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Winter Refresher 2015

Winter Refresher 2015In a time of environmental crisis, how is the Holy Spirit present and at work in the world and how is it calling and empowering us to action?

Those are some of the questions to be explored with the help of Mark Wallace, a theologian who connects Christian faith to the environmental crisis, during St. Andrew’s College’s Winter Refresher 2015.

Wallace, a professor of Religion and Interpretation Theory Coordinator at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, was announced as the theme speaker for next year’s event during the conclusion of the 2014 event held Feb. 27 to March 1 at the college.

Wallace is a theologian who places a focus is on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of life, enlivening all creation and wounded by environmental degradation. His thought and writings are grounded in his Pennsylvania location, yet he is widely connected through his academic work and activism and combines theoretical depth and breadth with a remarkable personal openness.

A much-published author who is frequently in demand as a speaker, Wallace will guide discussion on the event them of the Holy Spirit and the Environmental Crisis.

In some ways the environmental crisis needs no introduction, as it must be part of our consciousness, informing all our decisions.  But the environmental crisis is not static; it is complex and ever changing, requiring regular revisiting with informed analysis and commentary to keep us abreast of developments and offer insights.

The Holy Spirit is much the same. In some ways it needs no introduction but one never knows all there is to know about the Holy Spirit and it is particularly important at this time to revisit it in relation to the environmental crisis.

Wallace, the author of Green Christianity: Five Ways to a Sustainable Future, says his research and writing is an exercise in the emerging field of religion and ecology, a field he views as a “promising new line of inquiry in religious studies.”

“This innovative sub-discipline focuses on how different religious traditions have shaped human beings' fundamental outlook on the environment in ancient and modern times. The world's religions ask basic questions about the cosmos that share deep affinities with the science of ecology,” says Wallace’s biography on the Swathmore College website.

“Both thought systems — religion and ecology — are concerned with the place of human beings within the general order of things. Noting this affinity between religion and ecology, the intellectual wager of this discipline is that the often unknown wellsprings of human beings' perspectives on the environment must be tapped if we are to understand adequately how individuals and societies have conceived of their place in the natural world.”

More information on Mark Wallace is available on the Swarthmore College website.

Winter Refresher 2014

Andrea SmithThe theme for Winter Refresher 2014 was “Confronting Racism with Solidarity: Untangling Colonial Webs and Creating New Contexts.”

The content of this theme is certainly not new to The United Church of Canada. There are many leaders and teachers, communities and congregations with long practices of working on racism and of finding ways to live and learn together as indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, and as people with a great diversity of experiences in relation to the histories that shape us.

The theme is of course also not new to people of many different traditions and places of justice-seeking, community building and faith. It is the long work of policy-makers, preachers, educators, parents, social justice activists, community leaders, youth, elders, musicians, poets and writers in many different contexts.

The speaker was Dr. Andrea Smith, a Native American anti-violence activist and scholar and associate professor in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside, Calif. Dr. Smith received a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz in 2002 and previously earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative study of religion at Harvard University and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.

She is widely known for her inspiring ability to engage a wide range of audiences to address realities we are all tangled in from long histories of racism in our world. She is a Native American, Cherokee, anti-violence activist and scholar with strong involvement in community organizing.

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