Programs for the Broader Community

Opening the Book of Creation

Many people have lost touch with how God expresses him/herself through creation. For most of us it seems that technology and a hurried pace have dulled our ability to read the spiritual lessons in nature. Opening the Book of Creation (OBCre), Sewanee’s version of the Opening the Book of Nature program, helps participants recover an ability to discern spiritual lessons, and experience God, in creation. When Jesus began His ministry. He did not spend forty days in the temple. Instead He went out into the wilderness. Likewise, Christians, as well as people of all faiths in every century, have found spiritual lessons in wild places – and we can, too.

OBCre helps connect participants to the early Christian tradition of learning spiritual lessons from nature. OBCre “explorations” use periods of private prayer and reflection alternating with discussion to produce a blend of low key instruction, personal experience and group sharing. This unique learning method helps each person share in the personal discoveries made by others, learn from one another’s insights and experiences, and advance into a more effective ability to grow spiritually in and through creation. This process works for people from all backgrounds, educational levels and denominations. With slight modifications it also works for people of diverse non-Christian faith traditions.

OBCre focuses on the practice of active contemplative along the forests, fields, and trails of the Sewanee Domain, and of course, other sites. Utilizing practices from the monastic tradition, OBCre participants encounter the presence of God and learn spiritual lessons in and through creation while actively engaging the body, mind, and spirit.

OBCre is appropriate and easily utilized in any number of contexts, from youth groups to backpacking expeditions. Various environmentally-oriented classes at The School of Theology incorporate OBCre into their coursework. Environmental groups have used Opening the Book of Nature to explore the spiritual value of wilderness. Should you want more information about OBCre, have interest in hosting an OBCre retreat, or wish to learn how to facilitate OBCre programs, please contact us.

Beauty by Design

Have you ever experienced a moment, perhaps a beautiful sunset or an exquisite work of art, when something in it seems to call out to you or invite you to deep communion? If so, you have experienced Beauty, a deep reality that major religions and some philosophers believe underlies all existence. CRE’s Beauty by Design retreat and workshops explore the theology of beauty, its significance for society and the Christian church, and its relationship to ecological design through talks, experiences of Beauty, poetry and song. If you would like to explore this topic further, download the Beauty by Design resource paper (available soon). Please contact us should you be interested in exploring hosting a workshop or retreat on Beauty by Design.

The Center Forum

Might people of faith approach conservation and land management differently from, for instance, the way The Nature Conservancy does? If people believe an active God indeed moves through all creation, or that one’s relationship with nature has a spiritual impact, should they interact with creation in a manner different from the way the secular world does?

Meeting monthly over a simple meal the Forum considers how contemplative Christians might approach land conservation and management. What do contemplatives bring to the table when they analyze environmental and social issues? Does their emphasis on the importance of loving relationships lead to insights for conservation and land management? How do Christians and Buddhists differ and resemble one another in their conclusions? Do our religious traditions of healing people offer us insights into practices for healing the rest of creation? How do we approach the problem of exotic invasive species? How can we determine the spiritual significance of a specific tract of land?

If you would like to view videos of the Forum presentations and read summaries of the subsequent discussions, you can do so on our Resources page. If you would like to learn more about the Forum initiative, please contact us.