The Space Between Church and Not-Church




The healing of our planet is a relational and spirit-centered process which requires humans to return home to our appropriate place within the earth community, not as the apex of creation, clothed in human privilege and entitlement – which places us outside the web of life – but as intrinsic to the integrity of the whole. The invitation which frames this book is twofold: one, to release the human-centered biblical justifications of dominion and rule for the sake of a natural web morality which insists on the sacramental nature of all life; and two, to create a holy space between church people and not-church people, who together will be able to develop sacred ritual to celebrate and honor the living system of which we are an integral part. It’s not the science that’s lacking. We have all the information we need to assess the damage we have done and continue to do to this planet. We seem not to understand that the desecration we do to the biotic community, we do to ourselves.

Personal Statement

Terry Tempest Williams writes, “The open space of democracy provides justice for all living things – plants, animals, rocks, and rivers – as well as human beings.”

How simple is that!

What this justice requires is the release of human privilege and entitlement. What this justice requires is that humans come home to our proper place within and vital to the earth community. Justice then can emerge as our moral compass has opportunity to be re-forged from the core.

We don’t get to that place by altruism or even by the determination of will. We get there by engaging in the things that change our hearts and minds. This is the stuff of the right brain: art, music, poetry, movement, sacrament, ritual, and, ultimately, a living evolving pattern that is the ground of liturgy.

If we don’t get there, it will be the catastrophic result of the failure of our collective imagination.

This book began with what I thought would be a simple article or essay which now exists as Chapter Two, To Have Dominion Over Them: Our Human-Centered Universe. I wasn’t thinking about a book. I was trying to discover why it is that churches – so utterly convinced of their call and commitment to environmental stewardship – are, in fact, not making a dent in the restoration of the land, waters, and air – and all the human and non-human life forms that inhabit the planet. As I am still a priest in the church, the exploration required only that I look into my own philosophy and behavior.

That first article led to another question: what is it about churches that makes their message so uninspiring for those outside the church? The next question: what if people of churches and people not of churches could suspend the attitudes, doctrines and practices that keep us apart, in order to step into the space between, where we – together and across the lines that tend to divide – can focus our attention, not on our differences, but on our common commitment to the healing of our planet? It was the right question for this book, apparently, because however we define ourselves, the space between is available and accessible to us all. All that’s required is that we release the things that divide us for the sake of that which we hold in common – the earth community, of which we are an intrinsic part.


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