Getting to Church

Getting to church

INTRODUCTION

Getting to mass is central to expressing our faith

BY Louise AbRAHAM AND THE GREEN GUARDIANS OF BRENTWOOD CATHEDRAL

An intorduction to travel How we get to church matters

Written by Louise Abraham and the Green Guardians of Brentwood Cathedral

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The Green Guardians of Brentwood Cathedral explore the importance of how we travel, for our planet, for our people and for our faith

How does the way I travel affect the world?

The way we choose to travel is one of the single biggest differences we can make to our carbon footprint – transportation accounts for 28% of the UK’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions (UK ONS 2018); the largest contribution of any sector. Many of us jump in the car, or book a flight, without even thinking, out of habit or convenience, and have never considered how the way we travel has a profound effect not only on our environment, but on our approach to life.

“Convenience” limits our experience

The perceived need to drive is rooted in a society that prioritises busyness; the need to rush from place to place, filling our lives with unsustainable levels of activity that ultimately lead to stress, burnout, and unhappiness.

In England, 60% of 1-2 mile trips are made by car (National Travel Survey 2018) – it takes the average person about 20 minutes to walk a mile – what does that show us? That we prioritise habit and convenience, even when the drive might well take us longer in traffic, arriving at our destination and needing to fight for a parking space!

The need to slow down

We have an opportunity, therefore, in the way we choose to travel to not only reduce our carbon footprint, but to improve our wellbeing, to create healthy habits, and to allow ourselves to more joyfully experience God’s gift of creation. By choosing to walk or cycle, or even to take public transport, we are opened to encountering both the beauty of nature and the people that we meet along the journey.

As Catholics, we believe that the Mass is centre of our faith and should be an experience of encounter and reflection both with the Real Presence of Christ and with our church community. What sense does it make to rush to Mass, face the battle of the parish carpark, only to arrive to church flustered and frustrated? Our journey to church is an excellent opportunity to help us prepare for Mass; giving us extra space to reflect, experience God in nature and community, and to help us reduce our environmental impact in the process.

For those who have children, slowing down the journey to Mass can be a beneficial way of engaging them about the importance of Mass. Perhaps during the walk or cycle to Church, you can talk to them about what to expect in Mass and even discuss the readings you will hear that day?

A Cross walk in Holy week. Walking can provide a visible witness.

What can my parish do?

The parish setting, therefore, has an opportunity to encourage encounter and community through the way that it supports its parishioners to make healthy changes in the way they travel. This doesn’t mean forcing everyone to walk to Mass, but involves some careful and clever thinking about the specific needs of your community and to recognise the importance of the journey in our experience of church. For example, a carpool scheme serves the community not only in reducing pollution (with less cars on the road) but can help those in your local area who would otherwise be unable to travel to church for whatever reason (e.g., lack of accessibility of local transport for people with disabilities or financial restraints). Or perhaps your parish could work to campaign for better public transport in your community? Can you work with other Churches and religious groups in your area to organise a ‘Walk to Church’ Sunday once a month where churchgoers walk to Mass or a religious service together? 

At Brentwood Cathedral, we have installed bicycle racks to make the experience of cycling to Mass more accessible as parishioners feel there is a dedicated space where their bicycles are secure. During Lent, we also prepared a guide for parishioners who wished to reflect on their relationship with the natural environment. The guide challenged parishioners to think about their transport habits, especially in the lead up to Palm Sunday.

Taking the time to appreciate that the way we travel is an essential part of our Christian experience. The average person spends 377 hours a year on the move (National Travel Survey 2018) – imagine what you could do with that time if you learnt to appreciate the journey?

About the Authors

Louise Abraham is part of the Brentwood diocesan Laudato Si’ working group and member of Green Guardians, a social action group based at Brentwood Cathedral. Created as a response to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, parishioners have taken action by raising awareness of environmental issues and encouraging the parish community to live simply and sustainably.

WORDS OF WISDOM

INSPIRING STORIES

By sharing these inspirational stories with you, we hope to inspire your creativity in your parish and to show that great things can be very simple, and very possible. Please do remember to write to us with any stories of projects that you would like to share.

ACTIONS

Some ideas to help your parish reduce it's carbon footprint, pollution and parking woes.

Here is a selection of ideas to get you started! If you have completed any of these projects, or run these services in your parish please do share your story or resources so that we can improve our guide. When deciding what to do, think about what the needs of your community are; some actions will be possible for some and not for others.

As this site progresses we will add links where you will find toolkits and resources to help you plan these activities. Please do send in any suggestions in the meantime.

ENCOURAGE BETTER TECHNOLOGY

Invest in and advocate for better technology and infrastructure to help others reduce their carbon emissions.

ENCOURAGE PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Make use of your community’s public transport links (and advocate for better if they are not sufficient!).

CREATE A CYCLE LOCKUP

Nobody wants to leave their expensive bike outside if it’s at risk of being stolen.
In setting up safe and accessible bike lockups, we can encourage people to get on their bikes and ride!

WALK OR CYCLE TO CHURCH

The simplest way we can reduce our parish’s transport emissions is by encouraging the community to walk to church if they are able to.
For many people, driving short distances is a force of habit; it requires a behaviour change to learn to give a bit more time to walk to mass – but is often much less stressful when you consider the nightmare that is most parish’s parking situations! Invite parishioners to try walking to mass, perhaps as groups if they live close to each other and to hold each other accountable.

GIVE SOMEONE A LIFT

Help cut down traffic and air pollution by sharing your car with other parishioners, especially if they rely on a lift to get there!

TRANSPORT SURVEY

It’s a good idea to try and get the statistics of how people in your parish travel to mass.
You could run a quick survey at the end of mass, or run a deeper paper/online survey to gauge how far people are traveling and what the barriers are for them to choose a greener way of traveling. Once you have a good understanding of why people travel the way they do, you’ll be able to tailor your activities to address the behaviour change!

MORE ACTIONS

There are lots more activities that can help you get moving on our other pages. Sometimes in order to change behaviour we need to change the systems that shape our actions. This might involve making your voice heard in local councils and teaming up with other local faiths and groups to improve our public transport, or encourage new innovative technologies.

SYSTEMIC CHANGE PAGE

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COMMUNITY PAGE

USEFUL WEBSITES

To help your parish travel better

These resources have been tried and recommended by our resident experts, editors and parishioners from across the UK. These are more general and practical resources for a multitude of uses. Simple and accessible, they are a great place to start!

Cycle in solidarity

Elephant Bikes are postal bikes refurbished by ex-offenders, with a buy one send one to Malawi scheme.

share a lift

A useful website for finding people to share regular journeys with.

HElping the isolated get to church

Could you help someone who couldn’t otherwise get to church by offering a lift through the SVP?

Campaigning for the whole community

Work together with your local community to campaign for better and fairer public transport provision.

How does using less private transport HELP US MEET THE LAUDATO SI' GOALS?

The Laudato Si’ Goals are our global Church’s vision for action. Launched by the Vatican in 2021, the 7 goals aim to guide us in our mission to care for our common home by recognising the integral link between all ecological and human systems. 

Have a read below about how the topic of this page helps us to meet each of the goals.

response to the cry of the earth laudato si goal logo

RESPONSE TO THE CRY OF THE EARTH

With transport being one of the UK’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, in choosing to travel in an environmentally friendly way we can dramatically reduce our impact on the planet. Less vehicles on our roads also means less air pollution in our local communities.

response to the cry of the poor logo

RESPONSE TO THE CRY OF THE POOR

In reducing our carbon emissions through the way we choose to use transport, we reduce our impact on climate change, therefore reducing the impact that changing weather has on the world’s poorest communities. In our local communities, carpooling schemes have the double effect of reducing emissions and allowing people access to transport who otherwise would be isolated.

SPIRITUALITY

In simplifying and slowing down the pace of our lives, by making space to travel locally without the use of cars, we open ourselves up to encounter God and nature in our local environment. It also allows us to ask ourselves whether we are really putting our faith and care for Creation above our own wants/convenience.

Ecological Economics logo

ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS

By creating a community of sharing rather than each needing their own car, by using more bicycles and walking, by installing the infrastructure in our car parks to encourage new technologies, we can influence a better model of economics that puts peoples needs first. 

Adoption of simple lifestyles laudato si goal logo

ADOPTION OF SIMPLE LIFESTYLES

In our busy lives, it is tempting to rush around from place to place in our cars – seeing the journey as a means to an end. Reducing our reliance on polluting forms of transport gives us the opportunity to walk or cycle in our communities; allowing us to ground ourselves in our locality and appreciate what we have around us.

Ecological education laudato si goal logo

ECOLOGICAL EDUCATION

The way we travel offers an opportunity to educate our community about the harmful effects of polluting transport, as well as a chance to open up conversations about the extraction of raw materials to build new electric technologies (e.g. lithium).

Community involvement and participatory action laudato si goal logo

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND PARTICIPATORY ACTION

Carpool schemes and lift sharing are great ways to get to know our community; allowing us to meet new people and serve others who would else struggle to get to church. In working with our local communities, we can also make a bigger impact in campaigning for better public transport provision.

How does using less private transport HELP US MEET THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted as a part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations in 2015 as a blueprint for more just future for people and the planet. Recognising that all injustice is interlinked, the UN invites the world to make these goals a reality by the year 2030.

See below to find out which SDGs relate to the topic of this page.

ACTION STATIONS

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read laudato si'

Read the document that inspired The Journey to 2030.