Jerusalem, Amritsar, Assisi… They are all internationally recognised faith pilgrimage sites. And the latest to join their number is picturesque Luss.
The Loch Lomondside village can now claim to be Scotland’s first green pilgrimage place following the signing of a special partnership.
Argyll and Bute Council leader James Robb and chief executive Sally Loudon met with Rev Dane Sherrard and session clerk Robbie Lennox at Luss Parish Church on Monday to sign an agreement set up under the auspices of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
The ARC itself grew from the World Wildlife Fund and, with its Green Pilgrimage Network, encourages religious communities to take seriously the issues of conservation.
This network links secular and faith communities with local authorities around the world with the shared goal of ensuring that the environment is protected and that faith pilgrims and others ‘walk gently upon God’s earth’.
With a number of iconic religious sites already on the network – including Amritsar’s Golden Temple and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock – Argyll and Bute’s Luss Parish Church is in illustrious company.
Councillors had heard a presentation on Luss’s ambitions in October last year, when they agreed to endorse its membership of the Green Pilgrimage Network.
Monday’s signing in Luss Parish Church formalised that arrangement – and paves the way for initiatives which will see Luss cementing its place as Scotland’s first Green Pilgrimage place.
The partnership is based on using experience, expertise and existing facilities rather than significant extra expenditure. It aims to encourage and increase tourism, including faith visits, and raise awareness of the importance of conservation.
Rev Dane Sherrard of Luss Parish Church added: “The signing marked a special new chapter in the story of Luss Parish Church.
“The opportunity to share with both Argyll and Bute Council and the faith communities in the area will, I hope, result in increased economic benefits for everyone as well as missionary opportunities for local congregations.”
Together, the council and church will be looking at ways of sharing knowledge with the other global green pilgrimage sites. Plans are in the pipeline for providing opportunities for local schoolchildren to take part in special projects looking at conservation and pilgrimage.
Also under consideration are ways of branding Luss as Scotland’s first green pilgrimage place, and the dedicated marketing of Argyll and Bute as a faith tourism destination.
This will also involve sharing and working with other agencies including Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Argyll and the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership and Historic Scotland.
Councillor Robb, said: “This new partnership will help to showcase Luss, and Argyll and Bute, on a global stage.
“We are looking forward to an interesting and productive partnership with Luss Parish Church, and to continuing our strong relationships with the local community.”
The Green Pilgrimage Network was developed by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), a secular organisation which supports major world religions to develop environmental programmes based on their own faith principles.
Nine global faith groups have committed to environmental action, with support from the United Nationals Development Programme.
Luss Parish Church is part of the Church of Scotland and joins the following in being among the first members of the Green Pilgrimage Network:
- Baha’i World Centre, Haifa, Israel
- Armenian Orthodox Church, Etchmiadzin, Armenia
- Franciscan Order, Assisi, Italy
- Coptic Orthodox Church, Egypt
- St Albans Cathedral, England
- Nidaros Diocese, Lutheran Church, Trondheim, Norway
- Qadiriyyah Sufi Movement, Kano, Nigeria
- Shiromani Gurdwara Parabandhak Committee, Amritsar, India
- Jinja Honcho, Association of Shinto Shrines, Japan
- Louguantai Taoist Temple, Louguan, China
- Jerusalem, Israel