Congratulations to the Carlow Union of Parishes Eco-Group who have won the gold award from Eco Congregation Ireland for their great work. Read about their achievement below and about how they did it. They also encourage other parishes to make a start as well:
The Time is Now:
Becoming a Welcoming Parish to All God’s Creation
Shirley Becker, Carolyn Good, Wendy Tucker and the Reverend David White
(Carlow Union Eco-Group)
Recently following an assessment by Eco Congregation Ireland (ECI), we were delighted to be informed that we will be receiving two awards for our environmental work: the ECI general award and the gold award which is their highest standard. This is in recognition of all the work that has happened in the grounds of our three places of worship to make them welcoming to all God’s creatures. The presentation of the awards by the chairperson of ECI, Canon Andrew Orr, will take place on Sunday 6th February.
Perhaps you would think of starting the journey towards an award in your parish? The Chinese proverb says that, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” So, how about getting a few members of your parish together to think about how to begin? A good place to start is the Checklist available on the ECI website (www.ecocongregationireland.com). Then there’s the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Faith Communities booklet which has a range of practical tasks to get you going with suggestions on page 6 being particularly helpful. (www.pollinators.ie)
The journey towards an ECI award involves taking steps in four areas to become more environmentally aware and eco-friendly: Practical, Spiritual, Community and Global. We offer the following as a little about our story and as an encouragement to start your own project.
Background and Context:
In 2017 the parish embarked on a project to be a Welcoming Parish to All God’s Creation. We decided to start with the urban church; to ensure that the most challenging surroundings from an environmental point of view became our initial focus and to then build on our successes and to replicate the same in our two rural settings. The focus was also on drawing involvement from as wide a range of people as possible (from within the parish and the wider community). The project also involved supporting Carlow NS to develop their own biodiversity garden.
Overview: When we think about loving our neighbour do we just think about our human neighbours? What about birds, insects, animals and plants? Through this project we wished to express our gratitude to God for all his creatures as we promote the wellbeing of birds and pollinators in the grounds of our churches and school.
Planning and Aims:
We decided to begin with education of adults and children at the same time. Over time the Rector was able to inform and involve the congregation. Copies of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan were made available in the parish. The Sunday Clubs in St. Mary’s and Urglin worked together, in St. Mary’s. The children read and learned about the Junior All Ireland Pollinator Plan. They created displays in the Community House. Over the period of a number of weeks the children from the three churches came together in St. Mary’s and created a plan to carry out many tasks in the grounds of St. Mary’s Church. Their work culminated in a Messy Church Day where they wore wellies to church and completed their tasks. They learned a lot about planning and communication and thoroughly enjoyed their endeavours.
The following are the steps we took in the areas of Spiritual, Practical, Community and Global:
- Mary’s Community Prayer Walk (St. Mary’s)
- Harvest Thanksgiving Service (Rotating between three churches)
- Plough Sunday (Staplestown)
- Animal Blessing Service (Urglin)
- Liturgy for World Bee Day (St. Mary’s)
- Creation options in Lectionary
- Climate Sunday Liturgy 2021
- Pollinator Friendly planting with All-Ireland Pollinator Plan signage
- Bird Tables & Feeders
- Benches from Carlow Men’s Shed
- Recycling bins in vestry and church
- Rainwater harvesting
- Using recycled paper when possible
- Partner in the European project, Ru:urban, which is an Urbact EU funded project which aims to engage in capacity building in organizing urban gardens, inspiring and training people to manage urban gardens and develop urban gardens governance and regulations.
- Carlow Men’s Shed
- Carlow County Council
- Tús (St. Mary’s and its grounds are open daily.)
- National Biodiversity Data Centre (All-Ireland Pollinator Plan)
- Mensana Carlow Mental Health Festival
- Bóthar (Purchase of beehives)
- The Laudato Tree Project
- Purchase of Fair trade products
- Christian Aid projects
Your parish may be very different to ours, so what worked for us may not for you. But the resources that are available are meant to encourage parishes to think about what is possible in their own particular context. Every parish has the ability to do something no matter how small. If you would like to know more about our experience, please get in touch, we would love to help you get started.