JERUSALEM, Amritsar, Assisi … and Luss. At first glance there may be little evidence to link these exotic places with a small Scottish village, but they do in fact have something in common: they are internationally recognised faith pilgrimage sites. And the latest to join their number – picturesque Luss – is right here in Argyll and Bute.
The Loch Lomond-side village can now claim to be Scotland’s first green pilgrimage place following the signing of a special partnership between Argyll and Bute Council and Luss Parish Church on Monday 25 February.
Council leader James Robb and chief executive Sally Loudon met with Rev Dane Sherrard and session clerk Robbie Lennox at Luss Parish Church 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.
Argyll and Bute 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 a number of exciting initiatives which will see Luss cementing its place as Scotland’s first Green Pilgrimage place and help to raise the Argyll and Bute profile as a whole.
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, in Argyll and Bute and raise awareness of the importance of conservation.
Together, Argyll and Bute Council and Luss Parish 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.
Argyll and Bute Council Leader, Councillor James Robb, said: “This new partnership will help to showcase Luss, and Argyll and Bute, on a global stage. Argyll and Bute already has much to offer in the way of faith tourism, and there is a lot more potential for everyone to benefit, including those who live, work and visit in Argyll and Bute and our young people. We are looking forward to an interesting and productive partnership with Luss Parish Church, and to continuing our strong relationships with the local community."
Reverend 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.”
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.
The rationale is the linking of faiths to establish a network of green pilgrimage places around the world, sharing experiences and ideas to reduce the adverse environmental impact of pilgrimage to sites of worship in terms of individual theologies and understanding.
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, St Albans, 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
Luss Parish Church has been a site of continuous Christian worship for over 1,500 years. It is dedicated to St Kessog, a sixth century Irish missionary and the patron saint of Scotland before St Andrew. The present church was constructed in 1875 and marked the 1,500th anniversary of worship