By Ric Hudgens
The first week of June I joined with fifteen other “ministers” for a six-day eco-ministry intensive. This retreat was sponsored by Ecology of Awakening and the Chaplaincy Institute and funded by the Riverstyx Foundation.
These sixteen religious leaders all recognized the need to re-hear our original calls to ministry. Our communities are anxious and fatigued. We minister among them in times of crisis, injustice, polarizing and sometimes paralyzing despair.
Can we embody a faith-rooted activism that protects the sacredness of the Earth?
If the Earth community is to flourish, if our future is to be regenerative, then we must change at a very core level. We need prophetic imaginations that affirm the whole of life and not merely promote our brand, or expand our tribe.
If there is a wonder to being in a creative, living universe then we want to discover or (rediscover) our deeper belonging.
We had three intentions for our time: first, to take an sobering look at the destruction of our modern industrial, extractive and exploitative way of being. How do we turn from living stories of separation to stories of interconnection, equity and care?
Second, to re-awaken ourselves to (not just reconsider) our place within the larger web of life. How do we connect with our own deeper nature and engage with the same creative force of the universe (call it God, Spirit, Nature, etc). How is this force leading and guiding us in this time?
Third, to listen for the liturgy of the Earth that wants to be spoken among us. How do we guide our faith groups into awakened connection, action, ministry and community care?
We were invited beyond our differences to the impulse that connects us all to each other, the land, and Spirit. We looked to resources in the new sciences, nature-based processes, listening meditation, inner and outer tracking, inquiry, dream-work, somatic resiliency work, council practices, ceremony and other processes.
Our first two nights took place at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC), an 80-acre center in West Sonoma County that develops strategies for regional-scale community resilience and a just transition for biological and cultural diversity. At OAEC, we saw a wide array of permaculture systems in action and enjoyed the newly renovated facilities.
The rest of the week we moved to nearby Bohemian Preserve and immersed in the rhythms and cycles of the land. This is a spectacular ecosystem marked by active waterfalls, coastal prairie meadows, old-growth fir and oak woodlands. At both locations, we were blessed with local, organic meals by fabulous chefs.
Kerry Brady of Ecology of Awakening and Rev Lauren Van Ham of the Chaplaincy Institute provided inspiring leadership for our time. Brook Dolman gave us a tour of OAEC and spoke to us about the interconnection of ecology, permaculture, and politics. Melissa Nelson spent a morning with us talking about Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Spirituality and the call upon all of us to become indigenous to our place. Kerry spoke about trauma and somatic processing. We reflected on how nature and psyche are deeply connected. Dopal Gayaneni of Movement Generation talked with us about the intimate connection of ecology, economics. protest and politics.
Although it wasn’t stated as such, to me it seemed a fulsome presentation of what Joanna Macy has called “The Three Dimensions of the Great Turning”.
It was a wonderful week of testing my broken body, renewing my hungry mind, and refreshing my parched spirit. A light shines in our darkness.
*I have drawn concepts from the program description without I hope plagiarizing the work of others. See Eco-Ministry Intensive.
June 12, 2019