Chelmsford Cathedral with daffodils Chelmsford Cathedral with daffodils

Chelmsford Cathedral awarded Gold Eco Church Award

Chelmsford Cathedral has become the second cathedral in the UK* to achieve a Gold Eco-Church Award for its work in inspiring and encouraging others to be good stewards of God’s earth. 

The award, given by the Christian nature conservation charity A Rocha UK, reflects the Cathedral’s determination to put caring for God’s creation, and a green recovery from the pandemic, at the heart of its ministry and mission. The cathedral achieves this award just a month before the COP26 conference begins in Glasgow highlighting the importance of raising awareness of the climate crisis and inspiring action in our communities.

The Cathedral’s Canon for Evangelism and Discipleship Canon Imogen Nay said,
“The experience of living through the Covid-19 pandemic has changed, hopefully long-term, the way that we relate to our natural environments. Change has had to happen across the Cathedral’s activities, and in all areas, during a time of crisis, but it has also created lots of opportunity which has helped us not only to achieve the Gold Eco-Church Award but also enabled creative and eco-friendly ways of working.”

Significant changes were made by the cathedral’s operations team to support sustainability across the estate and help achieve the cathedral’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030. The team has ended the use of disposable cups and plates, overseen the installation of LED bulbs in the cathedral itself and the purchase of renewable electricity and motion sensor lighting. In tandem the congregation were encouraged to take their own eco surveys and make changes to go green at home.

While change was taking place in the Cathedral buildings, new green initiatives were also being developed in other areas of cathedral life. The introduction of Muddy Church encouraged the community to explore local ecology with hands-on sessions including ponddipping and vegetable growing. Children attending a new weekly family service in Guy Harlings Garden created bug hotels and bird feeders to help native wildlife thrive and in partnership with the RSPB an action plan was agreed to encourage birds into the grounds.

A special community art project ‘Lament and Hope’, encouraged reflections on pandemic experiences through the making of recycled fabric postcards. The project and subsequent interactive exhibition held in the cathedral revealed how much nature has been essential in helping people during the crisis and the deepening appreciation of the natural environment. The cathedral was amazed at the range and number of postcards submitted and that so many referenced local walks, landscapes and birds.

An active online community has also grown around the cathedral’s Greening the Church Facebook group which has developed into a significant platform with over 700 members from across Chelmsford Diocese and the UK. The group shares and encourages learning and best practice through access to study groups and seminars, including resources from the Chelmsford Cathedral led Greening the Church online conference held earlier this year.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani said,
“It is wonderful to hear that Chelmsford Cathedral has achieved the A Rocha Gold Eco Church award and I want to congratulate the Dean of Chelmsford and all the Cathedral
team. The fact that the Cathedral and many churches across our diocese are now working towards and have achieved Eco Church awards, reflects a growing sense that taking
practical steps to care for God’s creation is integral to our mission and ministry; that as Christians we believe that God has entrusted the earth to humanity, that we have failed to care for it in the past and that the climate crisis we now face is a call to action. I want to thank A Rocha UK for the work they do to help churches take practical and simple steps that make a difference and I want to thank all those in parishes across our diocese who are involved in this important work.”

Now in its sixth year, the ‘Eco Church’ award scheme brings together a national community of churches addressing the environmental crisis, using a common framework, an online
toolkit, learning and speaking up together. There are now 4,000 Eco Churches in England and Wales - 10% of churches - which are already part of the Eco Church community. A
Rocha UK is aiming, by 2025, to engage at least 15% of churches in on-going action to protect nature and address climate change through the free scheme.

The Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall said,
“We are hugely excited to be the second English Cathedral to receive the A Rocha Gold Eco Award. This is a fantastic recognition of the work done by the Cathedral’s Eco Group led by Canon Imogen Nay, who achieved Gold with her previous church in Rugby. As we go forward we continue to embrace innovation and enterprise to embed our commitment to
safeguarding the environment. This week alone the Cathedral itself has been refitted with LED bulbs and transformers that are vastly more efficient than the previous lighting, and we have signed off on a masterplan for the Cathedral grounds that builds in sustainability for the future.”

*Eco Church operates in England and Wales. A similar scheme, Eco Congregation, runs in Scotland and Ireland but to date there is not an equivalent Gold awarded cathedral in these countries.

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