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Pushing the pedals to worship

Andrew Demack riding on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, 2012. Photo courtesy of Andrew Demack

RELIGIOUS communities across Australia will leave their cars at home and cycle or walk to worship during Ride to Worship Week, from 5-11 October 2012.

Ride to Worship Week is an initiative of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).

ARRCC President Thea Ormerod said the event, which is now in its third year, is an opportunity for religious groups to do something positive about climate change.

"All religions agree we have a responsibility to protect the vitality of life on Earth.

"Cycling or walking reduces petrol use and protects the environment.

"Just think of the difference Australia's religions could make if everyone who could committed to cycling or walking to their religious activities instead of driving," Ormerod said.

People from approximately 40 religious communities across Australia, including from Christian, Buddhist, and Sikh groups, and from in almost every state and territory of Australia, have registered their participation in Ride to Worship Week 2012.

Thea Ormerod's church, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish Kingsgrove, Sydney, will also be taking part

Ormerod says there are health as well as environmental benefits: "Cycling also improves our physical and mental health and reduces the risk of life threatening illnesses including heart disease, obesity and diabetes."

Keen Brisbane cyclist and Bicycle Queensland staff member Andrew Demack says, "My family picks up some people on the way to church, so our 7-seat van is usually pretty full.

"But I'm going to try to negotiate to ride this Sunday … St Davids Coopers Plains Uniting Church is only a couple of kilometres from my house at Salisbury."

Ride to Worship Week is not only about how people get to and from their religious activities. The last two years have also seen communities celebrate the day in various creative ways.

ARRCC President Ormerod explains, "There have been shared meals, activities for children, environmentally-themed worship, a blessing of the bikes and even a remembrance ceremony for people who have died or been injured in cycling accidents.

"As well as encouraging communities to be mindful of their transport choices, ARRCC also invites groups to celebrate their participation in Ride to Worship Week in their own ways."

According to Andrew Demack, "Cycling is a good form of transport for personal trips under five kilometres.

"It ticks all the boxes: personal health, the health of our planet, sustainability, and it's even fun.

"Cycling (and walking) helps us to connect with the world around us on a more human scale, and at a gentler pace than in a car.

"You don't have to be a sports cyclist and wear funny cycling gear.

"The clothes you own are already cycling clothes.

"When I ride a bike I become more aware of both myself (my breathing, my legs providing the 'power' to get me from place to place), and also my surroundings (the sights and sounds of our cities and suburbs … the trees, the birds, the other people).

"It's just a really simple way to feel more in touch with myself and the environment. "

ARRCC is a multi-faith organisation committed to taking action on climate change, and which works with faith groups to take practical action to help create an ecologically sustainable and just future.

For information and resources about how to get involved as an individual or as a group, visit www.arrcc.org.au/ride-to-worship-week-2012.

Photo : Andrew Demack riding on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, 2012. Photo courtesy of Andrew Demack