As a student of theology and ministry studies, I’m often busy reading and writing theological propositions, exercising my critical eye as a reader, and learning the arts of ministry like preaching and spiritual care. I find myself thoroughly convinced of the veracity of many theological arguments and of the necessity to rethink traditional models and modes of religious community. I know many things to be true and spend an exorbitantly large amount of time demonstrating it. Such is the life of a graduate student.
Since coming to Holy Wisdom Monastery, I’m wondering if I feel any of those well-reasoned propositions to be true. Perhaps I know, but do I feel? Does this idea bring me life? Does it enable me to live in right relationship with others and the land? And most especially: Is this idea something I can actually put into practice?
I very confidently argue for the inclusion of animals, plants, and lands into discussions of “community.” That all forms of life on earth live and work together as a community of brothers and sisters, of kin, is a spiritual, scientific, and theological truth I know and firmly believe. I aim to worship like the trees, pointing always skywards, growing towards the heavens. Or to pray like the songbirds, always singing their place. And especially to live in community like bees, where each has a role, always thinking of the good of the hive.
How do I practice this awareness? I’m not a bee or a tree, as much as I admire their unique gifts (especially honey). Likewise, I can’t bring my animal and plant companions along with me, even though Sister Joanne Kollasch did find a tiny toad in the monastery building during prayer a few weeks ago.
Communities and families who share a bond of kinship need not result in all having the same responsibility. In my own family, each person has their own level and share of responsibility. My sisters and I did the laundry growing up. It was our first foray into the business world and we charged our parents $0.25 for each load washed, dried, and folded in the Fluff & Fold Laundry (AKA the downstairs bathroom). Nowadays, when I visit home, my role is often to cook dinner for the family, which I love and enjoy, which better fits my share of responsibility as a 25 year old. As human persons, our outsized ability to control, dominate, and destroy our environments gives us a huge share of responsibility to care for them. And this is how, I think, we put into practice the idea of kinship with the earth.
Lately at the monastery, there have been many opportunities to practice this idea and be present to the bonds of kinship that tie each living thing to the next here on earth, and beyond. Wisdom Prairie Workdays, many, many hours spent in the garden, learning and exploring with the young Wisdom Explorers on the prairie a few Sundays ago, and simply being with the multitudes of creatures who are active and growing in the summer months. If you, like me, want more opportunity to feel and practice this idea of kinship, rather than just thinking about it, I invite you to spend a morning in the garden harvesting the ever-abundant zucchinis, walking the nature trails in Wisdom Prairie, or observing with curiosity and openness your plant and animal neighbors. And, if you already visit regularly, join Sister Joanne and me in our lookout for rogue toads in the monastery.