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Green churches tackling regeneration and carbon

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Calculating their carbon footprint and tackling green projects have become missions for a growing number of New Zealand churches.

Eco Church NZ​ – a loose coalition of green-minded churches – recently got a $15,000 grant from Christchurch City Council’s Sustainability Fund​ to help them address their carbon issues.

But some eco churches have wider ambitions. A year ago, Oxford Terrace Baptist Church​ in Christchurch commissioned 120 solar panels on the roof of its rebuilt auditorium – part of what it calls “caring for God’s creation”.

And for one Sunday a month, members of The River-Ōpāwaho​ church skip a religious service in favour of planting natives and regenerating about 800m of riverbank along the Ōpāwaho-Heathcote River in Beckenham.

“We planted something like 2500 natives over the past three years, which is sweet,” said associate pastor James Beck.​ “We got rid of a whole lot of noxious tradescantia,​ which is a good thing.”

“There are lots of churches realising that this is a really important thing to do as part of their Christian mission, but our church has gone after it pretty hard," he said.

His church was known as Cashmere New Line​ until it opted to be independent recently.

There are spiritual and contemplative elements to this, said Kristel van Houte,​ national director at A Rocha NZ,​ the founder of Eco Church and a “family of Christian environmental conservation organisations” active in more than 20 countries.

“And then there's the real practical action,” she said.

One Sunday a month, James Beck’s church regenerates a stretch of riverbank rather than holding a service.


One Sunday a month, James Beck’s church regenerates a stretch of riverbank rather than holding a service.

The Christchurch grant will fund a part-time community co-ordinator​ – The River’s James Beck – to help any city church take up a carbon calculator called 360°carbon,​ which was developed by A Rocha and adapted for New Zealand religious and regulatory conditions.

Founded during the Covid-19 pandemic, Eco Church had signed up nine churches in Christchurch and 46 across the country, including Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and independents.

A Rocha arose from the Evangelical Christian movement.

“God created all that exists from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the complex ecosystems of Earth,” states its Commitment to Creation Care.

“I think churches are meant to be a profound force for good in the world,” said Beck.

“Churches are meant to demonstrate that they love their neighbour as themselves.

”For me, [regenerating the riverbank] was a practical way to do both of those things. God cares about the world and so his church should care about the world as well. This is a small way for us and other communities to demonstrate that we care.”



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