Certificate in Contemplation and Care for Creation

“The external deserts in the world are 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. And many of us feel isolated, alone in our concerns. We long for a supportive community of like-minded people.

Contemplation and Care for Creation

If you relish the idea of exploring further, in company with others, the “ecology” by which Christian faith and spirituality join with an environmental consciousness, consider participating in our 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 Schedule

The program begins with a five day retreat, a period of prayer and residential instruction, in Sewanee beginning the morning of May 23 and continuing until late afternoon on May 28.  Participants will prepare for the retreat through guided reading so that the time in Sewanee can focus on discussion. The program concludes with a final two- or three-day retreat and wrap-up at Sewanee probably in early May, dates TBA

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 earth care. The retreat will focus on an introduction to the contemplation of nature based on classic monastic spiritual formation, the integral relation of creation to fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, and implications of these for they way society functions. The first practicum will involve spending one hour per week outside contemplating nature utilizing the Center’s program, Living in an Icon, Alive in the World, applying each week’s lesson to everyday life with occasional virtual meetings to share experiences. For the second practicum each participant will design and implement a small project of their choosing that integrates spirituality and/or ecotheology with environmental action.

See descriptions of past projects here: CCC Project Descriptions.

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.
  • Those, both lay and ordained, who seek training to lead environmentally informed offerings in Christian education or spiritual formation.
  • Those seeking a spiritually grounded, supportive community of people engaged in creation care.

Learning Objectives:

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

  • grown 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 suggestions for further reading and growth
  • developed supportive, ongoing relationships with like-minded people

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 and Professor Emeritus of Economics 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.

Program Costs

Tuition for the program is $700 with a deposit of $300 upon application. This cost does not include lodging or food. We are committed to helping all those interested in participating in the program to be able to come regardless of financial circumstances. Please contact the program director for information on financial aid.  The balance of the tuition is due by April 15, 2018.

How to Apply

To apply for the program send a cover letter discussing why you wish to participate in the program. Be sure to include your contact information, including mailing address, phone number, and email address. Enclose your deposit of $300 to secure a seat. Applications are due by April 1. Make checks payable to The University of the South.

 

Please send the letter and check to:

Robin Gottfried, Director

Center for Religion and Environment

The University of the South

735 University Avenue

Sewanee, TN 37383

        

Participants are responsible for arranging lodging and food during their stay. Participants often cook their meals together. Some on-site housing, including camping, is available. This is the most economical alternative.  Because lodging in the area is limited, participants are advised to secure accommodations as soon as possible. You may wish to book your lodging at the DuBose Conference Center. Here is the link to reserve accommodations at the Dubose Conference Center: https://dubose.wufoo.com/forms/contemplation-care-for-creation-lodging/

 

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. 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. If you have any questions about the program, please contact the course director, Robin Gottfried, at rgottfri@sewanee.edu or cre@sewanee.edu.

 

Testimonials

"I would tell others to come because of the connection one makes to the others in the program and the profound way the program impacted me and my thoughts about being a part of creation and my appreciation of it. I also believe the time spent contemplating nature and sharing the experiences of doing that affects one in ways that change and shape one's thinking about and being in the world. The focus of this program had made me much more grateful for the beautiful, incredible world that God has provided for us. It also has helped me to understand that being connected to and concerned about all of creation is vital to my own spiritual health and journey."

"[This program] will challenge you to slow down and focus in a way alien to most of our life-styles. If you already have a Centering Prayer or Meditation Practice, it will offer a new way of prayer. If you don't, it will provide tools for learning to open eyes and heart to God and God's creation. You also become part of an amazing group of deep-thinking, spiritually-alive and just plain fun people - providing the promise of much-needed community support for your spiritual life."

"I wish everyone could go through this program because it addresses the whole person - the individual and the community. I can recommend books to read; I know that many organizations offer environmental stewardship programs. However, these other options still don't engage the spirit. When you learn to open yourself to the Holy Spirit in a broader arena (beyond church, etc.) you see not only the problems and possible solutions but also the true hope we need to pursue the right path. A fellowship in the Spirit completely changes the way one understands the world and one's role in it."

“I had to make sacrifices on many levels to open my schedule, my life to this class. This has been the singularly most healing experience of my adult life. This tiny piece of paradise here in Tennessee was inviting and safe and radically hospitable.  I opened to the world around me in a way that has freed my spirit and grounded me in a mutually supportive journey that I could not have conjured in my wildest dreams. I experience the support of my fellow students and the faculty of the program in a way that is as healing as the practices. I pray we can move this way of being in the world into a wider circle of healing.” C. A., Navajoland 

 

“The program was a wonderful combination of head-learning and experiential heart-learning.  I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is desiring to connect their concern for the environment with their faith, and share that connection with others.” J. S., Colorado

 

“I try to protect shore birds that lay eggs on beaches precisely where oblivious humans drive four wheel pickups. My Nature Contemplation practice has filled my soul with a healing peace that sustains me in my shore bird ministry.” D. G., North Carolina