Worship in the Woods

As children, we know this to be true:  Nature inspires, fascinates and heals.   As adults, we can forget.  But the ‘child within us’, brings us back to this timeless truth.

I remember being with my daughter at age two and seeing her fascination, as she saw a  ‘wooly bear’ caterpillar for the first time.  She got down on all fours, close to the earth and watched amazed, as this fuzzy, black and orange striped caterpillar, inched ever so slowly, across our path.

Do you remember the last time you were as fully present, to what was right in front of you?  Do you remember the last time you allowed yourself to experience awe, wonder and such absolute delight?

This past Sunday, a group from the church I serve, travelled to Church of the Woods in Canterbury, NH.  This little church, offers a profound and compelling witness to the wider community. https://kairosearth.org/church-of-the-woods

Rooted in the Christian tradition, this congregation has no building.  Their Sanctuary, is an 112 acre forest, clear-cut several times over, and slowly being restored to a healthy forest.

Their pastor, is Steve Blackmer, a professional forester, who in mid-life became an Episcopal priest.  The vision for Church of the Woods, arose from Steve and kindred spirits, who believe that we connect more deeply to the Creator, as we immerse ourselves in the beauty and wisdom of creation.

The altar around which we gatherd, is a stump of an old growth tree, cut down years before.  Upon the altar is placed a chalice and plate, to hold the Eucharist, reminding us of the body and life-force of God’s own child, Jesus.

 

 

 

Now gathered at your table, remembering that we are one with our Creator and with all creation, we offer to you from your own Earth these gifts of the land, this bread and wine, and our own bodies – our own living sacrifice.

Fill us with your Breath, O God, opening our eyes and renewing us in your love.  Send our Spirit over this land and over the whole earth, making everything a new creation.

 

After the liturgy, we are invited to quietly walk the paths of the forest.  With open eyes and hearts we seek to awaken to what nature has to say.  Martin Luther, centuries ago, said: “The call of a bird, the sound of a brook, the wind against one’s face, is but a ‘little word’ to us, from the Creator.”

 

Reverent play at Church of the Woods, as the children lead us.

For an hour or so, on a late afternoon, we walk,   ages 5 – 75.   We walk, look and listen, closely, carefully.  We are mindful of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘Listen, and your soul will live’.

 

As the sun begins to set, we conclude the liturgy with these words:

 

 

 

‘God of abundance, you have fed us with the bread of life and the cup of love.  You have reunited us with Christ, with the Earth and with one another.  Now, send us forth in the power of the Spirit that we may proclaim your love and continue forever in the risen life of Christ’.

May it be so.

 

Don’t Mess Your Nest

Today, President Trump signed a long promised executive order that rolls back progress made to lessen the release of carbon pollution into the environment.  Carbon emissions contribute to the heating up of our planet. Never one to let facts get in the way, Mr. Trump focuses on the dubious science of a few outliers who call climate change a hoax.

His executive order rolls back restrictions on coal powered power plants and seeks to relax limits on emissions by cars and trucks.  He has signaled that he will not follow through on promises made at the most recent Paris Climate Accord.   In effect he has ceded leadership by the United States (the second largest emitter of carbon, after China).  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/climate/trump-executive-order-climate-change.html

Trump follows in the footsteps of President George W. Bush’s administration, which consistently denied that climate change had a significant human cause.   In the face of overwhelming science, where did the willful ignorance come from?  As always, follow the money:  https://350.org/global-divestment-mobilization-peoples-climate-march/

In the face of this well-funded anti-climate mentality, what are people of faith to do?  How does our faith inform us?

I like the banner  that says:

‘If you love the Creator, take care of Creation’.

This saying is a reflection of the creation story in Genesis where God creates the land and oceans and all that live within.  Each day Genesis  concludes by saying: ‘And God saw that it was good’.

To be indifferent or contribute toward the destruction of  God’s creation is an affront to God.

Just because Mr. Trump and his minions use ‘alternative facts’ doesn’t make it so.   The signs of climate change and humanities contribution to our rapidly heating up planet are breathtaking:  https://350.org/a-glacier-guides-experience-with-climate-change-in-alaska/

What then can we do?  Resist.  Resist the ‘alternative facts’ of the Trump administration and fossil fuel industry.  Get informed. Check out the National Oceanic  and Atmospheric Administration http://www.noaa.gov .  This government site is under threat by the Trump administration but remains a reputable source for climate science.

Find allies in your faith tradition which helps you be a responsible steward of the earth.  For those within the Christian tradition check out: http://restoringeden.org/   http://earthministry.org .  In New England a good source is http://kairosearth.org/about-us/  There are excellent resources within other faith traditions too.

The Northwest Earth Institute offers small group studies on making proactive, practical changes in your personal life and in your local community  https://nwei.org   When my wife and I were raising our young children we took a class entitled: ‘Voluntary Simplicity’.  This class changed how we approached parenting and many of the material choices we make to this day.

Being an advocate for mother nature is a life long journey.  It is a call to take the long view.  A commitment to refute the short-term/quick profit mentality.  It requires a commitment to helping our economy find new and clean ways of moving forward. Helping workers retool for the opportunities that come with renewable energy.

All this is based on the old adage ‘don’t mess your nest’.  We need and deserve clean water and air.   Not only for our sake but for the sake of generations to come.  Our Creator would have us do no less.