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The ARC way is about:

Forming partnerships
Approaching tasks as pilgrims, not as missionaries
Asking questions rather than coming in with answers
Relating our beliefs to the way we live our lives
Relating our beliefs to how we invest our money
Taking time, rather than expecting instant success
Taking time to pray or however we describe moments of calm reflection
Thinking about what strengths come from difference

ARC has drawn together Seven Stages of Pilgrimage from the experiences of all the major faiths.

Forming partnerships

We need to ask not simply “what can I do?” but “what can we do?” Religious life is as much about the community as about the individual, and at ARC we work only with groups, not with individuals. Individuals can have wonderful ideas, and tremendous energy but we find that by working with groups and teams and partnerships, projects are more likely not only to be completed but also continued. If you have an idea then the first thing is to find people who agree with you and share your “belief” in that idea. The next thing is to work out how to make it happen – together.

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Approaching tasks as pilgrims, not as missionaries

This is one of the most important ideas for ARC, and is based on how the founders of the major religions spoke about the spiritual life as being a “journey” or a “pilgrimage”. Think of the Hajj in Islam, which every able-bodied Muslim should undertake at least once in his or her life. By insisting that everyone dress the same and walk together, the Hajj emphasizes everyone’s equal standing before God.

The new missionary movements of the secular world – including environmental agencies, the United Nations and the development community – tend to talk about “going on mission” when they go overseas for a project. But what if they talked in the language of pilgrimage instead? What if they thought of every business meeting and foreign or domestic trip as something that is special, something potentially transformational? What a psychological difference that would make – and it is a psychological difference that we could all make, whether we rethink our approach to meetings, project plans or classes, valuing each of them. Read the Seven Stages of Pilgrimage.

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Asking questions rather than coming in with answers

It is easy to think that we have the answers. Yet many ARC projects have happened because of listening more than talking. If there is a project that you wish to engage with, then start by listening to the people who are close to it, and hear what they say.

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Relating our beliefs to the way we live our lives

One of the reasons for founding ARC is that many people want to relate their beliefs – whether about God or about the environment or anything else – to their daily life and decision-making. But sometimes they are not sure how they can achieve that. Many people are embarrassed to discuss their personal reasons for being involved in charity work or development work. However through ARC we encourage people to write down their beliefs (privately, if they prefer), and then plan how they can bring these beliefs into their daily lives. This could involve setting up a project, becoming more active in your faith community if you have one, looking at your company’s relationship with the environment, setting up an environmental audit, introducing educational initiatives, or simply talking to your friends about the issues.

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Relating our beliefs to how we invest our money

Do you know how your money is invested? If it is in shares, then how have the companies been selected? Many faiths are now turning to ethical and pro-active investments for their own money either on their own or through a new organisation called 3iG. Think about whether you would like to join them – and make “good investments” in every sense.

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Taking time, rather than expecting instant success

Some of the best projects cannot happen immediately. Cathedrals took many generations to build, and projects sometimes require patience as much as any other asset.

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Taking time to pray or however we describe moments of calm reflection

Every great religion has prayer at its heart. Whatever your own beliefs, take time to pause or pray or meditate before you start something new.

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Thinking about what strengths come from difference

Ask yourself what is distinctive about your own faith’s way of doing things that makes it important for the environment? For example, Judaism has an annual festival of trees; Christianity has its harvest festivals; almost every religion has its own stories and parables about trees or rivers, and many provide strong links to a local area with all its traditions and history.

ARC has never wanted to unify religions or suggest they are “all the same underneath”, or put together a statement that is common to everyone. Instead it celebrates the differences; because often it is in those differences that religions are the most powerful forces – for good and for change.

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Seven Stages of Pilgrimage

ARC has drawn together seven separate stages of pilgrimage, from the experiences of all the major faiths. These are ideas, not rules, and explore how any journey can become a pilgrimage.

1. Think about being a pilgrim rather than just travelling from A to B.

2. Recognise that journeys are entities in themselves and they can—if you allow them—take on a life of their own. They are not just a means to an end.

3. Become aware of the people with whom you are travelling and of why you are together, discovering what each of you brings as well as being honest about some of the tensions.

4. Understand the story that has brought you there: your story.

5. Lose your role as an observer and become part of the landscape and part of somebody else’s story.

6. Look at what you are passing through.

7. Recognize that at the end of the journey you should be different from the person who set out. If every business meeting, every overseas trip, and every project were to use these ideas they would be so much more effective and enjoyable.

These were first published in Sacred Britain the official guide to the Sacred Land project.

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Related information

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The five ways a faith-based conservation project can succeed
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