Church – for the birds?

Church – for the birds?

How caring for creation led to community connections for one Tyne and Wear church

Photo: Caring for creation and community: volunteers at St Andrew’s Church Lamesley ready for a litter pick

With much attention turned toward the COP27 gathering in Egypt this month, we are celebrating pockets of environmental progress being made by Christians closer to home.

Over the past year and a half, the members of St Andrew’s Church in Lamesley village, Durham diocese, have felt God calling them to care for creation – which has also led to fruitful community connections.

Set in the valley of the River Teams, Lamesley village is nestled in beautiful countryside. So, as the church embarked on a collective mission discernment process, it’s not surprising that they felt nudged towards creation care – but how were they, a small, somewhat aging congregation, going to live this out in a meaningful way?

St Andrew’s church is just across the motorway from the Angel of the North. Photo by Boris YUE on Unsplash

The answer, it turned out, was right outside. One day, looking across its boundary, the church discovered a bird sanctuary right on their doorstep, managed by Durham Wildlife Trust. They began approaching local wildlife preservation organisations to ask about possibilities of working together.

Through these connections, the church has now extended the wildlife corridor into their church grounds.

Increasing diversity

Blurring the boundaries between church and nature reserve has brought more people in contact with the church. The nearby primary school has started having lessons in the graveyard, exploring local history through newly discovered cholera graves. Schoolchildren have also helped plant seeds in wildflower testbeds.

Harvest for Help volunteers in the churchyard

A 2022 survey registered on the National Biodiversity Network found 94 different species of flora and fauna in St Andrew’s Lamesley’s church grounds (over 100 is classed as high). And the 400 to 500-year-old rare tree there is now recorded in the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory.

Harvest and Help, a local charity that provides employment for adults with learning difficulties and autism, now looks after the church yard. In exchange, the church sells their produce.

Ongoing connections are growing with the Durham Wildlife Trust, the local MP and village residents who meet regularly for litter picks to keep the area clean and green.

Angels of the North

Earlier this year some women and men from the church received the Angel Award from their local MP, for all their efforts of bringing creation into local focus and bringing the church out into the community.

group of smiling women and photo inset of certificate
Photos: Sandra, second from right, with fellow volunteer Joan (second from left), Laura from Durham Wildlife Trust (centre) and local councillors Judith Turner and Sheila Gallagher; the Angel award

“I am now being greeted by name everywhere I go because people know who I am and what we do as a church for creation and for the community,” said church member Sandra.

“If it wasn’t for our connection with Partnership for Missional Church (PMC), none of this would have happened,” says Joan, an energetic older woman. PMC, offered by Church Mission Society, helps churches be on the watch for the activity of God in their community and encourages them to join in with what God is already doing.

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