Environmentally aware priest hopes Suffolk can become an Eco Diocese

Reverend Sandie Barton in the churchyard at St Andrew's in Freckenham Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

Reverend Sandie Barton in the churchyard at St Andrew's in Freckenham Picture: ROSS BENTLEY - Credit: Archant

A parish priest is on a mission to make Suffolk’s churches more environmentally-friendly and to help the county become an Eco Diocese.

Reverend Sandie Barton, who is the environment officer for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, is encouraging churches to look at different aspects of their activities – from managing churchyards for wildlife and switching to renewable energy suppliers to using green cleaning products and organising litter picks.

She has joined the Eco Church Scheme run by Christian charity A Rocha – and if 10% of Suffolk’s 478 churches sign up, and half of these qualify as Eco Churches, then the county can become an Eco Diocese.

So far 20 churches are signed up and six have awards – and Rev Barton hopes to get to her target of 48 churches by the end of the year.

But she hopes the initiative will go beyond the awards and encourage more people to engage with church activities.

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“Some of the issues the church talks about are not necessarily the things that the wider society is too bothered about but the environment is something people are concerned about,” she said.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to invite people to help us with the management of our church yards or help us install swift boxes or put up insect hotels.

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“We are finding we are able to engage with the community in a quite new way – people who wouldn’t dream of coming to a church service on a Sunday are wanting to support and work with us.”

Rev. Barton is a parish priest for four churches in West Suffolk including Freckenham and Worlington, which have both been handed bronze Eco Church awards from A Rocha.

At the churchyard in Freckenham, wild flowers are left blooming and bird feeders are in place while a waterless composting toilet is also installed – which once a year is emptied out to produce compost.

At Worlington church, 42 swift boxes have been installed in the tower.

Rev Barton added: “I’ve always been interested in conservation and our churches have been doing work in this area for many years, so we hope this scheme will highlight this.

“By talking about it and showing how many churches are involved we can encourage other churches that haven’t got on board yet.”

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