Rathfarnham Meeting Get Eco-Congregation Award

Rathfarnham has become the first meeting to receive an Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) award in recognition of its environmental endeavours.

Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting Win Eco Award
Sr Catherine Brennan, chairperson of Eco-Congregation Ireland, presents an award to members of Rathfarnham Meeting eco committee. Pictured from left: Gillian Armstrong, Fr Hugh O'Donnell (award assessor), Sinead Brady, Sr Catherine Brennan, Fiona Murdoch, Erica Calder and Patricia Garland.

Since setting up an “eco” committee three years ago, the meeting has planted fruit trees and a herb garden. Part of the lawn has grown into a wild meadow that is now home to three beehives.  Junior meeting sessions often incorporate environmental issues. Earthcare for Friends has been a valuable resource (published by Quaker Earthcare Witness 2004 ISBN 1-881083-10-1).

The meeting has signed up to Airtricity (to support renewable energy), uses energy-efficient light bulbs where possible and has clearly-labelled bins for recyclables.  All cleaning products, soap, toilet rolls etc. are environmentally-friendly brands and containers have been put in the toilet cisterns to save water.  Fairtrade tea and coffee is always used – crockery rather than disposable cups and plates.

Presenting the award on 4th December, ECI chairperson, Sr Catherine Brennan, said, “In all the “eco” work here, which covers many of the topics in the ECI resources, there is no sense of striving, or trying to achieve, or of it being hard work.  I feel sure that your approach in all the work flows from your quiet meditation.  Only constant and consistent meditation and prayer can help us live the simplicity of Jesus.”

Sr Catherine had read the Quaker testimonies of peace, integrity, simplicity and justice and could see how the meeting had linked each of these to God’s creation.  She was impressed that the meeting had considered whether earthcare should be a fifth testimony.   She said:  “The one that touched me most deeply is simplicity.  This testament is evident in all your “eco” work here – from the planting of the herb garden and fruit trees, the development of the natural meadow to the installation of the water butt, to name but a few.”

“The variety of work done by the Junior Meeting is truly impressive – planting, studying, creating, raising money for the poor … You are truly living out the Chinese proverb –

“Tell me, I forget
Show me, I remember
Involve me, I understand.”

Topics covered in junior meeting have included celebrating creation, recycling, living simply, insects, “eco” quiz, Fairtrade, water and globalisation.  The children and teenagers have helped plant seeds, bulbs, herbs and fruit trees and they have made a bug hotel and an Easter Garden from natural materials.  They have also organised a number of fundraising cake sales, with beneficiaries including VITA and Rainforest Concern.

One of the first steps Rathfarnham meeting “eco” committee took was to reflect on its eco initiatives to date, with the guidance of the Eco-Congregation Ireland checklist (see  Resources Section 1).  This helped them identify what the meeting had already achieved and to see what areas might be prioritised.

Last Spring the meeting invited the local community to join in a spring clean that was organised in conjunction with Rathfarnham parish “eco” group.  Members of the meeting have also been encouraged to sign up to “The Litter Project” – a world-wide campaign that encourages people to commit to picking up a piece of litter every day.  One member of the committee also set up a Facebook page called One Piece of Litter a Day – Ireland.

Members and attenders have taken part in national Stop Climate Chaos campaigns and the Global Action Day on 10/10/10.

The assessment of Rathfarnham meeting was carried out by two independent assessors – Salesian priest, poet and author, Fr Hugh O’Donnell and Dean Eaton, environmental awareness officer at Dun-Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

In his report, Fr Hugh said, “This group of Quakers is dedicated to the spiritual dimension of the environmental movement.  It seems that, by nature, they find the God-space in Creation …. The Quaker ‘way’ works as a leaven – simply and effectively. They nicely stress the integration of faith and Creation. They hold an ‘oasis’ in trust for the local community, which has its own eco-resonance.”

Fr Hugh believed that the members of the meeting were living out a conviction “to live as a family with all creation.” “This aspiration comes from a spirituality that is essentially ecological,” he said.

Dorking meeting is the only meeting in Britain to have received an award from Eco-Congregation England and Wales (two awards, in fact!) although several other meetings in the UK have signed up to Eco-Congregation.

We would love to hear how other meetings in Ireland are incorporating earthcare into their worship and activities!

You can find out out more about Eco-Congregation Ireland from the website or contact Fiona Murdoch.