Think Green: New Eco Church launched with Rowan Williams' backing

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has backed a new scheme to reward churches for being environmentally friendly as part of a "tectonic shift" in Christian culture.

Eco Church was launched by A Rocha UK, a Christian sustainability charity, and is a sucessor to Eco-Congregation. The scheme, launched by Williams at St Paul's Cathedral on January 26, aims to help churches tackle climate change through a points-based award system.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams presented the first bronze award to St Paul's Church at the launch on January 26A Rocha

Williams said environmental concerns need to "embed more deeply" into the Church's mindset. "But progress has been made," he told his audience. "You here tonight are a part of that."

Churches are invited to complete a survey covering five areas to assess how green the church is. The church will be judged on how it incorporates green issues into its worship and teaching, its use of buildings and land, community and global engagement and lifestyle.

A certain number of points will result in a bronze award with silver and gold awards also available.

"After recent climate change talks in Paris, Eco Church helps churches integrate environmental care through worship, management of buildings and land, community and global engagement, and personal lifestyle of church members", said Dr Ruth Valerio, churches and theology director at A Rocha UK.

Rowan Williams said: "I think it's for the Church to show the world around that there are things that can be done.

"Quite simple things, about monitoring your environmental footprint, that make a difference."

At the launch Williams presented the first Eco Church award to St Paul's Cathedral.

"Initiatives such as Eco Church are an opportunity for us to help lead the way – through action that's relevant to the issues facing society in the 21st century," said Cathedral treasure Philippa Boardman, who accepted the award.

Eco Church's predecessor, Eco-Congregation, employed a similiar model to encourage church to engage on environmental issues.

St James' Church in Gerrads Cross, Buckinghamshire was one church to receive the award, after "an 18-month journey into environmental issues", according to A Rocha.

"Becoming an Eco-Congregation is not an accolade, so that we pat ourselves on the back," said Rector Martin Williams.

"It's a means through which we come to worship our creator God more deeply – and to bear witness to his wonderful works in creation."