Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
This quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning helps me to understand something which should be at the heart of Christian faith: God did not create our world and then depart to observe us from afar. God dwells with us here and there are signs of God all around us, in people and in creation, if only we have eyes to see.
All the churches of our Benefice have now signed up to become Eco-Churches. This is a scheme which helps us to take care for God’s creation seriously and to ensure it is central to all we do – part of how we seek to love our neighbours and follow God. The Eco-Church scheme explores every aspect of church life: our worship; how we look after our buildings and churchyards; how we engage with our local and global campaigns, and our personal lifestyles.
I am really delighted to announce that St Catherine’s, Sedgehill has just achieved its Bronze Eco-Church Award, following St Leonard’s, Semley, and other churches in our Benefice who achieved their Bronze Awards last year. St Mary’s, East Knoyle is well on its way and should receive recognition later this spring.
Winning this award has involved our churches in taking small but significant actions; becoming Fair Trade churches, twinning their toilets, buying ethical cleaning products, using recyclable and reusable resources, checking energy suppliers and investments are ethically responsible, joining in tree-planting and litter picks. Churches complete a carbon audit and look to reduce energy use and, as bigger maintenance projects become necessary, they commit to completing them with care for the environment as a key concern. They explore environmentally-friendly floristry and seek to ensure our churchyards are both respectful and prayerful for human visitors, and welcoming and nurturing of native wildlife. We now have prayer resources available in our churches which we hope will encourage people, as spring approaches, to use our churchyards for peaceful moments when, at least metaphorically, we can take off our shoes and notice that our ‘earth is crammed with heaven’.
To achieve the next step of the Silver Award will be challenging but, the more of us who take these first small steps, the greater the difference we can make to our beautiful and fragile, ‘God-given’ planet.
Revd Kate McFarlane