Many New Zealanders over the years have connected a Christian faith with their love for the environment. The development of Eco Church in Aotearoa by A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand is opening up new possibilities for churches to ‘care for creation’ as a part of their life and mission.
Eco Church encourages congregations in environmental action, integrating eco-friendly choices through worship and teaching, buildings, facilities and land management, community and global partnerships and sustainable lifestyles.
‘A Rocha’ is an international organisation with a strong base here. Kristel van Houte is the Director of A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand. Born in the Netherlands, she now calls Raglan home, together with her 8-year-old daughter. She describes Eco Church as a way to bring people together and grow into the future. “It creates opportunities to connect and re-imagine what ‘church’ is all about. I feel strongly that it is not just talk; it’s about inspiring practical action. People reach out to us and ask what can they do.”
Eco Church provides resources such as worship service material, studies and seminars, as well as guides for a wide range of actions such as waste management, low carbon food consumption, eco-friendly travel, energy efficiency and more. A carbon calculator specific to churches is under development, and our partnership with Para Kore offers a holistic zero waste programme.
Marie Preston is part of the Eco Church group at Pāuatahanui Anglican Church in Porirua;
“We decided to embark on a number of actions to lower our carbon emissions: we would act, we would make a difference, we would be a witness to others by our actions. One person said, “I will reduce my use of plastic”; another said, “Let’s set rat traps in the church grounds”; another said, “I will find out more about solar power”; another said, “I am making compost and growing more vegetables.” And all those things have happened!”
Kristel sees Eco Church as a movement; “When a church community takes on this mission and commits to being an Eco Church, that’s a brave step and very inspiring! It is great to hear about the awesome things that churches are doing. I love seeing that positive transformative energy.”
A Rocha is about ‘conservation and hope’. “We are part of a circular economy; things grow and give life then decay and die, and new growth comes out of that.” says Kristel. “We find hope even in death and this brings new life. Being caretakers of God’s creation is our ultimate calling. People are part of nature, not separate from it, so looking after God’s people and creation is our purpose.”
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