CONGREGATIONS at Saddleworth’s iconic village churches are being urged to take part in award-winning eco surveys covering parish life.

The Eco Church, an award scheme for churches in England and Wales, is run by the Christian charity, "A Rocha UK" which works “for the protection and restoration of the natural world”.

Central to its success is an online survey with key questions to determine what each church does - or not - do caring for God’s earth. And actions count towards a bronze, silver or gold Eco Church Award.

Christ Church Friezland was in the first cohort of Mancunian Eco Churches with a bronze award granted last year in the scheme which is also commended by the Methodist and United Reformed Church encouraging their churches to work towards eco status.

Now, Christ Church volunteer Matt Carson, 44, an IT project manager, has been appointed Deanery eco champion for Oldham East, reporting to the Deanery Synod on each church’s status in the scheme.

He is backed by his wife, Yvonne, a teacher in modern foreign languages, and daughter Niamh, 11.

Said Matt: “The plan is to highlight a collaboration between clergy and congregation in Eco Church.

“The survey covers many different areas of church life - from worship and teaching to the use of the buildings and land, how we engage with local and global communities and the lifestyle of the congregation.”

Alongside spiritual initiatives, Christ Church hosted a bike recycling and repair event, working with Oldham community group Positive Cycles and converted to using a carbon-neutral bamboo loo roll made by Cheeky Panda in the main church, church hall and by some congregation and introduced water saving devices in all toilets.

They upgraded to an energy efficient boiler and special timer and, as a novel twist, installed bug hotels, added wildlife feeding stations and a hedgehog hotel to church grounds.

Now Matthew is encouraging the congregation to join the church and follow their own personal carbon footprints and a range stimulating activities.

He said: “We plan to make greater use of the church grounds by the local community and host more events bringing church and community closer to nature and help improve our locality with walks and cycle rides, litter picks.

“It’d exciting to work with everyone on these goals and see positive change happening."

Other churches in the Saddleworth Benefice are at different stages in this process with Christ Church Denshaw awarded a bronze and St Chads, ppermill, and Holy Trinity, Dobcross, both in the survey assessment stage.

“It's very early days, but I look forward to starting to work in the wider local area, supporting this vital facet of church life and finding ways together to tread lightly on God’s earth,” added Matt.