Fitzroy Presbyterian Caring for Creation Group

P1020357The Caring for Creation Group at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast, got underway a couple of years ago by firstly completing the Eco-Congregation Ireland church check-list (Section 1, Resources). Members of the group found this was a useful exercise, which showed up several areas where they could work on eco-awareness and practice.

Flower Planter (+Sandra)The group started weekly recycling of paper, plastic and tins in the church and church halls and the quantity of paper used in the church has been halved by reducing the size of the Order of Service sheets. Apart from some larger print versions for people with visual impairments, words of hymns are now displayed on a screen at the front of the church.

There has been a gradual changeover to energy-saving light bulbs and all cleaning products are now eco versions. Toilet rolls are all Triple Velvet, OurLogowhich claims to plant three trees for every tree cut down.

The Caring for Creation Group has led two services, with the main speakers being Philip Orr and Rev Johnston McMaster – one was a harvest celebration, the other a service around the feast of St Francis, the patron saint of ecology. The group RecyclingBinshas led prayers on creation on a number of occasions and has showed some beautiful audio-visuals by Nigel Henderson about caring for creation. He also created the group’s logo from a stained glass window in one of the church’s meeting rooms, depicting ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’.

There have also been children’s talks on recycling, an artistic display by members of the congregation around creation themes, and a One World lunch.
The past two years the group has leased two large flower pot planters from Belfast City Council ‘Belfast in Bloom’ to bring a splash of colour and nature to an otherwise depressing grey concrete area.

Before the last Westminster election politicians from all the main parties were invited to come along and answer questions about their parties’ policies on environmental issues. These was organised in association with Christian Aid.

The Caring for Creation Group also organised five Sunday afternoon walks during 2010, with an emphasis on being aware of nature. Each one examined a different eco-system ie. woodland, wetland, coast etc. Four similar walks are planned for 2011: these will be to Carnmoney Hill, Helen’s Tower, Conlig, Cavehill and Scrabo Country Park. They will be led by David McNeill, who is a botanist.

Members of the group visited St Molua’s and Knocknagoney parishes in east Belfast to see what changes they have made to become more eco-friendly.

As part of its regular business meetings, the group is studying Dave Bookless’ book, Planetwise, to help deepen their understanding of the connection between faith and the environment.

The church has maintained its Fairtrade status, encouraging the use of Fairtrade tea and coffee by all church organisations.

The Caring for Creation Group has plans to continue its environmental endeavours, including helping set up a network of churches and groups to promote environmental/creation initiatives across Belfast. It would love to develop an annual environment day for churches in Belfast – a Belfast Churches Green Fair.

It also plans to switch to biodegradable bin liners and a more efficient boiler and promote the greening of the church grounds by planting shrubs, flowers etc.

Fitzroy Presbyterian is undoubtedly setting an excellent green example, which other churches should follow!
Fitzroy received an Eco-Congregation Ireland award on 17th October 2011.