ECOLOGY AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Catholic Theological Union, Mary Frohlich, RSCJ

 

 

Required Books:
– Connie Barlow, Green Space, Green Time: The Way of Science (Springer-Verlag, 1997).
– Ernest Callenbach, Ecology: A Pocket Guide (University of California, 1998).
– Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether, eds. Christianity and Ecology (Harvard University, 2000).
– Ursula King, ed. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Orbis,1999).
– Alice Laffey, Appreciating God’s Creation through Scripture (Paulist, 1997).
– Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (New Society, 1998).


COURSE OUTLINE


October 4 INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

    Reading: Callenbach and Laffey, whole books
    What is Ecology?
    Ecological Crisis as Spiritual Crisis
    Preliminary Survey of Ecospiritual Ideas
    Video: "The Unfolding Story"
    Barlow’s "Five Ways"
    Getting Started on "Practices"
    Introduction to "Spirituality of Place" re: Chicago/Hyde Park
    Place Visit (weather permitting): "The Point"

October 18 THE WAY OF SCIENCE

    Be sure to work regularly with your "Place Journals!"
    Plan consultation (in person or by telephone) re: your course project.
    Read in preparation: Barlow (whole book)
    Recommended in Hessel & Ruether: Maguire & Bratton; French
    Historical Perspective: The Dialogue of Science and Religion
    Video: "The Cosmic Voyage"
    The Present Earth Crisis
    Scientists’ Contributions to Ecospirituality:
    The Ecological Vision
    The Evolutionary Epic
    Gaia Theory and Its Implications
    "Old Story" and "New Story": Challenges for Biblical Religion

October 25 THE WAY OF REFORMING OUR OWN TRADITION

    Turn in practice journal for comments.
    Read: In Hessel & Ruether: Johnson; Cowdin; Keller; Knitter
    King anthology: whole book
    Basic Issues for Christian theology
    New Hermeneutical Principles for Christian Theology:
    "Recycling" Classical Traditions
    "Deep Ecumenicity"
    The Vision of Teilhard de Chardin
    Contemporary Theologians and Spiritual Writers

November 8 PRACTICES FOR RECONCILIATION WITH THE EARTH

    Read: Macy (whole book)
    Other essays to be assigned
    Effects of Denial, Alienation, Trauma, and Grief
    Educating Ourselves and Others for the "Ecological Self"
    The Way of the Ancients: Indigenous Religions
    The Way of Transcendence: Eastern Religions
    Place visit: Japanese Garden

December 6 CONVERSION TO THE EARTH

    Read: In Hessel & Ruether:
    Hiebert, Berry,Burton-Christie, Cobb, Rasmussen, Mische; Conclusion
    Where do we go from here?
    "Growing your own" Spirituality and Theology of Relationship with Nature.
    Prophetic Action and Civic Participation
    The Way of Immersion: Spirituality of Place Revisited
    Bioregional Spirituality
    Student Presentations

 

 

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

 

1. ATTENDANCE AND ACTIVE PARTICIPATION
Attendance at all five full-day sessions is presumed. Each session will also involve oral participation and reports (some informal, some more formal) by students.

 

2. "PLACE JOURNAL"
At the beginning of the course, select a "place" that you will visit in a contemplative spirit regularly throughout the quarter. If the place is very near your home, you may be able to make brief visits every day or several times a week; if it is at a greater distance, your visits may be weekly and more lengthy. The place may be small (your backyard; the vicinity of a particular tree) or larger (a whole park, such as Indiana Dunes State Park). In addition to simply "attending," do some research; learn something about the flora and fauna, the geological and human history, the present ecological challenges, of your "place." Journal your responses, discoveries, insights. Visual media (photography, drawing, video) may be used as well as writing, if you wish. Each week during the course, post a paragraph or an image to Blackboard so that others can share in your spiritual experience of that "place." At the end of the course, hand in selected highlights of your journal that will enable the reader/viewer to know something of your experience of "the spirit of the place." (Due Dec. 12.)

 

3. EXPERIENTIAL PRESENTATION
Students will develop an experiential exercise and/or presentation of about 20-25 minutes. The intent of the presentation is to awaken, deepen, and/or educate an ecological spirituality. Ideally, it should be something you can actually use in ministry. Group projects are possible, but must be correspondingly longer (i.e 2 people = 40-50 minutes). The presentation may include elements of ritual, reflective process, artistic engagement, slides or video, dramatic reading, music, etc.

 

4. WRITTEN REPORT
– M.A. students: Select an ecology-related theological issue that has important implications for the spiritual practice of Christians. Prepare: 1) a brief introduction to how this issue relates to spiritual practice; 2) an annotated bibliography of resources for exploring it; 3) a 3-4 page summary of perspectives on the topic. (Total pages: 7-10).
-- All other students: In consultation with the instructor, each student is to select a book for review. (A bibliography will be provided, but you may also propose other texts.) Write a three-page book review, giving an overview of the content and style of the book as well as a personal and critical assessment of its value for the development of an ecological spirituality. (Due Dec. 6)