Kingston’s All Saints Church adopts first fast for climate action in lead up to Easter 

Congregants at All Saints Church in Kingston-upon-Thames have been invited to join the congregation’s very first fast for Lent aimed at raising climate awareness. 

Carbon fast for Lent is an initiative by Climate Stewards, an environmental advocacy group, which encourages people to lead simpler lives and find new ways to cut their carbon footprint. 

Lent is a time of reflection and of asking for forgiveness where many people give up something they love for 40 days until the feast of Easter. This may include giving up chocolate, sweets or even social media.

“The idea of the carbon fast is that instead of giving up a food stuff or something like that—which would be more historically traditional—you give up something that has an association with climate or environmental degradation,” said Graham Nash, Eco-Church lead at All Saints Church. 

Climate Stewards’ carbon fast is divided into weekly themes throughout the 40 days where each week features a different theme designed to help take climate action. 

This idea seemed a little stretched to Nash who felt it was a “bit too complicated for people”. 

“We wanted to keep it simpler. So, we narrowed it down, but equally we felt that we need to offer people some options as to what they can do, because people are in different situations,” he said. 

They narrowed it down to three options: refraining from driving, taking long showers, and consuming meat and dairy.  

Nash has been observing a fast from dairy products which he described as being a challenge. 

“It’s an act of will, and you have to prepare for it. So, before Lent started, I was going out and testing alternatives to milk and looking at the climate impacts. 

“It’s a token thing in terms of climate change, but it’s the kind of principle of ‘if everybody does a little bit, it will have a big, big impact’,” he said. 

Graham Nash joins the 'No Faith in Fossil Fuels Vigil' outside the Houses of Parliament.
Graham Nash (c) joins the ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels Vigil’ outside the Houses of Parliament. Credit: Graham Nash

The Vicar of All Saints, Joe Moffatt, said unlike communal practices, fasting for Lent was an individual choice and it was up to people to discern what is best for themselves.  

“As a Christian leader, I can’t really tell people what to do. All I can do is encourage them to think about it.

“And this year, we encourage people to think about giving up something not just for their own spiritual welfare, but also to help with the climate emergency,” he said. 

In a similar vein Nash said: “It’s more a case of encouragement, and promotion. So, [it’s about] encouraging people to make those critical changes.” 

Nash said his own climate journey has been a gradual, step-by-step process. 

One of the things he has done is going back to using a hand soap rather than liquid ones which came in plastic containers. 

“You don’t suddenly go overnight, changing to doing all the different things. Those changes happen over a period of time. It’s about taking more steps on the journey. And I know I’ve got further to go,” he said. 

All Saints is working towards acquiring the Bronze Eco-Church award. To get to award level, the church needs to develop the ‘lifestyle’ element, which concerns the behaviours of all members of the church.

Considering this, Moffatt and Nash are encouraging congregants to undertake an environmental lifestyle audit, a comprehensive survey that takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes. 

Reflecting on his survey, Moffatt said: “I was doing quite well on quite a number of things, e.g., cycling rather than driving. And then I put my air miles in for the holidays that I’ve taken and business trips that my wife has done recently, and it blew everything else out of the water. So, my score plummeted but brought home to me how significant a carbon footprint the flying is.  

“That’s probably going to be the biggest sacrifice we have to consider making, i.e. air travel. And I suspect that’s true for a lot of people who have a reasonable amount of affluence and can afford foreign travel. It’s a big thing to give up.” 

To aid it in its initiatives, the church has applied for a green grant from the Kingston Council but is still waiting for a response. 

“If we get that it will significantly help us doing work in the churchyard. We’re going to have a no-mow area, encourage more wildlife, do some eco surveys, probably put up bird boxes,” said Nash. 

The 'eco noticeboard' at All Saints Church in Kingston-upon-Thames. Credit: Graham Nash
The ‘eco noticeboard’ at All Saints Church in Kingston-upon-Thames. Credit: Graham Nash

With the prospect of a general election, Nash said the church is looking forward to working together with other churches and green organisations to do some hustings. 

“We want to keep the environmental and climate change agenda at the forefront of the debate. So, that’s something we’re thinking about and once we know when the general election is going to be called, we can start organising some hustings,” he said. 

The carbon fast is linked with the Bishop of Kingston’s Lent pilgrimage for climate, and was part of the first faith talk at All Saints this year. | + posts

Passionate about interviewing people to feature their stories and ideas. Currently Features Editor at Kingston Courier.

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