In the UK, a movement has emerged to clean-up practices associated with ‘doing flowers for the church’. We interviewed Candy Connolly, Founder of the Sustainable Church Flowers group on what are they doing and why.
I am a church warden in a small rural church in Worcestershire, UK. In 2015 my husband, Shane Connolly, raised the issue of flower management in our church. How sustainable where we?
After discussion and explanation, the church flower team agreed to stop using floral foam, and to also try to use more flowers from their gardens. It was actually easier than many anticipated. In 2018, we applied for Eco Church status and demonstrated our eco-friendly management of flowers. This undoubtedly assisted us in gaining silver status. So we realised this could, and should, be taken further, and tried to encourage neighbouring churches to do the same thing.
In 2019, we launched Sustainable Church Flowers with a lecture and demonstration, given by Shane, in St Peter’s Church in Martley for the West Worcester Rural Team, including members of the Worcester Cathedral Guild. The movement was launched.
Shane Connolly, co-founder, with Candy Connolly, Warden of St Bartholomew’s Church, Harpley, Worcestershire; Kate Hurst, a flower grower and designer (Camomile and Cornflowers) and Shelsley Church flower leader; Dot Millward, Harpley Church flower leader; Rev. Jen Denniston, our vicar; Fr. Benji Tyler, a vicar in Oxfordshire; and layreader Jill Smith.
To glorify God sustainably and fulfil the fifth mission of the church to respect God’s creation.
Flower decoration in churches and churchyards that does not harm the planet. There’s an emphasis on no floral foam, local and seasonal flowers, and minimal carbon foot print.
The Church of England churches, and other religious organisations.
Source flowers from your own gardens, window boxes, churchyards and hedgerows and locate nearest growers from the national organisation Flowers from the Farm.
Arrange your displays in water, chicken wire and vessels, and eliminate use of floral foam.
Make sure visiting florists are aware of your policies and arrange in a sustainable way in your church – and are helped and educated too, if needs be.
MIXED! Sometimes it’s rather an uphill struggle …
A 2017 survey circulated in our local diocese was only returned by two out of 15 churches. Church officials felt the message was too intrusive to established practices and did not want to offend or antagonize existing flower arrangers.
We have found that organisers of churches are often more concerned with “fair trade” and perceived employment opportunities for underprivileged in African and South American Countries than the planetary damage international flower growing and transport entails.
Organisers in the church are reluctant to tackle in-built resistance from flower old timers who have “always done it this way”.
However, more recently there has been increasing interest from both church and non-church flower enthusiasts.
In 2020, Fr Benji Tyler joined our committee and produced a very inspiring booklet. We have since been building our national ambassador database and spreading the word more directly. We have a biannual Q&A with Shane Connolly for our Ambassadors.