St Mark’s Highcliffe Engages with Local Community Through Creation Care Events

St Mark’s Highcliffe Engages with Local Community Through Creation Care Events

St Mark’s Church, Highcliffe, were recently awarded a Silver Eco Church Award, thanks to many initiatives to get the whole church and local community involved in caring for God’s creation.

Their ‘eco journey’ began in 2016, when St Mark’s churchwardens and incumbent attended a Diocesan Conference and came across the Eco Church project for the first time. The project identifies key areas of church life where caring for God’s creation could become embedded in the life and practice of a church community. An easy to use survey acts as a guide to what an Eco Church looks like, and this survey helped St Mark’s to identify areas for more development beyond which was already being done.

It had quickly become apparent that the good stewardship of St Mark’s land and buildings meant the church was already fulfilling criteria that took them well on the way towards an Eco Church Bronze award, so they decided to aim for Silver! Since that encouraging start, lots of groups and individuals have contributed towards the church’s efforts to care for God’s creation. 

Hosting Eco Events

The church understood that engaging with green issues and sharing a Christian perspective on Creation Care was a great way of connecting in a missional way with their local community. In light of this, they organised several excellent and well attended events – including hosting a cheese and wine evening entitled ‘Rising Tides’, which featured thought-provoking talks about the ocean’s rising tides and the impact this has on global and local coastlines. The speakers were Dr Ivan Haigh, Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography at the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton University, and Dr Matt Wadey, Coastal Engineer for BCP Council. Many members of the public were attracted to this event, alongside the parishioners of St Mark’s.

Another large event held at St Mark’s was a Green Fayre, opened by Bishop Debbie. The church worked in partnership with local businesses, voluntary groups, Highcliffe Rotary, Christchurch Men’s Shed, Highcliffe Resident’s Association for this event, and the Fayre enabled church members, the public and the above groups to come together and highlight local environmentally friendly enterprises, both business and voluntary. There were creative children’s activities inside the decorated church on the theme of a children’s story written by a local author. Attendees were encouraged to do a ‘how green is my lifestyle?’ questionnaire to help everyone to think about things we could additionally do to combat climate change and other pressing environmental challenges.

St Mark’s Green Fayre

For Christians, careful, loving stewardship of all our God-given resources is our calling. Involvement in Eco Church gives a great opportunity for St Mark’s to show love and care for God’s creation.

Julie Melvin, PCC Eco Representative

Changing the Churchyard

St Mark’s also made some changes to their churchyard and green spaces. For instance, the Parents and Toddlers group ‘Little Fishes’ started to regularly feed the birds and set up a bug hotel, while the person employed to garden the churchyards now keenly ensures that any wild flora and fauna is allowed to thrive. He is careful where he mows, letting designated areas grow during the summer months as well as avoiding cutting bushes and shrubs during the months when birds nest.

In addition to this, St Mark’s had visits and took advice from Dorset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Living Churchyards’ experts on how best to care for the existing wild flowers, plants and wildlife at St Mark’s, as well as how to further encourage biodiversity.

Wild sections within St Mark’s churchyard

To ratify the management of the buildings in the light of a sustainability agenda, St Mark’s made use of the Energy Efficiency Survey and Zero Carbon Advice that was subsidised by the diocese. In terms of utilities, this year, the PCC supported switching to a greener tariff for some of the church’s utilities.

To reduce the effects of climate change on our God-given, beautiful world, and us, each of us can only make tiny changes to our lifestyles. They may seem insignificant, but millions of such changes will have a huge impact. Persevere!

Val Reynolds, Eco Team

Getting Everyone Involved

St Mark’s also supports Christchurch Win on Waste by collecting items from the congregation to recycle. A whole range of items, which can’t typically be recycled, can be reused or recycled elsewhere, from printer ink cartridges, to stamps and milk bottle tops.

Alongside all these efforts, the current incumbent of St Mark’s, Revd Veronica Brown, continued the previous minister’s enthusiastic support of Eco Church and creation care. This is reflected by the regular emphasis in the teaching and worship at St Mark’s, focusing on our responsibility as Christians to care for God’s creation.

“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.”  Genesis 2.15 (NLT). At St Mark’s Church Highcliffe, we take seriously our calling to be stewards of the earth, summoned by God to ‘tend and watch over it’. When it comes to climate change and global warming, we think that the Church should be leading the way by example and raising awareness.  We achieved the A Rocha Silver Eco Church award; hosted the first ever Highcliffe Green Fayre, and put in place a structure to enable future Highcliffe Green Fayres. I am immensely grateful to God for our amazing St Mark’s Church team for pursuing this and working together with the wider community to accomplish it!

Revd Veronica Brown

In February 2024, St Mark’s Church were awarded an Eco Church Silver Award, and the St Mark’s Eco Church journey continues. Before too long, they hope to achieve a Gold Award!