I’m sure you share with me the anxiety that climate chaos is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. We have only to look at the devastating impact of dramatic weather patterns across large areas of the globe: extreme temperatures, resulting in extensive flooding or lack of rainfall, with consequent crop failures, and the complete destruction of settlements that lead to the break-up and displacement of entire communities.
Yet despite its awesome scale and impact, we as individuals can do something about it. Our faith tells us we have responsibility for the stewardship of the planet God has entrusted to us – that’s a useful starting point. And Pope Francis’ papal encyclical Laudato Si is an invaluable guide - a landmark work on the subject, underpinned by the words of scripture and held in high esteem by a wide cross section of those directly involved in trying to manage the problem.
The Holy Father lays out the responsibilities placed on us all as we face this great challenge, and points to the role we, as individuals, are called to play. That has helped to put our task into perspective and informs a number of bodies that now provide practical assistance and guidance.
Eco-Congregation is one of those bodies. It was dedicated on 19th September 2000 at a service in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Eco-Congregation Scotland (E-CS) was officially dedicated at Dunblane Cathedral on 28th March 2001.
Representatives of all the major denominations signed a pledge committing the churches to the E-CS programme. Today, over 400 congregations of different denominations are Eco-Congregation Scotland members.
Eco-Congregation Scotland is a registered charity that enthuses and equips churches to weave environmental issues into their life, worship, and mission in an enjoyable and stimulating way. There are twenty local networks, run by volunteers, who encourage each other to do more to help the environment locally and globally. One full time and three part time members of staff administer the programme and provide resources, regular contact, regional networks, talks and workshops, a monthly newsletter and a web page. They also arrange to have churches assessed for an E-CS Award.
The programme has three strands:
• Spiritual living - making the link between environmental issues and Christian faith.
• Practical living - taking action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact.
• Global living - influencing attitudes and taking action in local or global communities on issues affecting climate change.
The Scottish Government has funded E-CS since 2003, along with a number of other church bodies and development charities such as SCIAF. The Scottish Government has a vested interest in continuing support, as E-CS can help achieve the government’s own ambitious ‘green’ targets. But Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, would like the membership of E-CS to reflect more closely the denominational structure of churches in Scotland – and so would I.
There are around 3,800 Christian churches and assemblies in Scotland and 405 are registered as eco-congregations. Of those, only 24 (5%) are Roman Catholic. The Church of Scotland has 282 eco-congregations (20%), and the Scottish Episcopal Church has 59 (19%). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to increase the number of Catholic eco-congregations?
That’s a big challenge as there are around 452 Roman Catholic churches in Scotland. Along with a delegate from SCIAF, I represent the Catholic Church in Scotland on the E-CS board. I hope we can increase the number of Catholic Eco-Congregation churches and fulfil our faith’s responsibility to steward the planet responsibly.
Why not find out more about E-CS? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website www.ecocongregationscotland.org, or call 0131 240 2274.
And why not put this year’s Eco-Congregation Annual Gathering and AGM in your diary? Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EL on Saturday 28th April 2018, 10:00am – 3:15pm. The meeting will celebrate the International Year of Young People – and our aim is to leave this planet in a better state for the next generation.