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Reverence for the Land

We often think of land as a place to put a house, to raise food, to harvest timber or to hunt, or just to walk. But does land have any significance to humans as a spiritual resource? What is, or can be, our relationship to the land and what importance does it have in our spiritual life? In particular, do large open areas where humans have had relatively little obvious influence hold particular significance spiritually? These are questions of great importance as society decides how it wants to use its land.

Through collaborative efforts with others concerned with these issues the Center has been exploring these questions. June 3-7, 2009, the Director met with a small group of colleagues from various parts of the country to explore the spiritual values of the Cherokee National Forest. Camping along side the Upper Bald River they spent days in the rain (and some sun…) praying and discussing their experiences with the goal of issuing a statement on the spiritual importance of open areas such as the Cherokee, in this case from a Christian perspective (although much of their thoughts would apply to other faith traditions as well). These efforts have culminated in God’s Gift of a Beautiful and Bountiful Land: A Christian Declaration on the Spiritual Values of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. Watch a 2-part video on the statement, including on-site interviews of the participants in the process:

As an outgrowth of this experience Robin, Mark McKnight of Rock Creek Outfitters (Chattanooga) and Jeffrey Hunter of the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition participated in an hour’s interview about the value of wilderness with Richard Windham of WUTC radio. It aired on November 1. Listen to the broadcast.

The Center has convened a small brainstorming group to consider the possibility of a symposium or workshop to explore further the spiritual importance of land and of large open spaces. If we decide to pursue the idea, we anticipate holding it in one or two years.


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Sewanee: The University of the South735 University Ave, Sewanee, TN 37383931.598.100035.204826-85.921674