Folk in Lancashire are used to rain and so it was no surprise that on the morning of Saturday 18th May the heavens opened as a group of RE enthusiasts, led by Prof Brian Gates set off to visit 20 sites that could stimulate enquiry into religion, belief and values. The University of Cumbria, Lancashire SACRE, local Churches, Lancashire teachers, Lancaster Hindus and the RE Council were all represented in our merry band. Our banners allowed members of the general public to ask about Religious Education as we walked through the city of Lancaster and ask they did!
The route began in front of the Town Hall in Dalton Square. At its centre is the Queen Victoria statue with its female figures representing in turn specific values that are fundamental to human flourishing – Wisdom, Justice, Truth and Freedom. On to the War Memorial a bleak reminder of the power of beliefs. Our next focus was Lancaster Baptist Church, a home base here for one of the earliest Protestant denominations which began over 400 years ago in Amsterdam and moved to England in 1612. Cornerstone Centre, attached to Wesley House, has grown within the Methodist Church, established on this site (once the location of a Dominican Friary) in 1805, one of several Methodist chapels in Lancaster. At Lancaster & District Homeless Action Service walkers considered the importance of support for such groups and that 50% of funds raised that morning would go to help their work. The local Polish community was represented by Church of Our Lady, Queen of Poland. Pressing on uphill and over the canal bridge, discussing RE matters as we walked, the intrepid group reached St Peter’s RC Cathedral complete with its martyrs’ memorial window for the 15 who were killed in 16th century Lancaster for their belief in the authority of Rome.
At Lancaster Infirmary, with its sculpted mural of the Good Samaritan, the group reflected on how doctors and nurses all have their individual beliefs about the meaning of life and death. At the Magistrates Court we considered how JPs’ public service activity might be motivated by deepest beliefs, and commitment to respecting the religious sensibilities of all those being tried. The youth centre and meeting place of St Thomas’ Church was our next venue with its informal and enthusiastic expression of beliefs. We were then welcomed into Chenrezig Buddhist Centre, the Lancaster base of the Manjushri Buddhist community in Ulverston. On to the Lancaster Islamic Society, Masjid e Noor where a warm reception encouraged our steps and resolve. The peace of the Friends Meeting House further inspired our happy group who, by this time, had bonded and appreciated Brian’s words of wisdom. At the Priory Church of St Mary we bade a reluctant farewell to one another – all agreeing we had learned much and were determined to find further ways to support RE.
This was also the launch event of the ‘Lancaster RE Walk', the support booklet for which is available in Lancaster Library. We intend that this should now gain increasing momentum over the next two months. We're promoting it in several ways including with a poster which is being widely circulated.