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Greenfaith Spirit Retreat, Spring 2016: Spirituality and Environmental Care
From May 23 to May 26, Water Captains Director, Rev. Sam Brannon, attended a week-long environmental spiritual retreat in Garrison, New York. The event was held at the Garrison Institute, which once housed the Monastery of Mary Immaculate. The Institute is up the Hudson River from New York City and diagonally adjacent to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Sam joined the GreenFaith fellowship program in the fall of 2015. The fellowship program was founded in “2007 as the only comprehensive education and training program in the United States to prepare ordained and lay leaders from diverse religious traditions for religiously based environmental leadership.”
The fellowship program consists of three retreats, several eco-theology writing projects, monthly webinars, weekly readings, and a final leadership project. Executive Director Rev. Fletcher Harper and Stacy Kennealy designed the fellowship curriculum to explore environmental care in a variety of physical settings and from the perspectives of multiple faith traditions.
The Garrison retreat, the second of three, focused on eco-spirituality. Eco-spirituality is an incarnational understanding of the world around us, positing that people cannot experience the divine either alone or in community without the natural world playing a pivotal role. For example, within the Abrahamic traditions, most Biblical characters’ transformational experiences involved the natural world.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Erin Lothes Biviano, Assistant Professor of Theology at the College of Saint Elizabeth, was a retreat highlight. Dr. Lothes Biviano’s keynote focused on inspiring creation care ministries among faith communities. Dr Lothes Biviano argues that the Christian church must expand to encompass an ecological mission as a part of its overall mission for its ethical identity to have any real validity.
After spending several hours in the woods of the Hudson River Valley, the fellows spent most of an afternoon at Constitution Marsh, a tidal marsh under the care of the Audubon Society. The center’s director, Eric Lind, escorted the fellows into the marshland and introduced them to the Audubon Society’s long-term work to clean up and restore the marsh after a century of pollution and misuse.
The third and final fellowship program retreat will be in November, 2016, at Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania and will focus on stewardship. Between now and then, Sam will work to complete his leadership project for the program, which will focus on water planning along the Rio Grande. Since 2014, the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy’s Water Captains program has engaged hundreds of Texans across the Lone Star State in the state’s water planning process. Sam will make a special push into the border region in the fall of 2016, highlighting the unique environmental issues specific to the border and the people who live and work in that region. For more information, email Sam.