About 16 months ago at the request of Stephen Sichel, (Vicar) and Alice Hole (Curate), I was asked to get together an environment group.
We think we got off to a good start in the first year and a bit, and now we hope to continue with our contribution to vital work to tackle environment problems. We want to share this and possibly hear from other such groups and their experience. For information, we want to outline how the group developed and give an outline of our activities during 2019.
Formation of the Group
In the autumn of 2018 a group of 7 was formed from people of different ages, gender and background and although one has now moved out of London , the rest continue. A focus was to include in the group, some who were previously not involved in other duties at St Matthews. What has turned out to be crucial is to have a member of the clergy a permanent member of the group. It has also been important that all members of the group are passionate about environmental issues.
Regularity and time of Meeting
Most members work daytimes and also have commitments in the evening. However, we have managed by meeting once a month at most, for just one hour at 6pm on Mondays. The limitation of time keeps us disciplined. We limit the number of topics for each meeting and focus on what actions we will take and who is responsible for what. (No detailed minutes, just action notes)
Focus on Significant times of the Year
Although initially we thought that Advent 2018, would be a good time to introduce an environmental element, as we only had just formed, it was too imminent, so we chose the seven weeks of Lent.
‘Starting at Home’
We looked at potential waste and recycling at St Matthews, plus use of electricity and made some immediate changes. It is made more difficult, as the building is one of multiple occupancy.
Early in 2019, Sarah Corlett, a member of the congregation and Reader met with the environment group about a Solar Panel Project run by a Building Charity in the area. A member of the Charity was present. There was a chance of cooperating with the project in order to having solar panels on the roof at St Matthews. Although we were in favour of pursuing this further, there was too short a deadline time for what would have been a huge commitment. It was decided not to go ahead at this time, although we recognised that the idea of investing in solar panel merited further consideration.
Lent Environment Challenge
We decided on four of the group members taking an environmental topic each – Water, Transport, Food and Plastics and writing a short guidance for the congregation about how they could be more environmentally friendly. A fifth member developed the idea of a pledge card also formed part of our thinking, as did special guidance for children. This developed into the drafts being coordinated into a Lent Brochure (see here) and worked on by Elaine, Alice’s sister, also a member of the clergy though not at St Matthews. We are very thankful for her substantial input. Alice was responsible for much of the coordination for the Lent Services which included focus on aspects of the environment by whoever was preaching during Lent. Members of the congregation were invited to make pledges by the start of Lent. Also, it was important to have an active session during an early Sunday Service in Lent, consisting of dividing the congregation into small groups to discuss the personal pledges made. There was also a review session several weeks after Lent for the congregation during a Sunday service.
Information and Gadget Display
In June, to support progress, there was an Environment display table and noticeboard with practical information, gadgets and ideas on how to live a more environmental friendly life.
The display continued for a few weeks and at the end of this time, there was general support to have environment issues as an ongoing part of information on the Noticeboard with a commitment by a member of the group to take responsibility for this.
At the beginning of October 2019, the service was organised by Alice to have an environmental focus. Her sister Elaine, gave a special environmentally focussed sermon; all members of the Environment Group played a part, providing fruit and vegetables for the display being on welcoming duties, reading the lessons and leading the prayers. The produce later went to the Food Bank and a small charity who cook for those in need.
During October too, a member of the congregation, Mark, who has a printing business, readily agreed to contribute 100 canvas bags with a St Matthews Angel emblem at a small cost to members of the congregation, with the proceeds being given to the Brixton Food Bank at St Pauls Church. A further 100 bags were donated directly to the Food Bank for their use in distributing goods to their users.
These were proposed by the Council around St Matthews and Peace Gardens. Opposition by St Matthews Church led by Neil Gilchrist was discussed and supported by members of the group, who also sent letters of opposition to the Council. The Proposal was withdrawn.
Working with other Groups
Part of the groups commitment to environmental practice, noted from the start in our, ‘Purpose of the Environment Group’ paper includes making links with other Churches and pro- environmental organizations. We have been active in that members of the group participated in meetings of London Citizens to ensure that there is an environmental “ask “ worked out in detail when that organization meets and challenges the candidates for the Mayoral Election in May 2020.
At our Vicar, Stephen’s request we are also planning to look at whether St Matthews applies to be an Eco Church and all that this would mean. We are also gaining information about other relevant organizations and need to explore ways of cooperating with other churches in the Diocese. In several areas we have made progress, but we can go much further…..