THE DIOCESAN BIG WALK TO NET ZERO – Saturday 28 May 2022
On a cool Saturday morning on 28th May, Ursula and I joined a group of around a dozen other pilgrims on the steps of St. Mark’s, Portobello, to embark on one of a number of walks taking place simultaneously from peripheral locations in the city of Edinburgh, all due to converge on St. Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place, in time for lunch. Our group was guided by the Rector of St. Mark’s, the Rev Canon Dr. Sophia Marriage. Sophia gave us each a tiny metal butterfly to carry to the cathedral but instead of leaving it in the cathedral where it would most likely get lost, we were just to take it home afterwards – so the end point of our pilgrimage would be our home.
After a short said service, we set off through the graveyard and out through the back gate of St. Mark’s and people very soon paired off with another whom they had never met before. It was very easy to chat to these “strangers” since, although we were strangers, we had a common goal and a willingness to open up our expectations and enjoy the fairly rare pleasure these days of getting to know a little bit about somebody completely new.
I initially chatted with a very interesting lady who is an artist and attends St. Anne’s, Dunbar. By the time we reached the cathedral, I was walking with another interesting American lady who attends St. Columba’s by the Castle and had brought her little dog along on the walk. The pace of the walk meant there was time to chat as much or as little as one wanted.
Sophia led us on a scenic route through a little back gate (which I never knew existed) into Holyrood Park and out into the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket and so to the West End. What started as a fairly quiet, uncongested, peaceful experience, suddenly erupted into a frenzy of colour and sound as we approached the Parliament end of the Park, since preparations for the Edinburgh Marathon were underway for the next day and there seemed to be a 5K run starting up with a large number of participants. From then on, the walk had become much more of a bombardment of the senses, with people, traffic and activity everywhere. Nevertheless, we continued to re-group every so often for prayers and thoughts relevant to the point we had reached, even managing to do so in the busy Grassmarket!
Approaching the towers and spires of a cathedral, having walked as a pilgrim to get there is, of course, a completely different experience from just turning up there in a car and looking for somewhere to park. I would imagine the experience might be even more intense if one had walked hundreds of miles to Santiago de Compostello. The journey is important but so too is the destination, for a pilgrim.
We were made very welcome at the Cathedral and provided with lovely picnic lunches and teas / coffees. This was followed by a service of worship led by Bishop John and others from the diocese, and included the wonderful chant, “Behold, behold, I make all things new” (John Bell), which we sang as we processed out of the cathedral for another part of the service (including a Declaration of Climate Emergency) and then again, as we processed back in. We will definitely be doing this chant with the Music Group!
The service was followed by two speakers, the first had to stand in at the last minute but gave an astounding and clear insight into some of the technical and policy issues involved with lowering carbon emissions.
To get to net zero carbon emissions, it will take action by individuals as well as organisations and governments.
In June 2021 the SEC General Synod committed the whole church to work towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. We will all need to do our bit to attain this.
The second speaker was Ruth Valerio, Director of Global Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, whom we had chatted with over lunch. Ruth is an impassioned speaker, sparking our imaginations and feelings about the wonder of God’s creation.
After the speakers and questions, there was to be tea / coffee followed by workshops but we decided at that point to retrace our pilgrimage back along the 5.5 miles to Portobello where we had parked that morning.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and it was nice to be part of something at diocesan level, linking up with those from our sister churches.