Notes from Diana Butler-Bass’ Saturday morning session at St. John the Divine Anglican Church, Victoria.

According to the old narrative on the familiar side of the bridge, things are divided up:

1. Nature and Religion are divided. They are set up as competitors.

USA Today announces: “God Competes Against Mother Nature On Sundays”

Can a beautiful landscape compete with religious worship?

A Baylor University study, published in the journal Sociology of Religion, found that U.S. counties with nicer weather and prettier natural surroundings see lower rates of religious affiliation. The study authors suggest that, yes, people tend to use nature as a spiritual resource, making it a competitor with organized religious institutions.

2. Individualism is set in opposition to Community – this is a false dichotomy.

Why do we have to think in terms of competition?

The Bible begins with creation. In the beginning God and nature are not competitors. There is no division.

In Genesis Adam is not a name but a word meaning – earth, dirt, soil. Eve is not a name but a word meaning – breath of life. So earth and breath are the constituents of life.

Nature is both our natural habitat, a sacred garden and a moral stage of choice and consequences. “Sin” does not develop until Gen. 4. The actual word “sin” is to do with violence.

On this side of the bridge, we say sin destroyed the natural order. In Genesis 2 and 3 Adam and Eve got the gift of conscience which they misused and then they suffer the natural consequences of their choice, thus messing up the natural order. We have chosen to misuse creation and we suffer the consequences.

Theologically creation is both revelatory and mystical; but it is also wounded and demanding. Things we blame as “acts of God” are really acts of us. But, in the midst of the consequences of our choices, God remains present, not as a judging presence but as help and comfort.

Nature is not isolating, but is constantly calling us to be together in new ways.

More than competition or a resource, nature may well be the nidus (a nest or breeding place; a place where something originates, develops or is located) of a new conception of God.

How do we connect there reality we have known with our friends outside the church who are connecting with the divine in nature.

Earth, water, sky and fire – there is God. This is a consciousness that has never been entirely absent from the Christian story, but has been marginalized.

Basil of Casearea:

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things,
even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man
with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song,
has been a groan of pain.
May we realize that they live, not for us alone,
but for themselves and for Thee,
and that they love the sweetness of life.
(The Liturgy of St. Basil)


My questions from session #3:

What might it look like for the church to heed nature’s call to us to “be together in new ways”?

What “new conception” of God might emerge if we were to listen carefully to creation?

How might creation and the reverence many people outside the church experience in creation, become a connecting point between those who find meaning in church assembly and those who, while experiencing a spiritual sense in creation, find no need to assemble in intentional worship?

What might church look like if we move beyond “competition” and seek to manifest the oneness of all creation?