18 June 2023
A Mount Waverley parish has become the first Anglican church in Victoria to score a national award for its environmentally thoughtful approach.
St Stephen’s and St Mary’s efforts to care for the environment in an inclusive way made it the first Victorian Anglican church to be presented with a Five Leaf Eco-Award, earlier today.
Parish council member and coordinator of the environmental program Sally Hibbert said the church decided to pursue the eco prize, because it wanted a project that all parishioners could be involved with while helping make a positive difference to the environment and community.
Ms Hibbert said although the church had taken some green steps in the past, including installing solar panels and LED lighting, members believed the challenge would give them a model they could work towards.
Five Leaf Eco-Awards director Jessica Morthorpe said there were several tiers under the eco prize ranging from the introductory to the pinnacle award.
Ms Morthorpe said the Mount Waverley parish had won the introductory award which called for churches to embed green actions across buildings, worship, congregation, outreach and community leadership.
Ms Hibbert said church members and clergy undertook a range of measures to that end, including a building energy audit, growing the parish kitchen’s recycling capacity, joining local community planting projects, crafting and selling eco-friendly products, and holding a carbon fast campaign during Lent.
She said St Stephen’s and St Mary’s members now had a good idea of what to focus on to make the parish more energy efficient, and reduce waste.
The church also became more knowledgeable about how the circular economy could benefit the broader community, and through profits from its eco stalls, purchased reusable shelter bags to give to rough sleepers, Ms Hibbert said.
Ms Morthorpe said St Stephen’s and St Mary’s was the fourth church to be awarded this year and that just three out of 27 participating churches had been recognised for their actions in 2022.
She said she started the 15-year-old award program partly to encourage churches to improve their environmental awareness and actions, and get them to excel at those.
Ms Morthorpe said many churches had won various award categories so far, but that the pinnacle prize was still up for grabs.
She said she had always loved the natural environment, but in her youth struggled to reconcile her love of God with it, because she believed the two were incompatible.
At the time, her church did not discuss ecology and the leaders weren’t equipped with the necessary knowledge, Ms Morthorpe said.
She only discovered there was a biblical basis for looking after and loving the environment when she became aware of the field of eco-theology.
Ms Hibbert said the Mount Waverley parish was keen to continue its environmental program, because it helped the entire church focus on in depth planning.
“We had lots of ideas, so decided to work out what the year would look like, and how we might break down challenging tasks to make them easier to meet. We’ll have a look at what we can do again in 2024, and start the next few challenges,” she said.