About twenty-five of us, aged from 5 to 60+, set out from the Plymouth Centre for Faiths and Cultural Diversity, on a beautiful, Sunday afternoon, The Centre was established in 2001 as a charity, supported by Plymouth City Council, to promote understanding and education of belief, faith and cultural diversity, both in schools and across the community.
The Centre rests on the premise, highlighted by Rabbi Hugo Gryn:
"You can only be safe and secure in a society that practises tolerance, cherishes harmony and can celebrate difference."
Over half of Plymouth Schools subscribe to the the Centre's services and last year, Faith Speakers spent over 300 hrs in schools.
Our afternoon provided opportuities to promote RE, raise funds and also to have some fun along the way, as we explored the heritage, diversity and spirituality of the city. The sponsored walk, of about 5.5 miles took us past over twenty places of worship and we popped into several, for a short visit, quiet reflection or a rest before continuing on our way.
The impact was felt deeply and the experience of walking enabled us to notice, and quieten ourselves, as an atmosphere, almost akin to pilgrimage, descended upon us!
This was indeed a special journey that took us, first, to a recently refurbished Islamic Centre, where we met a visiting muezzin, from the Mosque in Medina! He spoke to us, for a few minutes, through an interpreter and then recited the call to prayer. Wow!
Moving on, past churches and our local Scientology Centre, we paused outside the Minster Church of St. Andrew. Although locked, we were mindful of the importance of this place and its thousand year history and ministry in the city.
Just around the corner we were able to enjoy a few minutes in our Synagogue. A real jewel and the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the English speaking world! It celebrated its 250th Anniversary last year and amongst the many distinguished guests, the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks came down from London to lead the service.
Moving on, we passed the Unitarians, more churches and eventually to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius and St. Nikitas. Stepping into the cool shade of the church, from our sunny coastal path, we were greeted by Fr. Gregory. Surrounded by wonderful icons, for a brief moment, I thought we were on a Greek island!
We then made our way across the city to the church of St. Peter, with its glorious water feature running through and beautifully renovated spaces, so light and welcoming.
After a few minutes reflection in the RC Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Boniface next door, our road took us on, past our other Islamic Centre.
We noticed the Multifaith Chaplaincy on the Plymouth University campus, the Buddhist centre and World Peace Cafe nearby and walked on to Mutley Plain and the large Victorian Baptist church.
We just had time to pop along to our recently refurbished Quaker Meeting place, where we were greeted by several Quakers, before returning to the city centre for tea and cake at the Central Methodist Hall! Our Chair of Plymouth SACRE was there to congratulate us on completing, what we hope will grow into, a regular event and opportunity for all.