Sandbox churches

11 March 2008


1. Wylde Green URC (B73)
2. Selly Oak Methodist (B29)
3. Cotteridge Quakers (B30)
4. Riverside (B13)
5. Brierley Hill
6. Operation Noah
7. Faith Ambassadors
8. Eco-Congregation
9. Exhibitors
It was inspiring to hear from so many green corners of Birmingham which are setting an example for other churches to follow. We heard a number of presentations straight from the horse’s mouth: local churches which are taking up the challenge of addressing climate change.

The event was jointly organised by Faith Ambassadors, Eco-Congregation, and Operation Noah.

1. Wylde Green URC

Wylde Green URC church started its green group some five years ago and is now one of three Birmingham churches to hold an Eco-Congregation award. They work on three fronts: making links between faith and “creation care”, improving the church building, and reaching out to the community.

They have an annual service highlighting environmental issues, and the church is adorned with photographs of natural scenery with relevant biblical quotations. They have saved a lot of water (£90 a year) just by putting re-used water bottles full of tap water in the cisterns. They undertook an energy saving survey and since then have started to insulate the building, including the windows. More money is needed to complete this process.

The minister gets a bike allowance! The handicraft group has made durable shopping bags and sold them as part of a campaign against carrier bag waste. There are posters in all the toilets about the virtues and practicalities of re-usable nappies – seen of course by all the groups, Christian or otherwise, who use the church. To reach out further into the local community, they have an annual Green Day assisted by the city council’s park rangers, including a composting exhibition, a bug hunt, and lots of children’s activities.

Website: Address: Britwell Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 5SW

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2. Selly Oak Methodist

Selly Oak Methodist church holds Eco-Congregation award. They started by replacing 112 light bulbs with low energy ones, saving perhaps £260 per year. The most conspicuous feature is the Green Machine recycling point bang in the middle of the entrance hall, which collects 18 different items for re-use or recycling, including stamps (for the Leprosy Mission), spectacles (for Sight Savers), candles (All Saints Church Kings Heath use the wax to make their own) and foil (hard to recycle elsewhere).

Every year a gardeners’ market raises a few hundred pounds for charity, encouraging local propagation of plants rather than imports. They have installed some cycle stands outside. In the interests of reducing car ownership, so that people use a car only when they really need one, they have a WhizzGo car for hire sitting at the front of the church.


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3. Cotteridge Quakers: 40% drop in CO2

We got the low-down on converting an all-electric meeting room with three and a half external walls, and a floor to ceiling window, to an energy efficient spec. Some of the hard work was tracking down the right suppliers.

  • Lights: Megaman spotlights used to reduce 3.4kW to 1.02 kW – with the addition of wall lights bright enough for fine craft work.
  • Argon filled double glazing fitted to existing wooden frames (Bartley Glass stockists)
  • Dry lining of solid walls with foam insulation (Minster stockists).
  • Air source heat pump fitted to outside wall: uses 1kW to generate 2.5 kW, extracting warmth from cold air and bringing it indoors. It raises the temperature in half an hour.
  • Monitoring. Reading the meters frequently and plotting the results has been an important motivation to keep going and encourage people to do the obvious: switch things off when not in use. They have available a tailor made version of the DEFRA environment survey, which allows churches to compare themselves with national statistics.
  • Some corrections on your very full report on the Cotteridge improvements:
    Lights: Megaman spotlights used to reduce 3.4kW to 1.02 kW – bright enough for fine craft work.

If you’d like to see the building , there will be a tour on Friday 14th March 2008 – contact in advance. Future plans: to carry on insulating the roof, and the rest of the building to achieve an 80% CO2 reduction, and eventually to generate solar electricity.

They have a cheap and cheerful alternative to cycle stands: a heavy duty chain bolted to the wall for cyclists to lock their bikes to.

More details, and photos: There is a page on reducing your own carbon footprint there too, with a form you can download. Address:23a Watford Road, Cotteridge, Birmingham B30 1JB

Also from the Quakers: Northfield Eco Centre.

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4. Riverside Church: Elijah

Elijah stands for Ethical Living, Justice, Action, Hope, Riverside’s green action team. One of its aims to support individual church members in their steps twards an eco-friendly lifestyle. They have a regular spot in the church newsletter, and have done the Eco-Congregation audit of their community building. Each year they hold a banquet in Fairtrade Fortnight, showing films such as An Inconvenient Truth and Black Gold, and providing fairly traded food.

They have produced a colourful South Birmingham Ethical Shopping Directory and have a long running Traidcraft stall. They want to work more closely with other churches in the future. Riverside Church is based in Moseley.

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5. Brierley Hill Methodists: a guest appearance from Dudley

Pat Nimmo, a Methodist minister, told us of her transformation of the manse garden, documented on the Living Generously website. She also talked about working with others in Dudley, including a Green Faith Day planned with the interfaith officer for Dudley.

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6. Operation Noah

This is a national organisation aiming to build a climate change campaign in the churches on the scale of the Jubilee 2000 Campaign. At present they are putting pressure on Parliament to beef up the Climate Change Bill – to aim at an 90% rather than 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 instead of 2050, and to include annual milestones in greenhouse gas reductions, so that successive governments can’t pass the buck. They are part of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

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7. Faith Ambassadors

Maud Grainger runs this project for Birmingham Friends of the Earth (in partnership with Birmingham City Council, the Environment Agency, and Birmingham Sustainable Energy Partnership). Birmingham Churches Together have been really supportive of its work. She is there to support anyone who wants to get their faith group, of whatever religion, more eco-aware and eco-active.

Watch out for: Birmingham Faith Leaders are planning an Environment Dialogue Day in May. Birmingham City Council is planning a festival to celebrate World Environment day in June,which will hopefully have a conspicuous faith element. Tel: 632 6909

You can join the e-mail group for regular updates on Faith Ambassadors at . If you don’t have a Yahoo e-mail address (or account) you will have to create one first (it’s free). Or ask Maud to put you on the list.

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8. Eco-congregation

This is a national organisation providing a framework for churches to follow a path through green pastures. These are some of the steps:

  • The church check-up (questionnaire)
  • Formulating an action plan together.
  • Getting the church council on board
  • Registering with Eco-Congregation to work towards an award – optional, of course, but it can help to give focus.
  • Lots of modules available from their website on greening different aspects of church life.

Boldmere Methodist Church, Sutton Coldfield, also holds an eco-congregation award.

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9. Exhibitors

Stalls included:

  • FAB: Fairtrade Association Birmingham (please let them know if your church sells Fairtrade goods)
  • Flowtherm: consultancy on heating your church efficiently.
  • Christian Ecology Link: publishes a magazine, Green Christian, among many other activities.

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