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Date posted: 6 November 2017
In my role as Chair of Operation Noah, I was privileged to be invited to attend the award ceremony for the Church Times Green Church Awards at Lambeth Palace in October.
Hosted by Bishop Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury and lead Church of England bishop on the environment, the event was attended by representatives from churches that had been selected as finalists in four categories, and in addition there were individuals who had been nominated as ‘Green Champions’ and were finalists in that category. Having been involved in submitting entries from my own church in two of the sections, I was very interested to see what we had been up against.
First up was the ‘Green Building Award’, which was won by a small rural church in Cornwall that had worked with a neighbouring school to install and share a biomass heating system.
For the ‘Biodiversity Award’, the winning church, from Berkshire, had transformed scrubland into a garden of remembrance and churchyard extension; they had incorporated many aspects to attract and nurture wildlife, including wild flowers, bat boxes and bee hotels, and had worked extensively with people from the local community.
The ‘Green Congregation Award’ went to a guerrilla gardening team from Durham; they had involved over 1000 young people, and many other as well, in planting in a range of locations, and this had also led to the establishment of community gardens and the distribution of fresh produce as part of the local food bank scheme.
The Green Futures Award went to an incredibly inventive and innovative scheme by Holy Trinity Church in Tulse Hill, London. They are constructing a new church hall using straw-bale techniques and are using volunteer labour over a number of years to complete the project – which will have solar panels and be built almost entirely of recycled materials.
In all these categories the judges had a difficult task in selecting winners from shortlists that consisted of other equally inspiring and exciting projects and we were able to see presentations from each of them during the morning. There were five individuals shortlisted in the ‘Green Champion’ category and clearly this had been an even more daunting choice for the judging team – and so they opted to share the award between all five.
It was a day of shared celebration but with a very serious motivation. As we heard in a message from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby: ‘Responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation. Meanwhile, to love our neighbour – particularly, in this case, our neighbour whom we may never meet but who lives daily with the profound threat posed by this moral crisis – is at the core of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.’