A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand and Eco Church coordinators in Wellington and Auckland Dioceses are inviting Anglican churches around the country to join a newly launched Eco Church NZ network and take up the challenge to actively care for creation as an integral part of their church’s mission.
“The Eco Church NZ project is about inspiring churches to take steps towards caring for this earth - and connecting churches with other churches who are also on this journey.” says Iris Lee, A Rocha Aotearoa NZ national administrator.
The Eco Church NZ network shares resources and stories from churches and runs a Facebook group to keep local Eco Church champions connected and encouraged. A Rocha has published the Rich Living resources for small groups and is currently developing an Eco Church curriculum for children and families.
Since the Eco Church NZ network was soft launched in July 2020, seventeen churches and one diocese have signed up including Baptist, Presbyterian and Union parishes, three independent churches and Anglican parishes from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Kaikoura and Dunedin.
The Eco Church concept is based on a similar programme that was initiated five years ago in the UK, where now over 3,000 churches across England and Wales have come on board.
A stand out feature of the Eco Church NZ scheme in Aotearoa is its partnership with Para Kore, a national Māori-run organisation with years of experience working with Māori community groups, marae and schools to help them move towards a zero waste kaupapa.
A Rocha and Para Kore have worked out a special partnership so that churches can be involved in the Zero Waste Programme for Churches, which is explained in more detail in this downloadable PDF: Whare Karakia Para Kore
A Rocha invites churches that sign up to the Eco Church NZ network to use a self-assessment survey on what choices they make to care for the environment, and then look at what changes they could make to improve their advocacy and action.
The Eco Church NZ worksheet invites churches to consider eco-friendly actions such as composting food waste, community gardening or tree-planting, as well as education initiatives such as preaching on care of Creation or organising eco-education community events. Eco churches can also focus on advocacy, such as making submissions to Government, or working with iwi and councils on mitigating climate damage or pollution.
One Christchurch-based Anglican Eco Church, St Barnabas Fendalton shaped their summer youth camp around care for creation, which led to parish young people spending time at their annual camp culling wilding pines near Hororata to clear way for native plants to regenerate.
The Diocese of Auckland joined the Eco Church NZ network as a diocesan partner after its 2019 synod moved to actively advocate for creation care in every ministry unit. The Diocese of Auckland’s sustainability fieldworker, Cathy Bi-Riley believes the Eco Church network is a helpful way to challenge all their churches to care better for creation.
Since joining the Eco Church NZ network, the Diocese of Auckland has begun to measure its carbon footprint and explore ways to reduce it by diverting waste, reducing electricity usage and encouraging active and public transport.
Individual churches in the Auckland region have taken on different strategies to reduce their carbon footprints and educate their communities on environmental issues.
For example, at St Andrew’s Pukekohe they have a community teaching garden and regularly celebrate the Season of Creation with intergenerational services and activities for the whole community.
“Their next steps have been about planting more trees on their land and having conversations about how to invest in clean energy,” reports Cathy.
Another Auckland church, St John’s Royal Oak, created a small community garden in 2020, and in February this year set up a Pātaka Kai (community food pantry) to reduce food wastage and share food with the wider community.
Eco Church NZ Community Coordinator for the Wellington region, Amy Ross, is a member of an Eco Church in Pauatahanui and supports other churches in the network. Amy reports that joining the Eco Church network can expand a parish's thinking about what constitutes eco action in their locale.
In Pauatahanui, Anglicans have taken part in the diocesan-led campaign for submissions to the New Zealand Government’s Climate Commission, preached on lament and hope in Creation care, and in April 2021 held a harvest celebration with a crop swap.
In the future they hope to do pest trapping, energy reduction and teach creation care in Sunday school as well as supporting zero waste and local environmental initiatives such as Forest and Bird projects.
“Our group has found great encouragement in sharing our personal environmental concerns and preservation efforts with each other,” says Amy.
Auckland’s Cathy Bi-Riley agrees it’s important to remember that being part of the Eco Church network is not only about the environmental impact that any one church can achieve.
“As a single church, it may feel like the actions we take are small and insignificant in the face of the climate crisis.”
“But when we join with others in prayer and action, we can be encouraged to keep going, even when we’re feeling discouraged.”
“Together we can be a people of hope in the midst of crisis.”
To find out more about the Eco Church NZ network, go to: Eco Church NZ
To view churches signed up in your area, go to: Eco Church NZ location map
To register your church as an Eco Church, go to: Register as an Eco Church
A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand aims to resource, empower and build relationships among people wanting to integrate care of creation and sustainability into the life of the church in Aotearoa New Zealand. They work collaboratively with A Rocha International and in partnership with local Aotearoa New Zealand churches, denominations, creation care groups and individuals – as well as connecting with local councils, funders and like-minded organisations.