Earth Consciousness for People of Faith: Connecting Spirituality with Nature

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Voght, Judy
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
A few years ago, I began realizing the harmful ways that we are living in our modern society. Not only have we wantonly used and abused the Earth and all its inhabitants and resources, but we have harmed ourselves by living in a separated manner from nature. It occurred to me that among the religious institutions with which I was familiar, no mention was ever made of protecting the Earth and all its inhabitants. This seemed odd because I would have thought that churches and their congregations would be on the forefront of protecting “God’s Creation”. The church that I attended seldom mentioned our responsibility for the natural environment. At fellowship luncheons and dinners, paper, plastic and styrofoam were wasted by the bagsful. No one even considered recycling. This is where my desire to connect spirituality with nature really took root. The coursework at St. Mary’s has continually reinforced and affirmed this desire. This project started in a small way. I wrote articles for the church newsletter and local newspaper and also spoke to an adult leadership group about becoming earth conscious consumers. The format for that presentation is included here. This led to further involvement in the community and more speaking opportunities. This involvement grew and at the request of a minister friend, I developed a presentation for Sunday church services. My religious background is Christian and I have studied the theology and belief systems of many denominations to understand what their beliefs are based upon. This has allowed me to speak to groups on a level and in a spiritual language they are able to understand and relate. A discussion or presentation to a Baptist group will differ in several ways from a Methodist, Catholic, Unity or Unitarian presentation. Quoting biblical scriptures might well be appropriate with one group and inappropriate with another. I have also developed a presentation that is appropriate for workshops or luncheons for church or civic groups. Last fall, I was asked to give an hour-long presentation for the Federation of Practical Christianity’s annual meeting of ministers in Amarillo, Texas. This went well and there were great results. I have included the Amarillo presentation as a part of this project. One of the ministers in the audience returned to her home church in West Palm Beach, Florida and devoted four full Sundays to sermons about nature. It also led to invitations for me to speak at a church in Gulfport, Mississippi, Richardson, Texas, Nacogdoches, Texas and Franklin, North Carolina. In addition, I was asked to help with an Earth Day Celebration in Nacogdoches. I was extremely pleased with the results. In addition to the earth consciousness presentation, I have developed other discussions that look at the social consequences from our society’s taking more than our fair share of the earth’s resources. Phase II of this project includes a plan for the development of a nature center on the land where I live. This is simply an extension of the earth consciousness presentations that are currently being done. Workshops, retreats, nature hikes, vision quests, etc. are planned. I would like to be ready for opening the nature center by the fall of 2006. A description of the nature center, mission, photos and brochure are attached.