“The external deserts in the world area growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.”

Benedict XVI

Those of us who staff the Center for Religion and Environment (CRE) here at Sewanee: The University of the South believe that a root cause of the environmental crises we face is spiritual in nature. Estranged from God’s presence in the world around us, many of us go about our lives oblivious to the larger consequences of our actions. On the other hand, others of us are deeply concerned about environmental issues and our own spiritual journey, but are unsure how to make the connections between them. While we may have discovered an eco-spirituality suited to our personal lives, we wonder how to make a difference in the world beyond ourselves.

Contemplation and Care for Creation – A New Pilot Program

So if you relish the idea of exploring further, in company with others, the “ecology” by which Christian faith and spirituality are conjoined with an environmental consciousness, please consider participating in our pilot program on Contemplation and Care for Creation. Our ecumenical program welcomes and encourages participation from persons of all parts of the Christian family. This highly unusual program offers participants a combined exposure to the theology and the spirituality of creation care and its social implications.

The Program ScheduleIMG_20150828_163904864

The program begins with a two-week period of resident instruction in Sewanee May 30-June 10,

2016. It is then followed by a one-year practicum in spiritual formation (based on classic monastic spirituality), project development and practical implementation. The program concludes with a final three-day period of resident instruction and training at Sewanee the following May.

Throughout the program, participants will encounter the sacred in nature, interpret that experience, and reflect on its implications for their own lives and how to share with others practical measures of earthcare. The first period of residency will focus on an introduction to natural contemplation (contemplation of nature), on the integral relation of creation to fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and on the ways human society organizes itself and interacts with the rest of creation. Some time will also be devoted to laying groundwork for the practicums.

Who should consider enrolling? This program is best suited for persons answering to one or more of these descriptions:

  • Those who seek a deeper, more theologically grounded understanding of how their Christian faith can inform the practice of creation care.
  • Those looking to grow spiritually through the practice of natural contemplation.
  • Those persons, both lay and ordained, who wish to serve as “Green Guides” within their parish communities or other groups. As such, they are trained to assist property committees, landowners, and homeowners in identifying earth-friendly best practices and negotiating difficult decisions
  • Persons, both lay and ordained, who seek training to lead environmentally-informed offerings in Christian education or spiritual formation.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the program participants can expect to have:

  • IMG_20150828_162813663grown spiritually through the practice of natural contemplation
  • grown closer both to God and to God’s creation
  • grown in understanding of how the Christian faith intimately involves all of creation
  • learned how to:
    • discern God’s will for action one might take, attract like-minded people to join in that effort, develop a plan of action, and implement it effectively
    • lead an introductory event in natural contemplation
    • lead an extended program in spiritual formation involving natural contemplation
  • received material for leading discussions or giving talks on the relationship of creation to our faith
  • received suggestions for further reading and growth

Participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion from The University of the South’s Center for Religion and Environment. The primary instructors for the program include Robin Gottfried, Center Director; John Gatta, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Andy Thompson, Assistant Professor at the School of Theology; and Jerry Cappel, Environmental Coordinator for Province IV of the Episcopal Church. Classes will be held in a scenic historic wooded bluff home overlooking Lost Cove in Sewanee, just off the University’s Domain. Program enrollment is limited to 15 participants. Tuition for the program is $2,600 with a deposit of $500 due February 15, 2016, to be assured of securing a seat. Some limited financial aid is available. Applications are welcome after February 15 pending availability. The balance of the tuition is due March 31, 2016. Deposit checks payable to The University of the South may be sent, along with a cover letter, to Robin Gottfried, Center for Religion and Environment, The University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37393.

Participants are responsible for lodging and food during their stay. There are many options for accommodations in and around Sewanee (with the least expensive at the bottom of the list):

With all these options be sure to inquire about weekly or multiple-day rates. Some on-site housing, including camping, is available. This is the most economical alternative (please contact Pamela Payne, below, for more information). Additional motel options are available in Winchester, Decherd, and Kimball, TN, all about 30 minutes from Sewanee. A list of available house rentals (and other lodging options) may be found here: sewaneegateway.com. Because lodging in the area is limited, participants are advised to secure accommodations as soon as possible. If you have any questions about the program, please contact Pamela Payne, Program Coordinator, at paynepk0@sewanee.edu or cre@sewanee.edu.