In "Greening Liberal Religious Communities," David Cockrell describes the Green Sanctuary Program. "A church that undertakes to become a Green Sanctuary examines every area of church life-outreach, social concerns, religious education, buildings and grounds, social events, and church administration-to see that its activities reflect respect for the interdependent web." (Page 15)
What steps has your congregation taken to honor the Seventh Principle? What more could it do? What can you do at home?
In "Neighbors in the Urban Wild," Lisa Couturier writes about her surprise encounter with beavers in the midst of urban life. "I think often there is the tendency to believe that the landscape of the city and suburbs is a rather empty one, to believe that nature exists more fully in the countryside." (Page 20)
Are you surprised by the natural life around you? Why or why not? How would you describe our relationship to the natural world?
Marilyn Sewell writes about the issues women face as they age. "Growing older is particularly problematic for women: We begin to experience how difficult it is to maintain our equilibrium in a culture that idolizes youth and beauty, and in fact seems unable to conceptualize beauty of person without youth." ("Midlife Spirituality," page 24)
Why are women socially devalued as they age? What positive images do you have of aging women? Where did they come from?
Meg Riley writes about despair as the failure of imagination in her essay, "Imagination Needed" (Page 23). "My prayer is that we seriously consider how to yoke our imaginations to the common good and dedicate ourselves to finding ways to put something creative out into the world."
Make a list of the social issues that most concern you. What creative solutions can you find to address these problems? Riley also looks at ways imagination restores us through activities such as cooking, mentoring a child, painting, writing, or protesting. What personally imaginative things are you doing?
In "Whatever Happened to We?" Douglas K. Smith says people now gain a stronger sense of identity from the organizations they belong to than their place of residence. He calls the organizations in which people find a shared sense of values and fate "thick we's." Smith says it is up to every individual to help shape the communal values of their thick we's. "Organizations can become the communities in which we connect our shared values to the greater good of humankind, but only if we see them as thick we's and only if we take responsibility to help shape those shared values." (Page 30)
Make a list of the thick we's you belong to. What changes could you make to the values in one of your thick we groups? How would you go about making these changes?
Carol Holst, profiled in "Modeling the Simple Life," developed the ideas for her organization Seeds of Simplicity while serving as a DRE, "as a way to help children be comfortable with simple living despite the endless advertising bombardment they endure." (Page 41)
How can you minimize the impact of media pressure to consume? With less time and energy focused on consuming, what would you do?
Holst was one of the organizers of a conference, "Mental Health and Simple Living: Countering the Compulsion to Consume," at which Dr. Peter Whybrow said, "We have constructed a set of circumstances, a culture, which is actually toxic for us. It doesn't fit with our neurobiology, and it doesn't fit with our evolutionary behavior." (Page 40)
How could simplifying your life promote better mental health? What can you do to make your own life simpler?
Truth in fiction.
In his Bookshelf essay Will Shetterly talks about the spiritual impact science fiction and fantasy had on his formation. "My need for revelation was answered in the literature of speculation, fantasy and science fiction, the genres that test unlikely propositions in stories." ("Speculation and Revelation," page 54)
How has your need for revelation been met through literature? Which books have had the greatest impact on your spiritual formation?