Monday, 31 January 2011

God speed the plough!

The farming community and local congregation gathered in Howden Minster on Sunday 16 January 2011, to celebrate Plough Sunday. The service also sought to raise awareness of the farming charity, Farm Crisis Network (FCN).

Plough Sunday appears to be a very ancient festival, revived by the Victorians. Traditionally, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany, 6th January. Often, the plough was fêted and drawn through the streets to be blessed in church. The following day, Plough Monday, was the first day that work in the fields recommenced after Christmas.

This year a traditional horse drawn plough was brought into church, together with a milk churn and sheep’s fleece in order to represent the wider farming community.

In his sermon, the Rector, Revd James Little, referred to the Gospel reading where Jesus warned his disciples that having put their hand to the plough, not to look back. He noted that anyone with experience of ploughing, will appreciate that when the ploughman looks back the plough takes on a life of its own and any chance of ploughing a straight furrow is lost. He went on to say that New Year is a time for hope and optimism, just as the farmer demonstrates every time that a seed is planted in the ground.

In a brief address, Helen Benson, FCN Coordinator for Yorkshire introduced the charity. FCN is a Christian organisation involving almost 300 volunteers drawn from rural churches and farming backgrounds who provide a national helpline (operating 16 hours every day of the year) and visiting service to farming families facing difficulties. Helen went on to describe some of the problems encountered by farmers, including financial hardship, relationship difficulties, isolation and sheer hard work, to name but a few.

Celebration of the ‘rural festivals’ has become a tradition at Howden, with Rogation, Lammas and Harvest being observed later in the year.

For further information on Farm Crisis Network, visit the FCN website

It's Not Easy Being Green

I have been struck by two very different things I have come across that make you think about how complicated the climate change issue is. 

The first is an article I came across on the Eco Congregation web-site relating to last year's volcanic eruptions in Iceland - apparently it was Carbon Neutral.  The estimated CO2 emissions arising from the eruption itself were more than compensated by the lack of aircraft in the air as a result of the disruption!!  Not much we can do about "Lifestyle Choice" but it certainly puts into perspective the scale of both the eruption and the emissions of aircraft.

Secondly I have seen a number of supermarkets are selling "double concentrate" fruit squash drinks.  Less packaging, less volume, fewer delivery lorries as a result and less impact on landfill.  But does the energy used to increase the concentration of the juice itself compensate for this?  I don't know - perhaps we should be told.

Graham Andrews

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Pickering Mens' Group

Many thanks to the Pickering Mens' group for their invitation to talk to their meeting.  They were generous but robust in the number and style of questions they had after the presentation - particularly on the subject of trees!  It's good that we are all challenged from time to time! 

One of our Green Deans was present at the meeting and he suggested that Pickering PCC might want to look at the ECO Congregation Initiative as part of their response to 2011.  More information on this programme can be found at:

Graham Andrews

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Bird boxes in Dalby

We've been sent some wonderful photos of the bird box we sent to St Peter's Church, Dalby.  

Gelda Churton from St Peter's Church, Dalby told us, "The two boys who put up our bird box are Oliver and Charlie Longbottom, and their grandparents Alan and Racquel Longbottom.  We have lovely birds around the area and we will keep an eye on the box and give you an update when we get residents! 
"We love the idea of the bird boxes.  Especially in a Churchyard like St Peter's where nature surrounds it.  It is on a tree near to the dry stone wall and notice board on the top road.  It faces the Church but can be seen from the road without disturbing anyone in it! (we hope!).
"St Peter's Church, Dalby is such a beautiful 12th Century Church. It is tiny and when you go inside it is not ornate, very simple and you get the feeling that you are in God's presence.  Many visitors just come to sit in the church or the churchyard which has an amazing view of the countryside around. If you ever get the chance to visit don't miss St Peter's, it is always open and everyone is welcome."
Eleanor Course

Children help their feathered friends at Stamford Bridge Church.

Children from St John's Church in Stamford Bridge are helping their feathered friends.  The children and young people's groups at St John's Stamford Bridge are busy building bird nesting boxes with the help of Stamford Bridge in Bloom.  

They started building their nest boxes last week, and will be finishing them off on the evening of Friday 28th January ready for the RSBP’s Big Garden Birdwatch on Sunday 30th January, when they’ll be putting the nest boxes in the churchyard with the help of Tim Burkinshaw of Stamford Bridge in Bloom and making a count of the birds in their churchyard.

The events are being organised by the vicar of Stamford Bridge, the Revd Fran Wakefield.  She said, “All the churches in the Diocese of York are celebrating 2011 as the Year of the Environment.  As part of this year, all the churches were sent a bird box to put up.  We loved the idea, and thought we’d make some more boxes! 

“We’re working together with Stamford Bridge in Bloom, and members of the congregation are sponsoring the children’s bird boxes.  And after we’ve made the bird boxes, we’ll be taking part in the RSBP’s Big Garden Birdwatch, taking an hour to count the numbers of the different species of different birds that we can see in the churchyard of St John’s.

“I think it’s really important that children and young people learn about the wildlife that lives around them, and how important it is to protect and preserve the biodiversity of an area.  As Christians, we believe that the natural world is a gift from God to enjoy, but we are also called to join with God in sustaining and caring for it.”

Eleanor Course

Friday, 21 January 2011

Take an hour off to enjoy nature with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch

As part of the Diocesan Year of the Environment, why not join in with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch?

If you love birds and want to help them, then the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is your chance to do something that really counts.

All you need is a pen, some scrap paper (or, a printout of the RSPB's handy bird ID sheet), and an hour to spend watching the birds in your garden on either Saturday 29, or Sunday 30 January 2011.

Then simply record the highest number of each bird species seen in your garden, or churchyard at any one time, and let the RSPB know what you saw.

You can find more information and download the RSPB's handy bird ID sheet at

Eleanor Course

Wind farm manufacturing plant to come to Hull

There's great news for Hull - wind turbine manufacturers Siemens yesterday announced its decision to build a multi-million pound manufacturing plant in Hull.  Not only will this create thousands of jobs in Hull, it places Hull at the heart of a green industry revolution.  You can read more in the Hull Daily Mail.

Eleanor Course

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Getting the message out

So far we have a number of engagements to come and talk to different groups in the diocese about our initiative.  I have been to speak to the New Ainstey Chapter and will be going again in March to speak to their Deanery Synod.  This Monday I am off to the Pickering Mens' Group to see them. 

The New Ainstey Chapter were very enthusiastic about the scheme and several commented on the bird boxes they had received.  The Deanery is hoping to undertake an audit of the land the 'church' (in its broadest sense) looks after.  We hope they will identify some habitats they did not know about previously and I am sure they will want to share their findings later in the year.

We have had some further correspondence on the Bird Boxes.  First was a complaint - which is a shame - about the cost of the enterprise.  All the costs were covered by the diocesan contractors who work on our Parsonage houses.  So a big thanks to them for their sponsorship.  We have specifically tried to keep costs to an absolute minimum as we all know only too well that times out there are hard.

The second letter has been about the types of boxes that were sent out.  The correspondent rightly identified that Owl habitats have taken a real hit in recent years.  However our scheme was meant as a gesture to raise awareness about the 2011 initiative; so all the boxes were the same typical bird box type.  However, if their being sent out has highlighted awareness of other bird types' habitat needs - then HURRAH!!  Stamford Bridge is making a further batch of boxes for their own use in their benefice.  Perhaps others will do likewise and think specifically about the need in their areas.

And finally - one of the ways we want to share material is through social networking sites.  If you have mutual friends on Facebook who you think would like to keep in touch, comment and share their thoughts on "Our Environment 2011" then please "suggest" them as a friend for me.

Graham Andrews

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Stockton-on-Tees church gets solar panels

All Saints Church Eaglescliffe, in Stockton-on-Tees (just to the north of our Diocese) have raised £55,000 and recieved a grant of £27,000 from the EDF Energy Green Fund to install solar panels on their church - congratulations!

You can read about their story here, and if you are interested in installing renewable technology in your church or at home, you can read more on the Church of England's Chrinking the Footprint website here.

Eleanor Course

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Have you ordered your copies of the Lent course?

As part of our Year of the Environment in 2011, we’d like to invite your church to join in with our Diocesan Lent Course.

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" consists of 5 sessions, looking at issues of faith and the environment through the story of a loaf of bread.

The sessions will contain:
1) Thought-provoking information on environmental issues through a DVD and written material
2) Biblical passages with commentary
3) Practical ways in which people can change their behaviour to help our environment.
4) Imaginative ideas for reflection and prayer

If you want to know more, or download the booking form, click here.

Eleanor Course

Monday, 10 January 2011

Press coverage for bird boxes

We've had a great piece in the Telegraph about the bird boxes - you can read more here.

There's also been coverage in the BBC North Yorkshire website, York Press, and Hull Daily Mail.

Eleanor Course.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Plough Sunday at Howden Minster

We've been contacted by Farm Crisis Network, who have let us know that there will be a special Plough Sunday service at Howden Minster as an historic horse-drawn plough will be blessed as a symbol of God's blessing on all work on the land.  The service will take place on Sunday 16 January 2011 at 10:45am, and there will be special recognition of the work undertaken by the farming charity Farm Crisis Network.

The origins of Plough Sunday go back a long way, at least to medieval times. On the first Sunday after Epiphany the parish ploughs, bedecked with ribbons, would be dragged to church to be blessed as the ploughing season began.Today, Plough Sunday provides an opportunity to pray for the farms and farmers of our country as well as looking back to celebrate the contribution made by past generations who followed the plough. With the focus of twenty first century society overwhelmingly urban in outlook it is good  to be reminded of the vital contribution made by farmers and rural communities. The ceremony is also indicative of the Church of England's long standing commitment to rural England.

The concern for farmers which lies at the heart of the Plough Sunday service also defines the work of Farm Crisis Network (FCN). FCN is a Christian organisation and registered charity working across the UK in the farming community. Over 250 volunteers, drawn from rural churches and farming backgrounds provide a national helpline and visiting service to farming people and families facing difficulties. They provide pastoral and practical support for as long as it is needed, helping people to find a positive way forward through their problems. During this winter, a combination of the appalling weather, high feed and fuel costs as well as sheer hard work in unrelenting conditions has placed increased pressure on many farming families, leading to a dramatic increase in the helpline call rate. According to a study by the Commission For Rural Communities, one in four farming families are living below the poverty line.  You can read more at

Eleanor Course

Thursday, 6 January 2011

What's it all about?

Throughout 2010 a team of us have been thinking long and hard about what we can do in this diocese for the "Our Environment 2011" initiative.  We have gathered resources and come up with a number of ideas and events to take place through the year which we hope will both raise awareness and engage with new people in our part of the Church of England and beyond.  Many of these resources are available on line through our website

Our PRIMARY aim for 2011 is to CELEBRATE and SUPPORT the good things that people are doing ALREADY and to ENCOURAGE others by example. 

But also we want to have some fun while we do it and not beat ourselves up with what we simply cannot change or influence.

For me the year will be about reflecting on how I can make small differences in my lifestyle and the decisions I can make that affect how "light my tread on the earth is".  I hope some of my thoughts will encourage you to do the same.  This is not some sort of moral crusade for me - I am not an Environment Fanatic - but having been invited by the Archbishop to act as his Adviser for the Environment I have thought more about what I can do at a personal level and also about what we might do collectively as the church community in this part of England. 

I look forward, along with Eleanor, to sharing the things we hear about through the year ahead.

Graham Andrews

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Have you put your bird box up yet?

In December, we sent a bird box to every church and church school in the Diocese. We hope you will be able to put this nest box up in the grounds of your church or school to encourage our local wildlife. The natural nest sites on which many of our bird species depend, such as holes in trees and buildings, are fast disappearing as gardens and woods are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.

And don’t worry, local businesses have sponsored these nest boxes, so the money isn’t coming out of your parish share.

Here are some useful tips on where to put up your bird box, and how to look after it.
  • Put your nest box up asap, so it weathers and birds will be acclimatised to it by nesting season.
  • Site nest boxes so that they are sheltered from the wind, rain and strong sunlight. If they are in full sun, the chicks could overheat and die. 
  • Position boxes 1 - 4m above ground for safety from predators and to replicate natural nesting habits.
    If you are fixing your box to a tree try not to damage the trunk. Ideally, secure it with a strap.
  • It's important that the chicks have somewhere to perch when they first leave the nest, so put the box near some smaller branches that won't hold the weight of larger predators, but will support fledglings.
  • Avoid putting up boxes in busy areas of the garden, such as near a bird table or feeders. Robins and wrens in particular look for nesting sites in good cover.
  • Don't line the box, birds will do this themselves. Leave pet or your own hair out in spring for them to collect. Don't leave out knitting wool or man-made fibres as these can be dangerous.
  • Bird boxes should be cleaned out in the autumn when there's no risk of disturbing the occupants. Diseases and parasites can easily spread to new occupants.
  • Clean the box out with boiling water or buy specialised cleaning products.
  • Your box might not be used in the first year, as birds often choose a nesting site during the autumn, winter or early spring. Persevere — leaving your box up in winter may provide a useful roost in bad weather.
This bird box has been sponsored by: Gardman, AEP Electrical Services, Bee Clear Drainage Solutions, Bielby & Charles Associates, Bulmers Letting Agency, Clive Moment, Clive Toft Joinery, Core Electrical Services Ltd, Daisy Décor, Dee Atkinson & Harrison Estate Agents, H R Nelson & Sons, Homestyle Decorators, John Wright Electrical Services, K Robertson Building & Roofing, KMS Building Services Ltd, Maltech (UK) Ltd, N G Tree Specialists Repair & Restoration, Richard Pickering, Robinsons Mechanical and Electrical Services, Smiths Gore, Ultralux Window Systems, W R Dunn & Co Ltd.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Welcome to 2011!

Welcome to 2011 - the Year of the Environment in the Diocese of York.  Graham Andrews,  Diocesan Surveyor and Estates Manager, and the Archbishop’s Advisor for the Environment, and I will be posting on this blog to share the the things that people are doing already in the care and nurture of the environment and hopefully encouraging others by their example.

So, please let us know what you're doing to help your environment!

Eleanor Course, Communications Officer.