Our Green Journey
High Street Baptist Church - Tring
Our Green Journey
In the first decade of the new millennium a number of us at High Street Baptist Church in Tring became convinced that the churches should be doing and saying more about the big issues associated with resource depletion and climate change. We formed a small ‘Green Group’ and encouraged the diaconate that this was something we should commit to as a church fellowship. In 2009 we achieved our first Eco-Congregation award and, having succeeded in making further progress in raising awareness of green issues, as well as in collaborating with local environmental and other groups such as Transition and Justice & Peace, we achieved a second award in 2013. Eco-Congregation was an interdenominational scheme that is still operating in Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere but since February 2016 it has been replaced in England and Wales by Eco Church, which is operated by the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, with support from Tearfund, Christian Aid, the Methodist Church and the Church of England. At High Street, we gained a Bronze Eco Church award in October 2016 and are working towards making that a Silver award in the future.
We face all the usual challenges associated with churches – lack of insulation in our building, a limited budget and a wealth of competing demands on time – but we have nevertheless been able to reduce the waste of energy and generally heighten awareness, both among our regular congregation and also among other members of the local community who use our building regularly. Among other things, we have installed an array of solar panels on our church hall roof.
The ethos of Eco Church, as with Eco-Congregation before it, is very holistic and takes in every aspect of church life, and of life as a whole. Almost everything that we do has an impact on our environment, both near and far. We are reminded that the teaching of Christ centred on love of neighbour and care for the poor, and that the opening chapters of the Bible tell us not only that all of creation is loved by God but that he made it and saw that it was ‘very good’; furthermore, he called humankind to share in the task of caring for all of creation. At High Street Baptist Church, Tring our mission statement is to be ‘growing in the message and challenge of God’ and creation care is a central part of both the message and the challenge.
The vision of A Rocha is for churches of all denominations to care for creation as an integral part of loving their neighbours and following God faithfully. They invite churches to complete a survey addressing five key areas of church life:
- Worship and teaching
- Management of church buildings
- Management of church land
- Community and global engagement
We do not see creation care as simply an add-on to the usual ‘business’ of being church. As Christians we believe that God is our Creator. He not only created the world that we might live in it, he gave us stewardship of it. With this comes responsibility:
Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it… (Isaiah 42:5)
What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
In May 2017, High Street Baptist Church became the first Baptist church around the world to make a public commitment to divest from fossil fuels! As such, we have been added to the list of divestment commitments on the Fossil Free (350.org) website. High Street has been in close touch with the Bright Now campaign on Church divestment, organised by Christian climate change charity, Operation Noah, and indeed we feature as a case study in a recent publication from the campaign (see link). With this latest commitment, however, we are joining a list that includes some very large institutions and hope that before long we may be joined by many more Baptist churches up and down the country.
Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. We have pledged not to invest in fossil fuels in the future and to do all we can to ensure that, as far as possible, the church uses energy that is generated from renewable resources.
Putting our ethics into practice
Solar panels and utilities
The solar panels on our hall roof generate electricity when the sun is shining and we use this electricity, which reduces our energy bills; surplus electricity is fed into the national grid and we are paid for this contribution to the country’s energy supply. We purchase the remainder of our electricity from a fully renewable supplier. From April 2018 all our gas will be supplied through the Big Church Switch initiative, which links churches with suppliers who are doing the most to provide renewable energy.
We have explored options for moving our bank account away from one of the high street’s big four and had discussions with our current bank about their investments in fossil fuels.
With so much activity on the premises involving babies and young children, we generate a lot of used nappies! We are using a cleaning service which turns used nappies into fuel bricks to be used in hospital heating, thus avoiding landfill.
We use environmentally friendly cleaning products throughout the building and we also offer members of the congregation the opportunity to share in bulk purchasing in order to reduce the use of plastic containers. We use recycled paper handtowels and toilet rolls.
Purchasing and recycling
We encourage all our users to think ethically about their purchases regarding packaging and the types of products brought onto the premises. We recycle as much as possible, offering appropriate bins and advice about this topic. We have a recycling collection centre. We consciously source Fairtrade, organic or local products. Where paper products are needed (e.g. toilet paper, hand towels, office paper) we use recycled paper.
Fairtrade is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who grow the things we love. Fairtrade ensures the growers and producers of goods have decent working conditions and a fair price for their goods. We use Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar for our Sunday services and midweek activities.
Worship and education
We emphasise that all people and all of nature are part of God’s good creation; we hold special services on environmental themes.
A number of church members support aid and development agencies that care for people and for the earth. We collaborate with Churches Together in Tring’s Justice & Peace Group, who are the Fairtrade Steering Group for Tring and who also campaign on issues to do with climate change. We host the open meetings held by Tring in Transition, which helps the community take the first steps from a wasteful, oil- and car-dependent consumer society to a safer, more responsible and happier one. We have members who are involved with Christian environmental organisations, Green Christian and Operation Noah.