An Exeter parish has become one of a growing number of congregations that have made drastic changes to reduce their environmental impact – and have been awarded for their efforts with a LiveSimply award from the charity CAFOD.
For more than a year, the parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church in Heavitree have committed to reduce, reuse and recycle, while also thinking of ways to care for communities, both close to home and around the world.
This has included everything from setting up a repair café, where people bring items for repair and mending, to organising a walk in solidarity with refugees, and holding weekly collections for the Exeter foodbank.
At Christmas, the parish’s ‘Sewing Bee’ group made dresses out of pillowcases, which they sold at the Advent Fayre, raising over £1,000 for an orphanage in Uganda. During Lent, they organised a ‘plastic free parish’ challenge, where parishioners were encouraged to reduce single-use plastic.
Bernard White, the LiveSimply accessor who presented the award, said: “In particular the repair shop, the plastic-free challenge and the dressmaking were particularly noteworthy. The ‘Sewing Bee’ parish group is innovative and a fine contribution to parish life and others.
“Although not an initiative nor activity, we were struck by the clear involvement, enthusiasm and support from the Parish Priest, Fr Jonathan Stewart, and the synergy that this produced amongst all the groups in the church.
“I would also like to draw attention to the excellent work done by Kathrin Forstner both in connection with the activities undertaken and the presentation to us.”
And it is not only with the parish they have made an impact – they have linked up with St Nicholas Primary School, and run a session about what it means to care for the environment.
After receiving the award, the group have many plans for the future, including starting a parish Walking Group and a “Sow and Grow” group. They also hope to link up with other churches in Heavitree and Exeter on sustainability issues.
CAFOD’s representative in Exeter, Simon Giarchi, said: “This is such a great achievement for the parish. Your efforts over the past year have made a massive difference not only locally, but around the world – and you are definitely an inspiration to others.”
Learn more about LiveSimly at cafod.org.uk/livesimply