Could you encourage your parish to become an Eco-Congregation? Fintan Hurley did exactly that in Edinburgh and he writes about it in this week's blog.
About three years ago our parish, Our Lady of Loretto and St. Michael’s in Musselburgh, registered as an eco-congregation. That’s nothing remarkable: Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) (http://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/) has about 440 registered congregations. But it’s still unusual among Catholic parishes – even after Laudato Si, only about 6% are registered, compared with more than 20% each from Church of Scotland or Scottish Episcopal Church.
Yet registration is straightforward – it’s simply a sign of intent to take environmental care seriously, as part of the life of the congregation. And it’s free, though ECS encourages membership, for a small annual fee to help support their work.
We registered through our parish priest, Fr. Basil Clark, and Miriam McHardy – you may know them from Justice and Peace work over the years. So from the beginning our environment work was under the J&P umbrella.
This isn’t a new idea: Laudato Si encourages it, as do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But it’s a very good idea. It helps so many things fall into place about environment, justice and peace.
Now we call ourselves the J&P&E group – justice and peace and environment - a stool with three strong legs, supporting one another.
From the beginning we saw this as ecumenical work – at this time of environmental crisis and injustice it seemed obvious to co-operate on ‘the integrity of God’s creation’. And so our local ecumenical network, Musselburgh Churches Together (MCT), invited David Bethune of ECS to lead one of our Lenten services this year.
David explains things very well, and he or another ECS representative could visit your parish or ecumenical group.
Applying for an ECS Bronze Award was good for us as we were assessed, and it seems we got it right because we received the award. The application highlighted the wide range of things a parish can do, from planting a wildflower garden to making a bike rack from recycled metals, to installing an efficient heating system and developing ECS materials. Several young people from the parish got involved – our links with the local Catholic schools are an important part – and we are now in touch with environmental agencies.
ECS liked what we’re doing and invited me to be a trustee. I found John Seenan there already – many of you will know John from J&P work over the years, especially in Paisley diocese. And you may know the new ECS manager, Stephen Curran. All three of us are very happy to help other Catholic parishes on the ECS journey, as best we can.
Our parish Eco Group is still small and our next big step is working out how to involve the whole parish more fully in the care of the environment and climate justice. I think this mainstreaming is an issue for many eco-congregations, and maybe for J&P(&E) activities more generally. We hope that being part of the ECS movement will help us do it, working side-by-side with other like-minded congregations. Including maybe yours.