CAPTION: The churchyard at St Johns, Barnstaple, may look overgrown but it is a haven for wildlife

Call for ‘Eco-churches’ and environmentally-friendly churchyards across Devon

Posted: 14th May, 2019

Churches in Devon are being encouraged to become ‘Eco Churches’ in a scheme run by the Christian charity A Rocha.

It says the award scheme is for churches who: “want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth.”

Churches are assessed on their worship and teaching about the environment, how they manage their buildings and land and how churches engage with their local community and in global campaigns. The personal lifestyles of the congregation are also taken into consideration.

One of the county’s first churches to get Eco Church status is St John the Baptist in Barnstaple.

The Vicar, Revd Andy Dodwell, said: “Caring for the environment is such an obvious part of our church life – the sights, sounds (and smells) of the rural community often greet the congregation on a Sunday morning and many of us have farming backgrounds.

“Acting to protect the environment isn’t a new ‘groovy’ form of theology or outreach, it stems from our understanding of what it means to love our neighbour and to work together as we seek the common good – for all that God has created.

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“The Eco-Church initiative helped us to join together several parts of our church life and also to fill in the gaps, and with the updated version it now takes account of what cannot be done in a Grade 1 listed building.

“It’s taken some time to get here, but we’ve got our bronze award and we’ve no intention of stopping yet.”

In another green initiative, the Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England is holding its second annual Devon’s Best Churchyard competition.

The closing date for applications is 31 May.  The winner will receive £200, an oak plaque and membership of CPRE.

The judges are looking for churchyards which are well-managed and provide a peaceful haven for wildlife and people. They also need to be attractive, welcoming and accessible and to strike a balance between being places of peace and contemplation and allowing nature to flourish.

If you would like more information or advice on being an environmentally-friendly church community please contact Chris Keppie, the Diocese of Exeter Church & Society Officer