Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred

After 20 years as a Christian pastor and environmental activist, Victoria Loorz was burned out in both roles. Church of the Wild candidly traces how she integrated her twin callings by cofounding the ecumenical Wild Church Network, and paints an appealing picture of a nature-rooted theology.

Christianity's hierarchical language has set up a false division between humanity and nature, Loorz believes. Some Christians view God as a remote creator uninvolved in the everyday; when she mentioned feeling connected to animals and trees, churchgoers chided her for embracing pantheism. Yet she sees nature as "shimmering with divine presence." Observing a doe and fawns up close in her yard becomes a particularly sacred experience for her.

Nowadays, Loorz considers herself an "edge walker" of the "Christ tradition," with mystics from all faith traditions modeling proper reverence. Through convincing studies of the notion of wilderness in scripture (biblical depictions of the wild include Jesus going up a mountain to pray and John the Baptist's subsistence lifestyle in the desert), Loorz develops the refreshing insight that the life of the spirit is primarily about relationships and "conversation with others who are not human."

Invoking a sense of mystery, Loorz makes theology accessible to laypeople. A closing "Resources" section gives sample outdoor liturgy from the Church of the Wild she started in Ojai, Calif.

This engaging work blends exegesis and anecdotes, citing thinkers like Robin Wall Kimmerer and Robert Macfarlane as it encourages a spirituality that is in touch with nature and unconfined by doctrine. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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