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Church Buildings - to the glory of God?

Jo Chamberlain is the National Environment Officer for the Church of England.

Do you worship under soaring gothic arches (in normal times, at least)? Or dappled by the colourful light coming through stained glass windows? Or in a simple, holy space? Whatever the age and style or your church, I’m pretty sure it was designed to enable people to draw near to God and worship. Even if you worship in a hired space, someone probably brings a banner or something to adapt the space in a small way for worship. The building itself can be seen as an expression of worship to the glory of God, and sometimes we treat the whole or part of the building in a different way as part of our expression of worship. Keeping it clean, making it look beautiful, all part of our worship. Even the thermal efficiency of the building.

Wait, what? Thermal efficiency? What’s that jargon you’ve slipped in there, and what does it have to do with worship?

Thermal efficiency, in relation to a building, is about how much energy it takes to warm the building up and how well it holds onto that heat. Big spaces take a lot of energy to heat. And there are lots of ways for heat to escape, such as through poorly insulated walls and roofs, through draughty or broken windows, or under doors. When it comes to the thermal efficiency of your church building, there’s a lot to think about. But the resources we’ve shared for Climate Sunday this month should help you on the right path to thinking about these things.

But is it worship?

The more energy it takes to keep our churches warm, the heavier our footprint on the world. While we’re burning fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) to generate electricity or directly heat the building, we’re producing carbon emissions, or, more accurately, greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s these greenhouse gas emissions which are causing the rise in global temperatures and catastrophic climate breakdown as a consequence.

We often declare ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it!’ [1] Creation is God’s gift to God’s people. It instils in us awe and wonder, for many this is an expression of worship. Nurture and care for creation helps us to appreciate it more, and the nurture of creation itself is an expression of worship. Part of our care for creation is the action we are taking to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon emissions. In this way, improving the thermal efficiency of your church is an expression of worship. Maybe someone should write a hymn about it!

[1] Psalm 24:1 NIV

See our latest resource here to explore cutting the environmental impact of your church buildings and to understand how this fits into worship and creation care, and join with others to call for change.

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