ASWA awards ‘Animal Friendly Church’ status
ASWA works to promote animal welfare, on the basis that care for all God’s creatures is a non-negotiable part of Christian discipleship. The “dominion” spoken about in the first creation narrative is not a right to exploit other living creatures, but a duty to care from them as befits people made in the image of a loving God. Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme that when people are given power by God, it is in the expectation that they will use it to benefit rather than oppress the weak. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that a compassionate creator would make animals capable of thought and feeling, of knowing comfort and pain, and then be indifferent to the quality of life which they enjoyed. When we see images of animal cruelty on television or the newspapers, we ask what kind of person could have inflicted it. Similarly, what kind of God would deem it acceptable?
So, for all of these reasons, it is the mission of ASWA to encourage Christians to make compassionate and responsible choices where animals are concerned. The new ‘Animal Friendly Church’ scheme is an exciting development in this work. In a similar way to the initiatives encouraging communities to become Fair Trade churches, this project recognises parishes and chaplaincies which operate as ‘Animal Friendly Churches’. It also gives an annual prize for an example of outstanding achievement or dedication in this area.
As with Fair Trade, a huge difference can be made by people choosing to take comparatively small steps: for example a commitment to use exclusively free range eggs or getting the Sunday school to do a project and build a ‘bug hotel’. It isn’t so long ago that people who argued that Fair Trade was for eccentrics who drank strange coffee; Christians thankfully changed that culture in the church and in wider society. The importance of economic justice and our ability to play a part is recognised and many lives have changed as a result. This is a chance for Christians to achieve the same feat with animal welfare.
Since 2015 ASWA have been running the Animal Friendly Church awards to encourage Churches across the country and worldwide to extend their concerns to the creatures with whom we share the planet. Many churches (particularly those in rural areas) have large areas of valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife. We now have a growing list of churches who have joined the scheme. We often receive enquiries from members of the public asking if there are churches in their area where animal welfare and conservation are considered important issues. Each church on our scheme receives a framed certificate and is automatically entered into our annual competition for the church which has most impressed us with their initiatives concerning conservation and animal welfare. The winning church receives a hamper of goodies plus an Animal Friendly Church brass plaque. Please get involved by downloading an application form or sharing our poster.
ASWA Chair – Revd Dr Helen Hall