“… interconnection as normative. What spiritual practices are emerging from this movement to define a new axiom that reconnects people w God & nature? ”
Lynn White’s infamous indictment of Christianity in the ecologic crisis blamed the “Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.” This axiom, counter to the teachings of scripture, nevertheless continues to define all aspects of life, from the political to the personal. This objectification of the natural world has caused both the creation and the church to suffer. The ecological conversion outlined in Laudato Si’ is a call not just to the Catholic Church, but to the entire dis-connected Western world. It is a call not just to become more responsible stewards, but to a deeper conversion that actually restores the interconnected relationships between God, humans and nature.
I am interested in exploring and supporting a new movement of churches who are moving toward a new axiom of inter-connected relationship with a sacred earth by moving their worship services into the literal wilderness, where every great leader of our faith was drawn in times of transition. My fieldwork will focus on the work of 8 innovative congregations, members of the growing Wild Church Network in NA and the Forest Churches in the UK. Ancient and emerging Christian practices are being developed within these churches, oriented to creation as a text of divine inspiration, what the early and medieval Church knew as the Book of Nature.
Such practices are uncharted territory. To map them, I will conduct Appreciative Inquiry zoom interviews with 20+ “forest church” pastors with visits to 8 of them. I will share these stories through a book and website that will offer both specific practices that can be used by other spiritual leaders, as well as stories of transformation that follow from encountering God in nature, expanding the breadth of the “beloved community” and igniting responsible engagement with our planet’s crisis out of love rather than fear.