‘Seasons of the Sacred’ is an intimate, four-part series of gatherings bringing an experiential, experimental and creative exploration to the defining question of our generation:
How can we reconcile our relationship with the circle of life and participate in the regeneration of our living earth and global future?
In the spirit of community and celebration, and combining the rituals of food, conversation, art and activism, each event will explore the meeting point of the ‘ancient and emergent’, where lies the potential for a different story to be lived. This is a story rooted in the timeless knowledge of the oneness of all life: and a story that seeks to emerge in response to our particular time of crisis.
Each event will be tied to the primal cycle of the four seasons, encompassing different themes, and connecting the outer and inner landscapes of soil together with soul.
From this ground of relationship we will offer a space to:
- Cultivate community and be nourished by time with other young people from diverse fields working in service to the future.
- Immerse in an experiential exploration of spiritual ecology; bridging inspiration, art, dialogue and practice.
- Encounter the work of filmmakers, activists, storytellers, innovators, ecologists, musicians and more.
- Celebrate the beauty, wonder and mystery of creation and love for our living earth.
Reconciliation, peace, and the global ecological crisis
In working in service to creating cultures of peace on earth, we are an organisation that stands for compassion, for respect, for unity – ultimately, in our work, we stand for life. We are motivated by the spiritual truth that all life, all people – no matter the colour, race, religion or class – are intrinsically sacred and therefore equal. We believe that conflict and violence towards one another is a violation of this deep truth, that dialogue and understanding are tools to bring us closer an awareness of our unity beyond our differences, to a recognition of respect for life. We know that peace is not only a powerful symbol of our interconnectedness, but is a practice that shows us the potential for humanity to experience this spiritual truth as a lived reality on earth.
The tragic ecological holocaust of our time concerns us because it extinguishes not only humanity’s potential to live in peace, to live with compassion, respect and unity with one another; but runs far more deeply and far more universally touching the very core of what we stand for in our work: life. Our present global ecocide is so grave (almost intractably so to the human mind), it brings into question the very future of existence of life on earth.
If we are to work in service to peace, in service to life, then we must fully recognise that the impact of the desecration of the natural world; mass species extinction, climate breakdown, pollution of land and water – will unequivocally be the onset of war, conflict and social crisis. We must also recognise that it fundamentally destroys the vision, symbol and truth of all life in its wondrous biological diversity, as sacred. It destroys everything that we as a Centre for reconciliation and peace stand for, work for, and live for.
Recent future scenario mappings from scientists are deeply alarming. Economic collapse, displacement and refugees, resource depletion, food and water security, war and conflict and widespread poverty are predicted. Unless the rate of climate warming and ecosystem collapse is drastically curbed and even reversed through regeneration, these scenarios could become a reality in as little as 15 years time. We must heed this alarm and initiate a powerful response to reconcile our relationship with the natural world for future generations. Whether recognised by politics and power or not, this is the most critical and defining global issue of our time.
However, the gravity of this crisis also presents us with an equally momentous opportunity for positive transformation in a way that has important implications for our work and the work of peacemaking. It means that working to create peace ecologically, is also a doorway and a path for humanity to realise peace socially – between humans. The traditional binaries between ecological work and social work such as peacemaking are nullified; they are one and the same. Ecological peacemaking is a vehicle for social peacemaking in a very profound way.
This is because what the simple ecology of our planet as revealed through our ecological crisis demands, is that we recognise the physical (as well as spiritual) reality of our interconnectedness and interdependence with each other, with the more than human life, and ultimately with earth. It demands that the consequences of ecocide, of conflict and crisis, of flooding, drought, pollution and scarcity will not adhere to human made boundaries or borders, but will affect us all. Though our dependency on land, air, water, food and climate may be provisioned locally, wherever we are on the planet we cannot escape the reality that we are tied to the fragile and far greater planetary biospheric systems that ultimately govern all the environments that we depend upon for life. Whether rich or poor, whether located in the global North or the global South, whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian, we are all intrinsically dependent on the earth. This is what we share in common. This is what the ecological crisis is showing us. This is what will become ever-more evident and inescapable in the challenging times to come.
“We must stop competing with eachother. We need to cooperate and work together, and to share the resources of the planet in a fair way. we need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity, for the sake of all living species. We need to protect the biosphere, the air, the oceans, the soil, the forests. This may sound very naive, but if you have done your homework then you know we don’t have any other choice. We need to focus every inch of our being on climate change, because if we fail to do so, then all our achievements and progress have been for nothing. And all that will remain of our political leaders legacy will be the greatest failure in human history” – Greta Thumburg, youth climate activist
If we take this opportunity to truly recognise our collective interdependence with earth, then we also understand that the only way that we can resolve a crisis that is shared by all equally, is with nothing less than a response that is utterly global and interconnected. Hence, the practices of peacemaking, of collaborating across differences in recognition of the sacredness of all life is much more than an aspiration at this time; indeed the future of life depends upon us being capable of doing so as never before. In this light, the effort towards ecological healing and renewal necessitates, even requires that we make peace with one another; that we find the respect, compassion and unity that will enable us to meet this challenge together across nations, cultures and communities. Perhaps the gravity of the crisis, perhaps the prospect of the suffering and the pain to come, is what will inspire us with the strength to do so.
If we are capable of such a feat at this time, then perhaps what awaits us is an experience of peace with the multiplicity of life, so extraordinary, as beyond the limits of our imagination.
The four stories and ‘Seasons of the Sacred’
St Ethelburga’s centre core values will from the basis and be threaded through each of the events.
Opportunity in crisis
The ecological crisis presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to transform our relationships with each-other and with the natural world, moving into a lived recognition of the interconnectedness and reverence for all life. The peace, security, community and connection that can emerge as a result of this transformation is an immense opportunity within this crisis. This core message forms the context and thread of enquiry that runs through the events series, and work as a whole:
“How can we reconcile our relationship with the circle of life and contribute to the regeneration of our living earth and global future?”
We will explore this story in many different ways. Through activism, art, food and community, we will create an experience that both allows us to come into this interconnected relationship with the earth and each-other, and explore what practices we can bring into our own lives, and also how we can work together to contribute to this transformation. And this experience will be in essence, a celebration.
For example, we have speakers sharing indigenous wisdom, we will have prompts for group discussion that explore questions around this theme, and we will curate the meal in a way that evokes a sense of the sacred and a felt, embodied recognition of interconnection with earth. By the end of the evening, we hope to have generated a sense of the connection, community, reverence and compassion that make up the core elements of peacemaking. We hope to have offered a real experience of the opportunity within crisis.
Collaborating across differences
As individuals, communities and nations, we need to overcome our differences and work together if we stand any chance of overcoming this existential challenge to our global future. This story also connects with the deep opportunity within this crisis; it is through an awareness of our common ecological and spiritual interdependence, that we are offered the impetus to move beyond our outer differences – of culture, class, identity, race, religion etc., and work together in service to life as a whole because we are all in it together.
The common point of relationship between participants is that events will be designed to target a specific audience of young adult changemakers who are interested in exploring spiritual ecology. Within this target audience, a primary aim of the events series is to build community.
Many aspects of the design of the experience will support the cultivation of community, reflecting the value of working together in service to this opportunity in crisis for a more peaceful future. For example, the act of eating and bonding over a meal together with individuals seated in small intimate groups, prompts for discussion that would include questions, tasks, spiritual practices to do together are key elements that will support the experience of collaboration.
We also want to make the event as open and accessible as possible to young people interested in spiritual ecology from diverse fields, disciplines, religious/spiritual identities, minority and ethnic groups and low income groups. We will carefully design the language and pricing structure of the events to support this, as well as including speakers that reflect this diversity as much as possible, and food menus inspired by many different cultures.
We will have a marketing strategy that includes promotion in the above communities and networks, pooling on our network of diverse alumni to access these communities. We are also excited to be collaborating with Advaya Initiative which will expand our pool of networks beyond those that we usually attract which will hopefully increase the participant diversity. These events are therefore also a great opportunity to grow and expand our networks.
Protecting the sacred & Spiritual values into action
Another core thread of the series is offering an experience that can connect us to a worldview where we relate to, and therefore protect, the earth as sacred. We hope to bring this quality through the events through carefully facilitating the experience to include moments of silence and practice, and through holding the space with an intention of ceremony. Of course St Ethelburga’s Centre’s Nave is a sacred and consecrated ground, and this will help to root us in this connection from the outset.
The five spiritual values of Spiritual Ecology: interconnectedness, reverence, compassion, stewardship and service will be woven into the event in many different ways. The speakers will bring these themes through stories, art and activism and their work, the food and discussion will also be key entry points into stimulating reflection and cultivating the embodied practice of reverence, stewardship and compassion. All the events will conclude with participants sharing some reflection on how they can integrate the practices and experiences offered into their own lives and work.