Church of Scotland marks COP26 weekend with special services and activism

The Church of Scotland took part in COP26 activities throughout the weekend including joining in the day of mass mobilisation, and hosting an ecumenical service at Glasgow Cathedral with participants from all around the world.

Lord Wallace at Glasgow Cathedral
Lord Wallace preached at the Sunday service of Glasgow Cathedral and also gave a Bible reading. Image by John Young

Love our global neighbour

On Sunday morning Lord Wallace, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, delivered a sermon at Glasgow Cathedral urging for the need to "love our global neighbour".

He said: "In my preparation for this year as Moderator, I have been very conscious of the magnitude and crucial importance of the event which is currently dominating this city and beyond.

"From early on, I saw this as an opportunity for the Church to proclaim - and be seen to proclaim - that caring for creation and honouring our Creator is a fundamental aspect of being a practising Christian.

"And that many of the global justice issues which flow from the impact of climate change on poor and vulnerable communities challenge us to love our global neighbours.

"Beyond all the issues which are the subject of nitty-gritty negotiations, I firmly believe that there must also be a faith dimension.

"Our faith approach, I believe, is rooted in both our love for God, our Creator and for our neighbours.

"The idea of 'stewardship' rather than 'dominion' should reflect our faith-based approach, as we strive to ensure that our way of life does not impact negatively, or to the detriment of other creatures which share our planet - and not least our global neighbours.

"And we should also be ready to acknowledge that our faith in the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Jesus also provides hope in dark, difficult, and challenging times, especially for younger people anxious about what kind of a world they might be inheriting.

"Our trust is that God is always with us, even when we walk through the darkest valleys.

"It is not a hope which allows us to sit back and abdicate responsibility, but a hope which encouraged and inspired by the Spirit, leads us to act and make a difference."

Those taking part in the service came from all around the world.
Ms Iemaima Vaai. Those taking part in the ecumenical service came from all around the world. Photo by John Young

Global climate justice

On Sunday afternoon, Glasgow Cathedral hosted the COP26 ecumenical service, organised by Glasgow Churches Together, which was attended by guests from countries including Australia, Fiji, and Zimbabwe in a show of Christian solidarity for global climate justice.

Many of those who took part were from nations which are already bearing the brunt of climate change.

Piper Willie Park opened the service by leading a procession into the 12th century building, and later members of the clergy walked to the tomb of St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, who was buried on the site in the 7th century.

Church leaders from Scotland were each asked to invite young climate activists as guests.

Representatives from the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN), a group who have completed a 1,200 mile relay to Glasgow, were also in the congregation.

Rev Dr Susan Henry-Crowe from the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church in America preached at the ecumenical service
Rev Dr Susan Henry-Crowe from the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church in America preached at the ecumenical service. Photo by John Young

Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, who is the COP26 Ambassador for Glasgow Churches Together, said: "It has been inspiring over the last week to meet and learn from passionate young people committed to climate justice, and to spend time listening to the wisdom of people from some of the nations most impacted by climate change.

"It was wonderful to have many of them at Sunday's service."

The Moderator also joined faith groups-including Christian Aid, Tear Fund, Glasgow Churches Together and Interfaith Scotland-in Glasgow for the day of mass mobilisation on Saturday.

The COP26 vigil in Elgin
The COP26 vigil in Elgin.

Church members took part in Saturday's marches, carrying signs saying: Let's Care for Creation and Climate Justice Now, while across the country many congregations offered local vigils in their areas, including in Ellon in Aberdeenshire and at Elgin in Moray.

Rev Jenny Adams, who helped to organise the event in Elgin said: "It was important to offer the opportunity for people in Moray to stand in solidarity with all those in Glasgow and around the world demanding climate justice. I'm really glad people welcomed that - the people of all ages and faith backgrounds who came, and those who engaged with us.

"A vigil like this is just one small action reminding me how much we need to hold each other and our political representatives to account during and beyond COP26, so we live out real love in justice for creation and all people."

A dog at the Elgin vigil
It wasn't just humans taking part at the Elgin vigil

Rev Andrew Kimmett, who also attended the Elgin meeting, said: "There are a thousand important reasons to seek climate justice, but for me doing it as an expression of faith is about affirming the goodness of God's creation, lamenting and repenting of humanity's destruction, and holding onto hope for a better future."

If you would like to share COP26 pictures this weekend please email them to mediarelations@churchofscotland.org.uk.

Watch the Sunday service from Glasgow cathedral.

Watch the ecumenical service from Glasgow cathedral.

View the Church of Scotland Facebook album of COP26.