By Diane Reynolds
Artist and activist Tevyn East used modern dance, song, movement and story-telling to embody earth care as the keynote performer at Saturday’s Spirituality Gathering. East, a member of the Church of the Savior and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, appeared joyous and sometimes radiant as she absorbed herself into an hour of using her body and voice to express sorrow, wonder and hope over the fate of the earth. Borrowing words and images from Torah, Jesus, and peace advocates such as Ghandi, East encouraged her audience to care for creation as a creative and spiritual practice.
After her performance, East invited onlookers to share practical issues that block their paths to living more simply. Answers included not wanting to give up privacy to share space to not knowing who could most benefit from produce from our gardens.
In the afternoon, following lunch, a varied program of workshops included spiritual dancing, taizé, understanding place, communicating about eco-spirituality, yoga, midrash journaling and a nature walk. In a session on economic discipleship, Roland Kreager and Cindi Goslee of Right Sharing of World Resources, led participants in exploring how those in the “developed” world can better practice the self-reliance, sustainability and mutual support and accountability that we often ask of our Third World partners.
Themes that emerged from the gathering included the role of art and imagination in supporting our connectedness to the earth. In her keynote, for instance, Tevyn evoked oneness with creation with a poetic image of humans “eating the sun” when consuming plants that are nourished by light. Also woven through the day was the theme of simple, local steps as beginning answers to global environmental problems.
Many prospective ESR students who attended an open house at the seminary on Friday stayed for the Saturday gathering, getting them a taste of how the school reaches beyond the conventional classroom to offer a creative and embodied education. ESR students, including Pat Thomas, Linnea Stiffler, Dagmar Bollinger, Dave Wunker, Emma Churchman, alumna Summer Cushman, and yes, me, Diane Reynolds, led workshops, an affirmation of the school’s emphasis on developing leadership. But most of all, we enjoyed a day of spiritual exploration of body, mind and heart.
I was impressed by the loving and optimistic tone of the gathering. While creation care is an urgent concern, leaders and participants focused on spiritual responses to the crisis, not stridency, recognizing that inner healing is a first step towards healing the planet.
A query: As Quakers, situated wherever we are, what are some steps we can take right now toward greater harmony with our environment? How can art and imagination help that process?
Master of Divinity program. She maintains a personal blog, Emerging Quaker.