This article is courtesy of INSIGHTS,the official magazine of the Uniting Church in Australia’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.
There were smiles all around on Sunday 19 November when Merewether Uniting Church became the 30th church in Australia recognised for their environmental achievements by the Five Leaf Eco-Awards.
Founder and Director of the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, Jessica Morthorpe, travelled to Newcastle to present the awards. Rev. Jennifer Burns and representatives of the congregation received the award on behalf of Merewether Uniting Church.
Jess is also the eco-theology consultant for Uniting Mission & Education.
Learn more about workshops and courses in Eco-Theology at Uniting Mission & Education.
Contact Jess directly via JessicaM@nswact.uca.org.au
The Five Leaf Eco-Awards are a national ecumenical environmental change initiative that assists, inspires and rewards churches and religious organisations for environmental action. There are currently six non-competitive awards of varying difficulty available.
To receive the Basic Certificate (the first award in the program) and Eco-Worship Award, Merewether had to complete a range of environmental criteria, including conducting an energy audit and taking measures to reduce their energy and resource use. These included changing to more energy efficient lighting, composting, reducing paper use and holding environmental events. The church also boasts a small community garden at the front of the property, and has a strong focus on the environmental issues and themes in their worship, including annual participation in the ‘Season of Creation’ – a month long period of reflection and worship around eco themes.
In partnership with OzHarvest, Merewether also runs a weekly Community Kitchen that provides a free three course meal to more than 80 people every Tuesday. The ‘Merewether All-Sorts’ also come together for games, exercises, entertainment, conversation and friendship on Tuesdays. This fun group aims “to truly reflect the community by involving everyone, of all ‘sorts’”.
In addition to their environmental work, the church has recently decided to lease a home to international disability organisation L’Arche, providing an opportunity for local people with disability to live in community and be supported to express themselves and contribute to society.
As well as all these achievements, church members received the Five Leaf Eco-Awards humbly, and are keen to do more.
“Small churches like this never seem to think they have done enough for an award,” Ms Morthorpe reflects, “But I think if our Five Leaf Eco-Awards prove anything, it’s that church communities of all shapes and sizes can make a big difference for the environment. Previous award winners include tiny rural churches, an ecofeminist community in Melbourne, and suburban congregations in Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.”
What they have in common, says Ms Morthorpe, is a commitment to God’s Creation, and to protecting the poor and future generations. “Many churches have already done enough to earn Five Leaf Eco-Awards, they just don’t realize it,” she says, “If your community is doing something to be proud of, even if you think you have only done a little, please let us know. We can’t give you an award if we don’t know what you’ve done!”
Inspiring stories, ideas and resources for churches looking to deepen their eco-discipleship are available on the program’s website: fiveleafecoawards.org
Pictured: Jessica Morthorpe presenting the awards to Rev. Jennifer Burns and Merewether Uniting Church.