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The Pilgrimage2Paris, one year on

Posted in: Comment
Date posted: 12 December 2016

Pilgrims walking on a frosty hill.

A year ago, a group of “climate pilgrims” walked 200 miles from London to Paris in support of a strong UN climate agreement.

Among them were Operation Noah Trustees Jean Leston and Martin Poulsom, and Bright Now campaigner James Buchanan, who last month had a weekend reunion with several of the other climate pilgrims.

It was a time of great joy to come back together again as a pilgrim family and reflect on what’s happened since the signing of the Paris Agreement and where our own personal faith journeys have taken us, in serving God through caring for his Creation.

Thinking back, we all felt as though we had been part of something truly remarkable—empowered by love, hope and prayer—and that our pilgrimage had been part of an historic moment. Together with pilgrims from around the world, we had brought faith concern for climate action to the attention of world leaders. And our efforts were rewarded with the signing of the Paris Agreement by 195 countries, which was more ambitious than many of us had expected.

Since then, we’ve been delighted by the speed at which the Paris Agreement has been ratified, including by the UK, so that it is now in force. Countries therefore have to implement the agreement nationally and keep to their promises to reduce emissions according to their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in order to keep global warming below 2°C and ideally below 1.5°C.

Those of us who were on the Pilgrimage2Paris remain equally determined to help raise awareness of climate change as a Christian issue in our churches and work to restore God’s creation in our local communities, as well as supporting campaigns to hold our Government to account in reducing emissions with radical and urgent climate action being called for. Faith in (climate) action is still alive and well!

We reflected that, although we are “gathered” in a common cause, we are also “scattered” to do God’s work in our own places. Many of us have been speaking at church gatherings and conferences about climate change or are involved in environmental projects and campaigns. Others have been helping to create green, contemplative spaces for their communities to enjoy. Two pilgrims have had the privilege of working in some of the countries most affected by climate change, helping people to engage theologically and practically with care for creation.

One thing the pilgrims have learned from the Pilgrimage2Paris is a sense of God’s providence. Trusting in God, we have been able to achieve more than we thought possible. This conviction has continued to strengthen us in our work, however challenging it might be.

We wouldn’t have been pilgrims without walking, so part of our reunion was spent out in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. We walked from church to church, experiencing once again the warm welcome and hospitality that had so moved us so much during the Pilgrimage2Paris. Worshipping together on Sunday, we heard a wonderful sermon about hearing the call of Christ in the storm, which calls us to wake up to the reality and seriousness of climate change and respond to him in faith.

As one pilgrim said, our reunion had been “like an adrenaline injection of faith and climate change”. We felt renewed and re-energised, to love and serve the Lord and protect his Creation!

Group photo: pilgrims at a church gate.
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