Don't Pay Them No Mind

Column by Toni Reynolds on 12 August 2021 0 Comments

It’s been an interesting experiment to consider my attention as a form of currency. Though I’m not exactly thrilled with the capitalist framework, I’ve benefited from considering my focus as a resource, and my general headspace as a bank of its own. How I “spend” from it matters not just for myself, but also for the people around me.

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How can mainstream churches be more inclusive of  Rewilding?


Dear Reader,

As a pastor of a mainline church and as a nature-based human development guide and founder of a Wild Church, I ask myself that question everyday.

In part, your question depends on what you (we) mean by “Rewilding”? There is the sort of “conservation language” sense of rewilding — protecting wild places and letting the land return to its original, undomesticated state. There is also a human developmental sense of Rewilding, which is to say cultivating deeper authenticity and wholeness as individuals and communities, including renewing a deeper connection with the land itself that moves beyond classical “stewardship” of the Creation (still rooted in a separation or split of humanity from nature) toward something like a “participation with” the Creation.

From my own experience with Seminary of the Wild as an edge-walker and bridge between institutional religion and new, emerging visions of eco-spirituality, faith and action, there are many layers of support that can contribute to the larger work of Rewilding.

The first is the conservation layer, or “Creation care” — stopping destructive practices to the ecosystem through education, awareness and advocacy work. This is a really important layer. Many churches never learned (and faith leaders never equipped) or had the language to connect our theology with the greater ecology in a way that produces deep and sustainable change in our congregations and communities - not just change in theology and practice, but a comprehensive change of consciousness. Unfortunately seminaries are still largely geared toward engaging the mind (rather than the body, emotions, natural world, and psyche) to effect change which is really the very upper layer. Mainstream congregations need to create a container of leadership to explore what “rewilding” really means, how to translate it to the congregation in a way that speaks broadly to both conservative and liberal elements, and why it is the greatest and most urgent act of Christian love in our times. From the perspective of Scripture, how is “rewilding” core to the gospel (i.e. Romans chapters 8 and 12), how is it exemplified in Christ and part of the “new wineskins” needed to contain this new consciousness?

The second layer of “rewilding” is how we experience the Self, God and Earth in the first place. This “rewilding” work is deeper than education, sustainability and conservation practices. It is moving into what Norwegian philosopher Arne Ness calls, Deep Ecology. It entails a rewilding of the Self through community and practices that can get at the underlying psycho-spiritual structures while cultivating greater wholeness, aliveness, and leadership capacities. Again, in a mainline church, a small group of thoughtful and dedicated individuals might be tasked with exploring a growing number of organizations that already do this work and plan how to introduce a viable vision to the leadership of the church.

~ Rev. Matthew Syrdal




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