The Diocese of Durham has achieved a bronze eco award after excelling in a wide range of environmental initiatives.
The recognition has come from the charity A Rocha UK, which equips Christians, churches and dioceses to protect and restore God’s creation.
The award acknowledges Durham’s commitment to environmental priorities, in line with the Church of England’s goal to reach carbon net zero by 2030.
Durham signed up to the bronze award scheme in June 2021. To meet the criteria, the diocese needed 10% of its churches to be registered with A Rocha’s Eco Church scheme, and for 5% of them to have gained either bronze, silver or gold awards.
Of the diocese’s 261 churches, Durham has 76 registered (29%), with 33 of them (13%) awarded - 27 bronze, five silver, one gold – ensuring the diocese is well over the threshold. The diocesan head office at Cuthbert House, Durham, received a bronze award last summer.
There has been much work across the diocese. From the training of lay and ministerial staff to church communities, where eco-groups have been set up to explore ways of reducing carbon and encouraging greater environmental action and awareness.
A Rocha has praised the diocesan environmental policy - stating that it would be shared with other dioceses as an example of good practice - as well as highlighting Durham’s strength of collaboration with schools and other denominations in developing eco-focused initiatives. Some church schools have won eco awards in their own right.
Environmental Officer for Durham Diocese, Bethan Still, said: “I am delighted that the Diocese has received this award and am grateful for every person that has contributed to this achievement.
“We are proud of all the churches which have signed up or achieved an Eco Church Award. They have made this accolade possible and their hard work has been recognised and appreciated.
“Well done also to our training colleges, diocesan staff, eco-groups, schools, environmental champions and everyone else who has made a contribution, big or small.
“I hope that the bronze award has encouraged people across the diocese to be better stewards of God’s creation and more mindful of sustainability in their day-to-day and church activities.”
Bethan said diocesan focus on the environment will be stepped up another notch, with the A Rocha silver award next on the agenda.
She added: “I hope that everyone will join with me as we work towards this next exciting goal.”
Bethan also expressed her appreciation to Martin Howard, the diocesan Buildings for Mission Secretary, who penned the environmental policy, known as the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) Policy, which was praised by A Rocha.
Another crucial development was the creation of a net zero carbon action plan, which included action for Durham Cathedral and the top 20% of energy consuming churches. This document, compiled by Bethan, was also commended by A Rocha.
In a report outlining the bronze award status, A Rocha concluded: “It is great to see the spread of environmental work within the diocese. The relationship building between the churches, Theological Educational Institutions (TEIs) and schools is a holistic approach and to be commended.
“The environmental care and awareness of global issues within schools in Durham Diocese is a particular strength. We also want to congratulate you on the high level of engagement with Eco Church as shown by the number of registered and awarded churches. We are sure this will serve as a solid foundation as you continue to see Eco Church grow within the diocese.”
Photo: Environmental Officer Bethan Still is pictured with Diocesan Secretary James Morgan.