Over recent decades, people have become increasingly aware that our world is in trouble environmentally. For years, humankind has thoughtlessly just taken from the earth's resources, not caring about whether or not this was sustainable, nor overly concerned about its effect on tomorrow.
Slowly at first, the Christian church has become aware that it too has a part to play in addressing the threat - indeed, that it has a responsibility placed upon it by God to take care of His creation.
In many churches, the torch has been borne for several years by individuals who have 'ploughed a lonely furrow' - convinced that creation care was indeed God's plan. These individuals had to find their support and encouragement from non-church (Greenpeace, Recycle Now, etc) or from para-church organisations (A Rocha, Noah's Ark, John Ray Initiative, et al).
In the last decade, many churches have become aware of the pioneering work of A Rocha UK, through its ambassadors Rev Dave Bookless and Ruth Valerio, and its EcoChurch initiative. Indeed, it was this initiative that brought the subject of creation care to the attention of Christchurch Baptist Church's leadership, as they considered future emphases and as they sought to teach the 'whole counsel of God' in the church's teaching programme.
So in late 2016 they sought out those individuals in the fellowship who had creation care particularly on their hearts and these individuals have met together since to consider possible ways forward.
We recognised quickly that creation care hardly featured in the church's teaching and practice. This was confirmed by reviewing where we were against the EcoChurch survey. Indeed it became obvious that, even for significant decisions in the life of the church, financial considerations often had much higher priorities than those decisions' impact on environmental or justice matters.
The good news is that CBC has now been awarded a Bronze EcoChurch Award which was one of the Creation Care group's initial objectives. The EcoChurch scheme gives us a measure of our progress towards becoming a greener church and a measure of credibility.
We've had a series of sermons on creation care and a ‘green Communion’ is now part of the church’s cycle, and the Leadership Team have committed to more teaching in this area. In April 2019, the church achieved 'gold standard' for its teaching in this area.
Because of the hope for a new building (which will incorporate green features) little has been possible in the way of improving the green credentials of the old building. And, clearly, as the church owns no land (other than that on which the buildings stand), no progress has been registered in that area of the EcoChurch categories - though that is recognised in the ‘scoring’ mechanism as many non-Anglican churches are in the same boat.
So, what have we achieved so far?
The Creation Care Group is continuing to meet and several things have been put into action:
- A brief whole-congregation questionnaire has been used to enable the church leadership to understand where people stand on matters like recycling, green energy, global warming, and the biblical position of creation care.
- Through local authorities, most people now do significant recycling at home, so we're looking at ways to help them do this too when on the church's premises.
- A dedicated CBC Creation Care Facebook page has been set up with frequent posts to stimulate interest. The level of 'likes' to date has been encouraging. You can like the page by clicking here.
- In 2017 a teaching series on Creation Care and its ramifications was shared, which included a guest speaker from A Rocha UK. In 2018 and 2019, further teaching has been shared as part of our teaching plans.
- Single-use plastic coffee cups have been replaced by compostable Vegware cups.
- Fairly-traded products and produce is used wherever possible.
- Separate recycling bins have been installed in all the offices.
- ‘Hippos’ have been inserted into all single flush toilets.
- All of CBCs toilets have been ‘twinned’ with Toilet Twinning by various groups and individuals in the life of the church.
- All cleaning products in the church are environmentally friendly.
- In September 2018, we shared in a 'green communion service' to celebrate God's love for all of creation which has now become an annual feature of our gathered worship.
- Our weekly notice sheets always include a Creation Care Challenge. The notice sheets are also available online to everyone in our Church Directory so that fewer people need to take paper copies week by week.
- The church is encouraged to bring their own crockery and cutlery for off-site meals.
- The church is registered with Recycle4Charity which not only recycles printer cartidges but also generates income for the church's charitable purposes.
- We recognise that there is much more we could do, but the consideration of significant changes (e.g. renegotiation of long-term energy contracts, boiler replacement, solar panels, etc.) are being deferred as a major rebuilding project is on the horizon.
- As the church considers the possibility of a new building on its site, the need has been recognised for the environmental impact of such a development to be recognised from the start (with faith-based considerations as well as those already imposed by modern building legislation and practice).
- In August 2019 two cycle parks were installed in the church car parks to encourage cycling.
- We joined in the Christchurch Carnival procession with a 'Love Christchurch, Love Our Environment' themed entry. We won first prize and were highly commended by the Mayor of Christchurch for our focus.
- On Saturday 05 October 2019, organised our first Green Fair and Christchurch Show, hoping to inspirer greener living in Christchurch. Click to see photographs from the event.
- CBC were featured in The Baptist Times in October 2019 with an article outlining our creation care journey. Click to read the article.
- In January 2020, we started three Green Living Project discussion groups which are open to the entire community. This initiative is a partnership with Sustainable Dorset.
- As a church, we are exploring a new building to enhance our mission and ministry. We shall build upon the outstanding foundations already achieved through attaining our EcoChurch award from A Rocha UK, ensuring that our new development meets high environmental standards, including the use of renewable energy sources where possible, (e.g. photovoltaic panels and other effective and environmentally viable schemes). Our aim is to achieve the EcoChurch Gold Standard. Click here to see our plans.
- In February 2020, we achieved Silver EcoChurch status for 'Community & Global Engagement' and are working on a carbon footprint and exploring 'green' energy suppliers
- During Lent 2020, all Members and attendees of the church were encouraged to use the Church of England resource, 'LentLive: Care For God's Creation'
- September 2020, we had a 'Beryl Bike-Share Scheme' pick-up and drop-off zone installed outside of our church offices. Our staff and visitors can easily cycle to and from our venues!
- November 2020, Meg Brockway appeared on BBC Radio Solent to speak about our church commitment to Toilet Twinning. Click here to listen.
- April 2021, our Families Together session celebrated Earth Day, inspiring children and their parents together to consider how they care for God's creation.
- September 2021, as part of The Great Big Green Week, we created a church and community art instalation in the church foyer, celebrating the different ways which we are caring for creation. A bare tree has leaves added as a visible sign of our commitment. To download the leaf template, click here.
You can listen to our sermons on the Creation Care theme by clicking the links below:
'Not Just A Cup Of Water' (Matthew 10:40-42) Chris Brockway - September 2017
'Ownership & Stewardship' (Genesis 2:15) Chris Brockway - September 2017
'Worship & Witness' (Matthew 6, Colossians 1:15-20) David Morgan (A Rocha UK) - September 2017
'Relationship & Discipleship' (Romans 12:1-2, 13:10) Chris Brockway - October 2017
'There's Green In The Rainbow' (Genesis 9:8-17) Chris Brockway - September 2018
'The Wholeness of Lifestyle' (Leviticus 25) Derek Stringer - March 2019
'Who Is My Neighbour?' (Luke 10:35-37) Chris Brockway - September 2019
Hope FM Radio Interview, Meg Brockway - October 2019
'Greater Imagination' (Psalm 8:1-9) Chris Brockway - September 2020
BBC Radio Solent Interview about Toilet Twinning, Meg Brockway - November 2020
'Like us' on our Creation Care Facebook Page to keep up to date with everything that's happening, as well as reading our posts to inspire your care for God's creation!