organised for church friends.
- A harvest workshop organised by the Wesley Baby & Toddler group had strong environmental theme.
- Environmental themes were incorporated in Brunch for children.
In 2014, following the completion of the redevelopment of the church premises, we were awarded a 3rd Eco-Congregation award.
In 2016 the church registered for Eco-Church programme and achieved a Gold Eco-Church award in 2019.
Alongside Stratford Climate Action Network the church organised the first Eco-Fair in Stratford-Upon-Avon in May 2008 and again the church helped to organise and hosted a Stratford Climate Action Day on 22 June 2019. Future environmental work for the church will involve more interaction with local groups on Climate Emergency related issues.
As well as working with environmental groups in the town, the church is working to encourage other local churches in Stratford Churches Together to become Eco-Churches. In addition it will be supporting churches in the newly created South Warwickshire Circuit to take part in the Eco-Circuit scheme.
Our progress since the church redevelopment 2015 -2018
We continue our efforts to be energy efficient in the church premises and to share our concern for a better and sustainable world.
Since we finished refurbishing our church premises 4 years ago the annual electricity consumption has been13,891 kWh and gas consumption has been 66,490 kWh, which is less than half the amount of gas used before the redevelopment. We have cut our annual carbon footprint by about 40% from 27.5 tonnes CO2 in 2012 to 15.72 tonnes CO2 in 2018. (Table 1 – see below)
We continue to produce about 9,224 kWh of solar electricity annually from the panels on the roof. Only about 45% of this is used in the building which accounts for about 40% of the total usage. About 60% of the electricity used is still imported from the national grid most of which is used when the building is used in the evenings for various events. (Table 2 – see below)
We generate ground heat energy of 6,731kWh annually which provides the heating for the new large meeting room. (Table 3 – see below)
About 73,000 litres of rainwater is used annually to flush the toilets, replacing tap water that would otherwise have been used.
Our total fuel bill for electricity and gas is £4,748 which is about half of what we paid in 2012. With the income from our solar panels of £1,643 and £547 from the ground heat pump, the actual annual fuel expenditure is about £2,800. That is about one third of what we spent in 2012. To support the renewable energy industry in 2018 we switched our energy supplier to Good Energy, a 100% renewable energy supplier.
One of the aims of being an Eco-Church is to help to build a just and equal world. In gratitude for having better toilet facilities in the refurbished premises, we responded to the Tearfund appeal for Toilet Twinning. We raised £900 to twin 3 school toilet blocks in Sierra Leone, Chad and Uganda and 3 individual latrines in Liberia, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. As a Fairtrade Church we continue to promote using Fairtrade refreshments in the premises and have a monthly Fairtrade stall after Sunday service and a special service in Fairtrade Fortnight.
If you wish to know more about our Eco-Church please contact us via the Church Website
As resources allow we will consider further ways to improve the energy efficiency of the premises and aim to be a net carbon zero building in the future.
This will mean: Maintaining all the lighting, heating and cooking facilities in good working order with regular servicing.
Reminding regularly those who use our buildings to save lighting and heating.
Improving the usage and capacity of the PV system.
Installing a battery to enable the complete usage of PV electricity in the premises.
Enlarging the PV system.
Investigating the feasibility in using only electricity for heating, lighting and cooking in the future:
- Replacing gas heating by other renewable sources.
- Replacing gas oven/cooker by electric one.
|Annual Average Electricity Consumption and Cost AuditTable 2before and after refurbishment|
|Imported from National Gird (kWh)||2012/2013||2014/2018|
|Generated by PV (kWh)||0||9,224|
|Annual Average usage for Heating / Cooking and Cost Audit before and after refurbishmentTable 3|
|Gas Consumption (kWh)||2012/2013||2014/2018|
|Heat generated by heat pump (kWh)||0||6,731|
|Annual Energy Audit before and after refurbishmentTable 1|
|Annual Carbon Footprint(tonnes CO2 emission)||26.34||15.72|
|Annual Energy Bill (£)||7,871||4,748 (2,800)|