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Why a church in a small town in rural mid-Wales declared a climate emergency

Kerry Andrews, on behalf of St Edmund’s Eco Church Group.

St Edmund’s Church plays an important part in the community of Crickhowell, a small town situated among the eastern hills of Bannau Brycheiniog (The Brecon Beacons National Park). It is reasonably well attended, mostly by people who are over 60! However, there is a lively Messy Church once a month and a growing weekly youth club.

During lockdown in 2020, two members of St Edmund’s church became more interested in the environment. They were concerned that climate change was rapidly advancing and affecting many areas of the world, including an extensive local flood that February due to Storm Dennis. We watched several Christian webinars about this massive topic and were challenged about what we (both individually and as a church), as God’s stewards, can do about it. We were particularly interested in the Eco Church scheme which A Rocha had set up, and the work Tearfund was doing to highlight the problems of climate change around the world.

In February 2021, with permission from the PCC, we set up our Eco Church Group, did the Eco Church survey and looked at all the resources from A Rocha and Tearfund. The Climate Emergency Toolkit, set up by Tearfund, seemed a great place to start as it not only has a ‘map’ to follow, but also links to many other resources and ideas for effective actions which we could take.

We realised that one of the first things we needed to do was to declare a climate emergency. Some felt it was a bit too audacious a statement for a church in a small rural town, but we had just heard that our diocese, members of the church governing body, were about to make this statement and pledge to become net zero by 2030. So we felt that we should follow their example and take this bold step to show that we recognise the urgency of climate change and are serious about making a difference. We were also encouraged to hear that the Church in Wales had just appointed a Climate Change Champion, Dr Julia Edwards, so we knew we had someone in authority to advise and support us.

Tearfund’s Climate Emergency Toolkit has a really useful section and examples of declarations which helped us to write our Declaration of Climate Emergency.

We were also very aware of the international COP26 meeting which would take place in the autumn of 2021 and the need to draw attention to it locally as well as globally. There were many helpful suggestions, in particular to hold a Climate Sunday service, preferably before the COP26 event. So, as we started to prepare for this service, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to make our declaration and to draw more attention to the events (COP26 and our service) by inviting a couple of speakers, Dr Julia Edwards and a climate cleric, Rev Marcus Zipperlen, for a midweek evening webinar and inviting Marcus to preach during our Climate Sunday service. Both events were well attended and streamed live.

A few days prior to the service, we had received the certificate of our bronze Eco Church award and so presented this to our Rector, Rev Rana Khan.

Photo: Kerry is pictured next to Rector Rev Rana Khan
Photo: Kerry is pictured next to Rector Rev Rana Khan

We have continued to progress on our Eco Church journey, held another Climate Sunday service last October (2022) and in February (2023) received our silver Eco Church award. So, we’re now ‘going for gold’!

Looking ahead, two of the projects we're very keen to continue working on are:

1. Dealing with rubbish and recycling:

We heard about a local factory which recycles polythene (Our council only puts it into landfill), so our first challenge with the youth club and church was to collect and then fill my car with polythene which we delivered to the factory. Our polythene now goes to a shop in town from where the factory collects it weekly.

We also invited Ellie Heard, Tearfund's youth rep in Wales, to visit our youth group. She showed a film about the problem of plastic pollution for people living in poverty. The youth were challenged to create something out of rubbish we had collected, which expressed their thoughts about dealing with rubbish ourselves.

2. Improving the biodiversity of the churchyard:

In 2021, when the Eco Church group was thinking about what to do with the churchyard, we heard of the 'Biodiversity Hotspots Wales' project run by Caring for God's Acre and Natural Resources Wales and took up this challenge to improve the biodiversity in our little acre. We have held a few work parties in the churchyard and developed a comprehensive management plan. In June we will again take part in the 'Churches Count on Nature' event and will be adding data collected about flowers and pollinators to national surveys. Currently, we are planning our events during Great Big Green Week in June.

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