Fall Academy of Religion Connects Spirituality and Nature

Annual lecture series begins next month at The College of Wooster

31 August, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Folliott Pierpoint’s inspiring 1864 hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” suggests a covenant between the natural and the spiritual as well as a moral obligation to preserve and protect the planet’s abundant resources. Sadly, humankind has failed to honor this pact, and the consequences have been devastating for the environment and its inhabitants.

Fortunately, there is still time to reverse the consequences of this disturbing and destructive trend, and this year’s Fall Academy of Religion at The College of Wooster will ponder the possibilities for environmental and spiritual restoration when it presents “A Part Of, Not Apart From: Finding Our Way Back Home,” beginning in September.

The provocative six-session series, now in its 47th year, will explore “new ways of thinking and new ways of acting,” according to Charles Kammer, The James F. Lincoln Professor of Religious Studies at The College of Wooster and academic dean of the Fall Academy. “We are not masters of the universe, for ultimately the created order sets the bounds of what we can do,” he says. “The challenge becomes, not how we can make nature do what we want, but how can we live in harmony with nature, of which we are a part.

“The way forward, the way to sanity,” adds Kammer, “will require not simply new technologies and new policies, but a profound change in our human self-understanding, our understanding of the natural world and our relationship to that world. In developing such understandings, we need to consider the world’s deep spiritual traditions. These traditions often understand, as the ecological sciences are now demonstrating, that all aspects of creation are interrelated.”

The series begins on Sept. 16 when Larry Rasmussen, The Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, presents “The Storm from Paradise.” The following week (Sept. 23), “The Age of Stupid,” a documentary about the state of the environment, will be shown and discussed.

On Sept. 30, the topic will be “Social Justice and the Environmental Crisis: Capitalism, Human Trafficking, and Our Common Home,” featuring Yvonne Zimmerman, associate professor of social ethics at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. The fourth lecture will take place on Oct. 7 with Setsuko Matsuzawa, assistant professor of sociology at The College of Wooster, addressing “Environmental Activism in the Global South.”

One week later (Oct. 14), the topic will be “Working Well and Giving Thanks.” The series will then conclude on Oct. 21 with Dr. Kammer presenting “One Ring Rules Them All: Seeking a New Paradigm.”

The opening session (Sept. 16) will be held in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.). The remaining sessions will take place in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.). Each lecture begins at 7:30 p.m., followed by a period of discussion involving the audience. Admission is free and open to the public. Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2473) or e-mail.