Pilgrimage and the Environment
Gavin Douglas joins us to discuss the relationship between Christianity and the environment and argues pilgrimage is an essential lens through which we need to view this relationship. Gavin is a member of the CHASE group which has been working tirelessly to promote environmental values throughout the Church in Wales.
The theme of Pilgrimage is writ large in Scripture. The Christian story is a traveler’s tale. Pilgrimage, a purposeful movement through time and space, can create the conditions for a powerful spiritual encounter through the sheer physicality of our exertions, fresh encounters, and the scale and impact of our surroundings in which the hand of the Creator is writ large. Pilgrimage is intentional. We set out in the hope of being changed or being prompted into some action. Now, when we turn our attention to the goal of Carbon Neutral by 2030 we can see the scale of the task that is set before us. Actions are required of individual pilgrims, the Church and society.
The environmentalist and former Jain monk, Satish Kumar, observed that “life is a pilgrimage and we are changed by the encounters on the way. When we are changed sufficiently, then we are taken up.” On our Eco Church pilgrimage we will have many encounters on the way. Some will be fellow travelers. Some will share our ideals but not our faith and theology. Others, focused on self and the here and now, will be indifferent to our cause or willfully ignorant of the catastrophe that awaits us, and future generations, if the temperature rises beyond 1.5 degrees, or worse. Indeed, many will be content to bury their heads in the sand, unwilling to confront reality. Others, overwhelmed by the grim reality of our predicament, will be in denial as to how individual actions by many can bring about change.
We need to draw these people aside, take them by the hand, and gently make them aware of how personal choices and lifestyle impact directly on climate outcomes. HRH Prince Philip would have reminded them that on a long voyage a tiny alteration in course makes a huge difference. We need to make them aware of how our 2 ½ centuries of industrial development has directly impacted millions of people in the global south. Not only do we have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change but caring for creation is intrinsic to Christian discipleship.
As individuals we can start our journey by simple lifestyle changes of course in how we shop, eat, travel, and heat our homes. We can encourage congregations to join us on the journey and do likewise. As Eco Church we can share the journey and resources with fellow travelers, groups and organizations treading the same path. Together, we can persuade our leaders and policy makers to join us on the journey. As with all pilgrimages, the most important part of the journey is the first step.