Climate campaigners and active church goers, Erica and Bill Fisher are leading the way in the race to protect and restore the natural world – and are now going for gold.
First, Aylsham Parish Church was awarded a bronze church award for encouraging the congregation to make eco-friendly decisions. And last year, St Michael’s achieved silver Eco Church status through the A Rocha Project – a Christian charity committed to conservation action. It was no surprise then that when Rev Julie Boyd (a member of ACE’s Waste group) arrived at St Michael’s in 2021, she put together an eco-team of six (two clergy and four non clergy), she included Bill and Erica.
Erica became aware of the earth, its fragility and the need to look after it from a young age. Inspired by her father who was a market gardener, she remembers a poster that said: “Don’t treat your soil like dirt. It’s not”. She likes that slogan and tries to live by it. Bill’s commitment to the environment came about through meeting Erica. As residents of Norwich, they were members of the Green Party. Relocating to Aylsham and becoming involved in the church community, they feel connected to what is happening not only in Aylsham but as far afield as Bangladesh and the Maldives.
Bill said: “With the Town Council declaring a climate emergency, it has brought it more to our attention. What we’re trying to get across is that, no, you can’t go and join Greta Thunberg stopping the coal mines in Germany, but you can do something about the biodiversity in your gardens.”
According to Bill, when Rev Julie arrived, two seemingly small actions had a big impact: “First of all, her idea that a particular part of the weekly pew sheet should be devoted to eco matters and secondly, having a notice board dedicated to the environment.” Currently the environmental focus on the pew sheet is about draught exclusion in the home, while the noticeboard compares various forms of travel in terms of carbon footprint.
The team also share information about products that meet the LOAF test: Local, Organic and Fairtrade. Asked about their impact on the wider community, Bill said: “It may sound like a cliché but when you drop a stone in the pond, the ripples go out.” Erica adds: “Several of the congregation are collecting empty toothpaste tubes from their neighbours and the same goes for the blister packs. The word gets out.”
Rev Julie agrees. “It gathers momentum. One parent came up to me and asked whether we could go plastic free. It’s great that people want to do that journey with us”.