Having galvanised thousands of churches and church groups throughout Britain and Ireland to take action on climate change in the lead-up to COP26, the Climate Sunday campaign has now come to a close, leaving a lasting legacy of valuable resources for churches to take further action.
Over 2,200 churches and church groups throughout Britain and Ireland participated in the Climate Sunday Initiative in the run-up to COP26, addressing climate change by holding Climate Sunday services, committing to practical action, and speaking up for climate justice. This widespread take-up of the initiative across diverse church traditions indicates a growing commitment by local churches to act on climate change. It has also been the largest ecumenical response to the climate crisis in the UK in the run-up to COP26.
Now, the coalition of churches and Christian agencies which led the Climate Sunday campaign plan to build on the progress made over the course of the campaign. As part of this, they will maintain the legacy website of Climate Sunday – www.climatesunday.org – which shows how local churches can take further steps to reduce their emissions and protect the planet.
There are a wide range of service resources available in both English and Welsh on the website to support churches in holding climate-focused services and information on the four greening schemes – Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Eco Church, and Live Simply. Finally, partners to the Climate Sunday coalition have collaborated to produce a rich menu of relevant action for churches to take in 2022; the list can be found on the Speak Up section of the legacy website.
Andy Atkins, Chair of Climate Sunday and CEO of A Rocha UK said: “The commitment to action shown by thousands of churches as part of Climate Sunday is inspiring. It should bring practical progress and hope, particularly to young people desperate for their church communities and politicians to engage on this critical issue. The rich resources created by members of the campaign will help local churches to continue to take effective action in 2022 when the UK government still has the presidency of COP.”
Reverend Judith Morris, Wales said “The commitment of so many local churches, denominations and Christian organisations in Wales to Climate Sunday has been encouraging, with both worship and campaign material widely used in both languages. By ensuring the continuation of the bilingual website, the work done in 2020-21 will continue to be available for the churches to continue their work of caring for God’s Creation.”
Richard Murray, chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said “Climate Sunday demonstrates that churches are tackling the climate emergency with urgency, leading by example, with Christians increasingly motivated and supported to care and act for God’s creation. Net Zero commitments by local churches and national denominations ensure that we must all take practical action now.”
Reverend Andrew Orr, Church of Ireland and chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland said “Churches across Northern Ireland have really responded to the Climate Sunday initiative. We hope and pray that churches throughout the island of Ireland will see this as a springboard to continue to work for climate justice, through worship, through practical action, and calling on those in our governments to make the courage decisions we need to keep warming below 1.5C.”
Hannah Brown, Campaign and Churches Engagement Officer at the Joint Public Issues Team, England said: “We know that the journey ahead as we transition to net-zero across the world will not be easy. We are grateful that church communities across Britain and Ireland have been part of enabling the legacy of COP26 to be more than a negotiated outcome, but also a transformation of grassroots churches’ engagement in climate action”.
Real examples illustrating Climate Sunday’s success in a range of different denominations across the four nations in the UK:
St Chad’s Church, Far Headingley in Leeds held a climate-focused service on Sunday 17 October led by Anita Shaw, Leeds Episcopal Area Environmental Champion. Local MP Alex Sobel attended with Councillor Emma Flint, a local ward member who sits on Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Advisory Committee, they both spoke during the service.
Meadowside St Paul’s Church, Dundee, Scotland – The young people built a climate justice boat “Seas The Day” which was recycled by today’s children from a boat made years ago by a previous generation of young people. The boat was towed on a recycled homemade trolley from Meadowside St Paul’s, Dundee to St Andrew’s on 31 October. Some paper boats with the church congregation’s handwritten prayers and pledges for climate justice were placed in the hull as part of our worship. (Photo of boat attached)
St Martin’s Church and St Hilary’s Church in the Parish of Killay in Swansea, South Wales
In the Climate Sunday service, they heard of Salote, a seven-year-old living on an island threatened by storms and famine in the South Pacific; and a powerful prayer montage from contributors to COP26 and a poem entitled “If the earth were only a few feet in diameter”
St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Newtownbreda, Belfast combined Climate Sunday with a Harvest Festival. The Congregation heard from projects that they were supporting across the developing world, supporting farmers and local markets in Uganda, and a literacy project in Senegal. Everyone attending was then to support a letter-writing campaign to their local members of the Northern Ireland assembly. This urged the assembly to finally pass a Climate Action bill, which became law in January 2022, the last part of the UK to do so. Church members have also been developing a wonderful community on waste ground near the church, including tree planting, a wildflower meadow, and a pond.
Written by: Tamsin Morris