1 september 2016

Thousands of UK churches ditch fossil fuel electricity

Majority of the Salvation Army’s sites, third of Quaker meeting houses, and 2,000 churches belonging to 16 Catholic dioceses switch to renewable energy

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 1 September 2016

More than 3,500 churches across Britain have moved their electricity supply to renewables, or are planning to do so, according to data released on Thursday.

Those switching away from fossil fuels include the majority of the Salvation Army’s sites, about a third of Quaker meeting houses, and about 2,000 churches belonging to 16 Catholic dioceses which are running entirely on renewable energy.

The number represents a relatively small proportion of the 50,000 Christian churches estimated to be active across the UK.

Fitting churches with renewable energy generation devices, such as solar panels, mini wind turbines and ground or air-source heat pumps, is often difficult, owing to the expense and fact that many are listed buildings. However, parishes can also opt to buy their electricity from green suppliers. Much of the energy used by churches is for heating.

The move follows an increasing focus on climate change and the environment in recent years, and the data publication is timed for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which takes place on Thursday.

Many of the Catholic dioceses making the switch were influenced by the Pope’s encyclical last year, Laudato Si, in which the pontiff expressed his concerns over global warming and the harm that our activities are bringing to the natural environment. Pope Francis has been particularly concerned over the plight of poor people around the world, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and has called on the rich to provide assistance.

John Arnold, bishop of Salford, which is one of the dioceses, called on other churches to follow suit in moving to renewable power: “There are many ways in which we respond to the threat and reality of climate change. Adopting renewable energy for our church buildings must be a priority [and by doing so] we will directly help people threatened, and already most severely affected, by climate change.”

Others have signed up through the website, the brainchild of the Christian Aid and Tearfund charities.

The new day of prayer for creation has been designated as the start of the “Creationtide” season, running from 1 Septemberto 4 October this year, which will incorporate the traditional - and more familiar to many - festivals to celebrate the harvest, which often involve gifts of farm produce to the poor in parishes throughout the UK.

Nicholas Holtam, bishop of Salisbury, and the lead for the Church of England on environmental issues, said: “Celebrating Creationtide marks a shift in the Christian understanding of our relationship to creation under God. The consequences of teaching over recent centuries that humanity has been given domination over creation are clear in the complex environmental crises we now face. It is important that Christians rediscover older traditions of a godly relationship of humanity to the wider created order.”

He called on people to consider using renewable energy in their homes, schools and communities at large.

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