Gold Eco-Award for Orkney congregations
Published on 18 July 2023 2 minutes read
The neighbouring islands of Westray and Papa Westray have been celebrating their gold standard on green matters.
The linked charge, which shares a minister in Rev Iain MacDonald but has separate office bearers and kirk sessions, received the highest level of award from ecumenical charity Eco-Congregation Scotland – its Gold Award – for commitment to caring for our planet.
Eco-Congregation Scotland works with churches across all denominations to help them reduce their environmental impact and engage with their local communities to promote a Scotland which cares for God's creation.
Eco-Congregation chaplain Rev David Coleman, an ordained minister of the United Reformed Church, visited the islands while on a trip to Orkney to personally hand over Gold Awards to each of the two congregations.
He said: "As Eco-Chaplain, it was a delight and a pleasure to be on the respective islands to present the exceptional Gold Awards to these Eco-Congregations of Westray, represented by Alasdair McVicar, and Papa Westray, represented by Alan Sharp."
During his visit, Mr Coleman accepted an invitation to preach and as part of his sermon, emphasised the duty of Christians to care for the world around them.
"We are sisters and brothers to those whose homelands are sinking, whose crops have failed, the migrations of whose relatives - as they see them - the animals and birds, are disrupted," he said.
"We can no longer take it for granted that God's will is done in the heavens, the sky, the climate, as we pray it be done on Earth.
"Nothing you've done here will completely fix the planet, the climate or nature as a whole, and yet its value is immense because you have realised that being church, here in this place gives you that permission to be who you are, to offer what you can, to the glory of God."
A reminder and a challenge
Westray Church originally applied for a Silver Award, but when assessors visited the island, they were so impressed by the work of the church that this was upgraded to a Gold Award. They were particularly struck by the church's leading role in community initiatives such as tackling fuel poverty and developing renewable energy resources.
The congregation on Papa Westray, which is also known as Papay, received its own Gold Award soon after.
Rev Iain MacDonald commented: "We're very proud that both our island congregations have received this level of award but are determined to ensure that rather than being a badge of honour, these awards should be a reminder and a challenge to us to maintain current standards and build on them.
"Eco-Congregation's assessment values aren't just about environmental stewardship and care for creation, though these are rightly seen as the headliners. But they are also about the likes of community engagement, ecumenical work and social justice issues. All of these areas reflect Gospel values and therefore all of them matter. We welcome the challenge."