A story appeared in the press recently about a new Carmelite monastery that is being built in Liverpool. The £3 million project will have a wildflower meadow, 1,500 trees, ground source heating, solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.
“The new monastery will allow us to be much more energy efficient,” said Sister Mary, prioress of the Carmelite nuns.
The Carmelite order’s faith is expressed through a modest lifestyle of silent contemplation. Or, in their words, they promise to “live, in the company of the other sisters, a life that is poor, chaste, obedient and wholly dedicated to prayer.” If any community is going to be self-sufficient, it is they.
Their big move to Liverpool is perhaps inspired not so much by a guilt-trip of guzzling too much fuel as by the expansion of two large schools close to their present home in West Derby. The silent, transcendent ambition of one group is at odds with the largely boisterous expressions of hierarchical self-identity of the other. So the nuns decided, again in their own words, to “bow out gracefully and let the schools enjoy the area.”
Hawk-eyed readers may remember we’ve been down the ‘green god’ route on the blog before – but, like the modern church, we try our best to keep up with the times. Many churches do seem to be taking the initiative on energy saving. The Guardian, in the same article, reports on the Anglican cathedral in Bradford, said to be the first in the world to install solar panels to generate its own electricity.
There is also a Christian mission and website dedicated to environmental matters. Eco-Congregation is an ecumenical project which aims to “encourage churches to consider environmental issues within a Christian context and enable local churches to make positive contributions in their life and mission.” They offer help and advice to churches and individuals to improve their buildings and lifestyles. This is a UK-wide mission that takes action at a local level, spreading the word.
But it would be remiss not to mention the efforts of other faiths too – considerable as they increasingly are. £3.5million has been put into building an ‘eco mosque’ in Manchester, complete with solar panels, underfloor heating, wood from renewable sources, low energy bulbs, and walls of reclaimed stone. Over in Maidenhead there are big claims to be the first solar-powered synagogue. And if you fancy sharing retrofit ideas with your buddies from across the corridoors of heaven and happen to live in Dorset, there’s eco-faith, an organisation right up your street.
It’s not as arduous as detractors make out to cut carbon emissions – all it takes is a little belief.