Spiritual Longing to Heal the Earth Culminates in Green Actions

The Space Between Church and Not-Church

The Space Between Church and Not-Church

Welcome Guest poster, Caroline Fairless, an Episcopal priest, and co-founder of The Center for Children at Worship.  Her newest book is The Space Between Church and Not-Church.   Her book opens our minds to  healing our planet as a “spirit-centered process, requiring humans to reclaim our appropriate place among the earth community.”

It’s a wonderfully hopeful thing, to have access, direct from fingertip to keyboard, to environmentally sustainable resources that range from urban farming, to rooftop gardens, to household cleaning products, to the challenge to go plastic-free for a week. Web communities that serve as clearing houses for such resources are of immeasurable value.

The cynics among us speak of the warts in the concept of “sustainable living”, and yes, underneath the sarcasm lie concerns worth exploring. Yet this is not the time for the cynics among us. Prophets, yes, but not cynics. Our earth community is in too much trouble, and there is too much work to be done.

Our Need for Spiritual Connection with the Earth

From my perspective, what’s motivating us isn’t just “feel good environmentalism” or some kind of nagging moral thorn in our side that says we ought to be doing this.  From where I sit, all these efforts – to clean up, to recycle, to establish farmers’ markets, to replant indigenous seed – all of them – are the action/expressions of the deepest sort of longing, and it’s one that we may not even be aware of. These are the outward expressions of our innate longing for connectedness to this planet.

It’s a spiritual longing, and serves to remind us that our care of the earth, the waters and air, and wildlife habitat are spiritual endeavors. We are spiritual beings, and the spiritual dimension belongs not just to humans alone.

The words of Thomas Berry make me want to dance with joy.

“The earth is our origin,” he writes, “our nourishment, our support, our guide. Our spirituality itself is earth derived. If there is no spirituality in the earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves.”

The only way humans can understand ourselves as spiritual beings, then, is to understand our own spirituality as linked to, and inseparable from, the spiritual dimension of all life forms.

To make the claim, as many do, that humans alone are possessed of and share a spiritual life apart from earth community, is utterly false. This eco-spiritual component doesn’t yet carry a lot of weight in legal arguments, nor in moral persuasion, and certainly not among the religious, yet it is this connection – and this alone – that serves as the ground of true planetary healing and restoration. It follows, then, that the human-to-earth connection is the very ground for human healing and wellness as well.

I’ve been blessed with mentors such as Thomas Berry, Alice Walker, John Muir, Margaret Wheatley – some living, some not – who have insinuated themselves deep into the core of my true knowing – a knowing which is all too often eclipsed by a surfeit of information and righteous opinion – mentors who have insisted that I open my eyes to the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forms.

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that all life consists of “chemical elements forged in the center of high mass stars, unstable at the ends of their lives, which then exploded to scatter their enriched contents across galaxies, forming into gas clouds which in turn collapsed, forming stars, and planets, and life.”

We Can Reverse Our Own Destruction

That life includes not only humans, but all else as well. I find it thrilling to consider that we are all of the same stardust! The poets write lyrics, and the musicians sing songs. In this world view, Berry’s words ring with startling clarity. In our lifetime, he says, “the glory of the human has become the desolation of the earth. And now the desolation of the earth is becoming the destiny of the human.” In other words, what we’re doing to the earth, we are doing to ourselves. We are charting the course of our own destruction.

We have lost our bearings, but it need not be a permanent description.
If we can remember that healing and wellness – of all life including human life – is a spiritual endeavor, and that one cannot be healed without the other, there is hope. We long for healing, and such longing is given expression by the very actions of green that – we can say in celebration – are becoming increasingly the norm.

We are of the same stardust!

Caroline Fairless was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1989.  She has served several congregations, and founded – with her husband Jim Sims – The Center for Children at Worship, a non-profit whose focus is the full inclusion of children in the life of faith communities.

Caroline Fairless

Caroline Fairless

In addition, she is the author of Hambone, a book for children; Children at Worship ~ Congregations in Bloom; Confessions of a Fake Priest; and most recently The Space Between Church & Not-Church. Caroline is a ceramic sculptor and puppet maker, and lives in the woods in Wilmot, NH.

Thank you, Caroline for your guest post and the revelation of how our own innate spirituality is so connected to all living creatures that inhabit the Earth.

Join the conversation:

  • Have you felt more connected to the Earth through your religion?
  • Thoughts about Caroline’s statements that healing mankind is grounded in our Earth-human connection?
  • Have you seen a shift in your own religion to embracing our roles as protectors of the Earth?  If so, how?
  • Has religion played a big part with your own connection with the Earth?
  • Or do you feel that your religion is missing the boat in saving the Earth?
  • Would you consider yourself a religious and/or spiritual person?
  • Have you found as you have connected more and more with saving the Earth, your spirituality has increased?


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