Bahai News - Archbishop to bless 'pagan project'
Sunday 20 April 1997 Issue 695
Archbishop to bless 'pagan project'
By Jonathan Petre
AN environmental project which involves less conventional faiths and
several neo-pagans is to be blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury this
week, much to the alarm of fellow evangelicals.
The Sacred Land Project, a five-year scheme for the millennium to restore
sites of spiritual significance from standing stones to medieval abbeys,
has its English launch on Wednesday at a church in London.
Though the national project is predominantly Christian, its organiser,
Martin Palmer - an Anglican lay reader and religious adviser to the World
Wide Fund for Nature - has been criticised in the past for his support of
controversial multi-faith celebrations and paganism.
One of the highlights of the project will be an edition of the BBC Radio
4's Sunday morning worship programme in which Mr Palmer and a "neo-pagan"
will discuss faith from a bronze age burial site and ruined chapel at
Knowlton Ring, Dorset.
At Wednesday's launch, Dr George Carey will lead a group of eight religious
leaders representing faiths from Baha'i to Jainism in blessing an ancient
spring credited with healing powers at St Mary's church in Willesden, north
London. Several pagan guests will be present.
The Rev Michael Cole, a Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral and Area Dean of
Redbridge, who is co-author of a book about New Age religions, said Dr
Carey's involvement was dangerous. "Christians are concerned with
conservation. That's why the Archbishop wants to be involved. But others
want to take it further and worship Mother Earth rather than Father God.
The Archbishop would be wiser not to be involved at all. How the public
perceive what he does is crucial. This is the sort of situation which
those of us at Church level are working to prevent."
Criticism also came from the Rev Tony Higton, an Essex rector and member
of the General Synod. "I respect what the Archbishop is trying to do. But
there is a danger that the public will see it as a blessing on religions
in general or on paganism, which would be very damaging."
Mr Palmer, of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and
Culture, said the project was being run with the WWF and the Alliance of
Religions and Conservation to "re-establish the spiritual and environmental
significance" of sacred sites which "also seeks to keep alive the tradition
of sacred space in a modern context".
"Most of neo-paganism is tosh," said Mr Palmer. "But some neo-pagans are
exceptional, and we work closely with them. We don't want to offend people
who think this is some kind of mish-mash, but even the word Easter is not
Christian. It derives from Eostre, a pagan goddess." Lambeth Palace said
the Archbishop was attending the event as a Christian leader and leader
A spokeswoman said: "He is committed to the environment and he is going
to a Christian site to take part in the launch. It is an ancient holy
well and he thinks it is important to encourage a reverence for our past."
Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales and John Gummer, the Environment
Secretary, expressed support of the scheme.
©Copyright 1997, The Daily Telegraph
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