The Eco Congregations of

Westray and Papa



Eco Congregation Scotland


Eco-Congregation is an ecumenical programme helping churches make the link between environmental issues and Christian faith, to respond with practical action in the church, in the lives of individuals, and in the local and global community. The programme is operated in several different countries through independent organisations who share resources. 

Eco-Congregation Scotland is a registered charity. It encourages local churches of all kinds to reduce their environmental impact while engaging with their local community. A programme is offered to enthuse and equip churches to weave environmental issues into their life and mission in an enjoyable and stimulating way. Its vision is to promote a Scotland which cares for God’s creation, now and forever by putting that care into action individually, locally, nationally and globally. There are currently 363 eco-congregations in Scotland. 130 hold the Eco-Congregation Award.

Action is encouraged through three strands: 

  • spiritual living (making the link between environmental issues and Christian faith),
  • practical living (by taking practical action in the church) 
  • global living (by influencing attitudes and taking action in the local or global community on issues such as climate change)


In 2015 a baton carrying the message Time for Climate Justice started its journey round Scotland, and in September it arrived in Orkney. On the 6th of September it came to Westray and Papa Westray.



The Eco Congregations of Westray and Papay

Westray and Papay Parish Kirks have been leaders in the implementation of the Eco-congregation programme in Scotland as the churches were granted successive awards in 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2015. They were the first two congregations to receive a fourth award.

  Mary Thompson (Papay) and Helen Lumsden (Westray) with the Eco-congregation award for 2008


Alasdair McVicar, Eco-congregation representative has recently been asked if he would act as an assessor for churches seeking an Eco -congregation award - part of a pool of people across Scotland. He is joining two existing assesors from Westray - Iain MacDonald, minister and Sam Harcus, Property Convenor.


   The Eco-Congregation Programme in Westray




Iain MacDonald

Getting Started

Much of the early work to achieve Eco-congregation status for Westray Parish Kirk was done by Iain MacDonald and Sam Harcus. Eco-congregation remains as a standing item on Westray Parish Kirk Session agenda and the three core areas feature prominently in all activities of the congregation.


Sam Harcus

Spiritual living. 

Worship themes and outreach to all parts of the Westray community and beyond regularly stress the relationship between religious faith and our place in the world.  All age groups in Westray are actively involved both within services and in other activities in recognising the impact we have in the world.

Practical living. 

The carbon footprint of Westray Parish Church, which is almost 170 years old, has been reduced by the installation of a heating system powered by wind turbines and a ground source heating system, by the installation of double glazing on all windows and by adding extra loft insulation. Constant background heating has encouraged the use of the building as an important community facility by a wide range of church related ecumenical and wider community activities. A wind turbine installed at the manse, together with a heat pump, provides a green source of power and heating to the minister and his family. There is an active commitment to reduce waste and recycle all glass, cans, plastic, paper and card used at the Kirk.

Global living. 

Activities extend beyond Westray to UK wide and further afield. Several youth exchanges have occurred with North Lambeth Parish (C of E London Inner City). Strong links have been established with the Thyolo area of southern Malawi through the Orkney-Malawi partnership, formal contact between schools and reciprocal visits. 

Targeted support is also given to the “Gogo Olive” charity assisting in the rehabilitation of women prisoners in Zimbabwe. 

The activities of the Fair Trade Group, under the Chairmanship of the Minister resulted in Westray being recognised as a Fair Trade island in 2007, the first in Orkney.

Ongoing commitment.

Receiving Eco-Congregation Awards does not mean that efforts to meet the objectives of that programme should receive a lower profile. The congregation of the Westray Church of Scotland likes to look on these objectives as a way of life and not something to be lifted and laid.

Westray has now become the first congregation to be recognised in the recently created fourth (post 3rd) award. Papay is about to apply for this award.


The Eco-Congregation Programme in Papay

Papay parish church was one of the first parishes (along with Westray) to be granted an Eco-Congregation Award. We have received four to date. 

Many of the reasons for winning the award we would have done anyway. Let me give you an idea of some of them.

Insulation was put into the roof space to minimise heat loss and lower our heating bills 

We installed a wind turbine.

Eco friendly cleaning products and energy efficient light bulbs are used throughout the building.

We use Fairtrade products at all our Church meetings and encourage other users of the building to do the same.

Papay Church is a multi-purpose building that is shared with the NHS, who use part of it for the Nurses and visiting Doctor’s Surgery.

The Community room is used by;

 Coffee Morning (Wed mornings)

 Craft Group (Saturday afternoons)

 Papay Council for their meetings

 The Royal Bank of Scotland for their monthly visits.


We do not rest on our laurels as there is always ways to improve.

One of our latest challenges is researching ways and means of upgrading the heating to a more energy efficient method, as the present system is fifteen years old. As new and more effective heating is made available it makes sense to upgrade and thus reduce our carbon foot print.


Current Eco-Congregation Representatives

       Westray                                                              Papay


Alasdair McVicar  01857 677597                        Mary Thompson

email a.mcvicar@sky.com                                 email papaybeltane2@hotmail.com               


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