The Green Health Awards
Encouraging churches to use their green spaces to help communities benefit from improved mental and physical wellbeing.
The Green Health Awards - launched in partnership with The Conservation Foundation and the Guild of Health and St Raphael, with the support of the Church of England and the Mercers' Company - promote links between nature and human health. Their object is to encourage and reward efforts by churches of all denominations and other Christian organisations to use gardens and churchyards creatively for wellbeing. They build on the success of The Conservation Foundation's Gardening Against The Odd programme and last year's Church Times Green Church Awards.
Projects must promote mental and/or physical wellbeing, and take place on ground that belongs to a Christian church or organisation anywhere in the UK.
Winners will receive their awards during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 2 October, as part of the Green Health Live conference. Ten projects will be chosen on merit and presented with a certificate and a set of gardening tools restored in prisons as part of the Conservation Foundation's Tools Shed project. The Growing Calm Award, presented by the Mind and Soul Foundation, will focus on gardens providing meditation, contemplation and silence. The overall winner will be given a cash award and the Gardening Against The Odds trophy for a year. Applicants can submit their entry on the Church Times website.
The benefits of gardens
Gardeners have always understood the power of gardens and gardening to heal the mind, body and spirit, but in recent years accepted wisdom has been backed up by evidence-based research. As a result, gardening is increasingly prescribed as an effective treatment for a growing variety of mental and physical illnesses.
Mental health problems in local communities are now one of the biggest social issues Church of England clergy encounter, according to research published earlier this year. A survey of more than 1,000 senior clergy found that the proportion reporting that mental health is a 'major' or 'significant' problem in their local area increased sharply from 40% in 2011 to 60% in 2017. Research by the King's Fund in 2016 found that gardening reduces depression, social isolation, anxiety and stress and alleviates symptoms of dementia.
In cities and towns, however, growing space is at a premium, and allotment waiting lists are more likely to be measured in years than months. The Green Health Awards recognise that churches are already using their green spaces to address this need, using their outdoor environment to promote mental and physical health.
Churchyards can be tightly regulated, and many have been designated sites of special scientific interest, but congregations have found these no hindrance to imaginative and sensitive projects.
How to enter
The awards are open to all churches and other Christian organisations in the UK and the deadline for applications is 31 July 2018. The make-up of the judging panel, and details of the Green Health Live conference will be published shortly. For more information, and an entry form, visit: www.churchtimes.co.uk/green-health-awards