Karen Park from St Mark’s Church, Holbrook, tells us what they’ve been doing to care for creation.
St Mark’s Church Holbrook, Climate Sunday harvest service on 10 October 2021, with Rev Richard Coldicott and Eco Church Champion Karen Park. Image: St Mark's Church.
St Mark’s is a busy church that has given itself wholeheartedly to caring for creation. We hope you’ll find their experiences encouraging and inspiring, even if your initial reaction is to think, ‘My church could never do all these things!’ Why not try one or two of their ideas?
They’ve grouped their activities using the Climate Emergency Toolkit’s three areas: Prepare, Declare and Impact. You may find their detailed description of how they came to ‘recognise’ the climate emergency particularly helpful if you are wondering where to start with your own church. Over to Karen...
St Mark’s Church is a growing, Spirit-led, open evangelical church serving the communities of Holbrook and North Horsham in West Sussex, with a variety of service styles and regular groups for children, young people and adults.
Following our Silver Eco Church Award in 2018, our worship and teaching, land management, community and global engagement are now Eco Church gold standard. We have selected achievable Eco Church survey actions, focusing on the management of our buildings and our lifestyle, and when we achieve these, we will be eligible for an Eco Church Gold Award!
Eco Church is a standard agenda item for our parochial church council (PCC), with a report prayerfully circulated prior to each meeting. Concerns and different viewpoints are acknowledged, questions and discussions are encouraged.
2030 Net Zero Carbon Target
In September 2020 St Mark’s Holbrook PCC unanimously approved this proposal by our vicar, Rev Richard Coldicott:
‘Take St Mark’s to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, in accordance with 2030 Net Zero Carbon Target approved by General Synod in February 2020.
Calculate the carbon footprint of our church premises, set targets for reducing the carbon footprint and achieving improvements in energy efficiency.
Offset the carbon footprint of our church premises for those things we cannot reduce, for example by supporting community forestry, water filter, solar and cookstove projects in the developing world through Climate Stewards.’
A declaration is a clear, public and formal announcement, communicating to our church and wider community that we understand the urgency of climate change and commit to taking action. It also invites our congregation and community to join us on that journey.
Using resources in the Climate Emergency Toolkit, we explored how other churches approached this. Prior to our PCC meeting in September 2021, we circulated to PCC members a proposal to publicly declare a climate and ecological emergency and begin a coordinated effort to respond, based on our calling to love our neighbours, live justly and steward God’s creation.
Comments from PCC included thoughts that although St Mark’s is not an authority on climate, we are an authority on God’s will for us to look after the planet and not exploit it. It was acknowledged that the younger generation might welcome the strength of the statement and welcome the strong stance being taken by the church.
Some of the targets such as ‘net zero 2030’ are set by the Church of England and we have already agreed to them, so we confirmed that it is important to agree on a statement.
The word ‘declare’ was not universally acceptable to the PCC so Richard suggested that we soften the statement but not the document. The word ‘recognise’ as an alternative met with approval. The PCC voted unanimously to accept the document, changing the statement to read: ‘We the PCC of St Mark’s, Holbrook, recognise the current Climate and Ecological Emergency.’ You can see the full statement here. With hindsight it might have been better to suggest to the PCC a choice of whether to declare, recognise or acknowledge the climate emergency.
We added our statement to our website and noticeboard, sent copies to our MP and local councillors, and invited them to attend our Climate Sunday harvest service.
Our Eco Team set up a group looking in detail at our carbon footprint and how to achieve net zero by 2030. They considered alternatives to gas central heating, including heat pumps and solar power, so that we have information available to update when our boiler needs replacing.
We launched Creation Care encouraging households to play their part too. The online questionnaire and resources, pioneered by St Paul’s Church, Dorking, and Bishop Ruth Bushyager, Bishop of Horsham, provide ideas to help households work towards a Bronze, Silver or Gold Creation Care Award.
In September 2023 we used the new Climate Emergency Toolkit to write a plan of action, to help create a ripple effect for change. At this year’s harvest service, we will promote our Lifestyle Audit.
We will continue to impact widely by partnering with our local community through Horsham Eco Churches and speaking up for change together. We created a directory of local initiatives we’re involved with, including Horsham Community Fridge.
St Mark’s applied to Horsham District Council for a Community Climate Fund Grant for Holbrook Community Orchard. We will be planting fruit trees and wildflower meadows within the church gardens. We took part in Horsham District Council’s Community Hotbin Trial. The compost from peelings and food scraps helps us grow fruit and vegetables for our community in the church garden and reduces waste.
The Climate Emergency Toolkit helps us to understand different aspects of the climate emergency and provides excellent information and step-by-step guidance. We would encourage other churches to try it!