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Ecotones of the Spirit: A Gathering on Contemplative Ecology

The guiding metaphor for this spring's speaker and event series is the ecotone, a transition zone between two ecosystems. An ecotone is not so much a place as it is a heightened transfer of energy between two distinct entities. In these ecological edges between field and forest, scrub and grassland, we find the greatest exchanges of life taking place. Ecotones are rich and fecund, brimming with abundance. They are also places of risk, uncertainty, and death.

For those of us working on issues like food justice, sustainable agriculture, or climate change, we find ourselves simultaneously inhabiting places both rich with opportunity and aching with loss and defeat. Today's challenges call for a strenuous, sustained response. Yet how do sustain our spirits in the face of hunger, social inequity, and ecological ruin? How do we develop a spirituality for the long haul? And what riches do we find in the Christian contemplative tradition that might aid us on our journey? 

Join us as we bring four thoughtful speakers for a sustained conversation on these questions - see full schedule below. Contemplative ecology is the place where action meets contemplation, where we hold in tension the groaning of creation with Isaiah’s assurance that “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

Dr. Douglas Christie, author of Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes on a Contemplative Ecology,

Leah Kostamo, author of Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community,

Gary Paul Nabhan,W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, and

Dr. Tyson-Lord J. Gray, religious scholar and an environmental activist.

Free and open to the public.

Part of the Ecotones of the Spirit speaker & event series sponsored by the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at the School of Divinity.



Session I:  Jesus, Justice, and the Land

When God Calls the Church to Justice
Tyson-Lord Gray

Discussing the role and responsibility of the church in addressing environmental injustice and ecological illiteracy, Gray will challenge traditional notions of nature, race, community, God, and spirituality.   

Agrarian Crises and Earth Care in Light of the Farming & Fishing Parables of Jesus
Gary Paul Nabhan

Just as North America is currently in a state of agrarian crisis, so were Palestinians and Jews in the time of Jesus. In this talk Nabhan will look at the farming and fishing parables of Jesus for ways we might respond to the current farming crisis in North America, as a projected 400 million acres of food-producing land is likely to change ownership the next decade and farmers suffer among the highest suicide rates of any profession.

4:30-4:45pm  BREAK

Session II:   Cultivating Hope and Stillness in a World of Wounds

Responding in Hope to Ecological Suffering
Leah Kostamo 

Kostamo will consider the question: How can we live from a place of hope and even joy in the face of such significant environmental suffering? To answer this question, Leah will draw on her experience of starting and living at the first Christian environmental centre in Canada with the ministry of A Rocha ("the rock"). Here thousands of visitors, volunteers and interns have rolled up their sleeves to practically care for creation by restoring salmon streams, growing organic vegetables and introducing school children to the wonder of creation.

A Dark Stillness: What the Night can Teach Us
Douglas Christie

What can the night teach us about how to respond to the most significant environmental challenges facing us today? Traditions of contemplative thought and practice focusing on darkness, silence, and stillness remind us that our encounter with profound unknowing can make a real contribution to the work of listening and responding to a broken world. Christie will consider how the idea of the night can help us rediscover the deepest ground of our shared work.

6:15-7:15pm   BREAK 
A selection of finger foods will be provided in the foyer, catered by Beta Verde. 

Beta Verde is a local food project of mother and daughter, Margaret and Salem Neff. They produce locally sourced jams, pickles, and syrups and have been featured nationally by US News and World Report and Slow Food USA.

Session III:  

Contemplative Ecology: Cultivating a Grounded Spirituality 

In this final session, our four speakers will be joined by Fred Bahnson, director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at the School of Divinity. Bahnson will engage them in a lively, informal roundtable conversation, pulling together various threads from their talks and taking questions from the audience. 


About Ecotones of the Spirit

An ecotone is the edge where two ecosystems meet - field and forest, ocean and estuary - and is a place rich with biological diversity, abundance, and opportunity. In this speaker series, we will explore the conversational ecotones where food justice meets faith, climate activism meets religious leadership, and where contemplative spirituality encounters the ecological crisis. Bringing together food activists, writers, and theologians, these gatherings will create a space where ecological and social challenges - food insecurity, climate change, environmental racism - can be held in tension with the Psalmist's call to "be still and know that I am God." 

The series begins on Thursday, March 19, and concludes with a half-day conference on Tuesday, April 14th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 3:00pm to 9:00pm

Scales Fine Arts Center, Brendle Recital Hall
1834 Wake Forest Road Winston-Salem, NC 27106

Event Type

Speakers, Special Events, Conference / Panel, Workshop, Multicultural / International


School of Divinity

Target Audience

Alumni, Faculty, General Public, Staff, Students, Prospective Students




Contact name

Fred Bahnson

Contact email

Contact phone number


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