Rev. Sarah Anders, Co-Founder and Spiritual Leader. Gathering twice a month in sacred, natural woodlands around the Metro DC area, we seek to live into deeper, transformative relationship with Earth, Great Mystery and each other. We are a diverse, inclusive and inter-spiritual community. Our gatherings include ancient and contemporary spiritual practices with music (including chants), drumming, silent wandering and movement. Our practices enhance and grow our commitment to Earth and Her Beings, informing the work we each do individually and also collectively in the outer world.
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IS YOUR WILD CHURCH ASSOCIATED WITH A DENOMINATION? We are inter-spiritual, resourcing from multiple traditions. Sarah is ordained in the United Church of Christ.
WHAT LED YOU TO START A WILD CHURCH? Conversation around our Wild Church (then called “Church of the Wild, DC/MD/VA”) was born when two former seminarians, Sarah Anders and Beth Norcross, paid attention to the yearning we both felt for more direct connection with the Divine, with nature and with each other as we face extraordinary planetary uncertainty. We noticed that many others felt similarly. Ultimately, 50 people gathered in our homes to explore the possibility of a radical, new, nature-based spiritual community.
WHERE DO YOU USUALLY GATHER? We usually gather in different public places every gathering. We meet on several rocky and wooded overlooks of the Potomac River where paw paws fall from the trees in early fall and sycamores line the riverbank. We see blue herons, ghost pipes, red-shouldered hawks, deer and eastern ratsnake. We also meet at a retreat center on land that has been soaked in silence for almost 60 years. There we gather in meadows and woodlands, next to ponds and streams amongst sweetgrass, sage, oak, black walnut, red fox and the eastern box turtle.
WHAT IS YOUR CLIMATE LIKE? Our four seasons are marked with blossoms galore in spring, distinctly humid summers, brilliant fall colors and a varying amount of snow in winter. We meet in any weather as long as it is safe. We have a tarp for heavier rain and will sometimes utilize it in the heat. We’re fortunate to have a fire mid-winter but even with that, we incorporate additional movement into our gathering and shorten our time together if it is unusually cold.
WHO ARE THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE displaced by settlers in your bio-region? The First Families of the land are known as the Piscataway, “the people who live near the river with the bend in it,” now known as the Potomac River. The Piscataway were manipulated for decades before being forced off of their land by Maryland colonists in the late 1600s. All their claims to land were nullified in the 18th century. At the beginning of every gathering, we offer gratitude for their responsible custody of the land. We also honor ancestors of neighboring land, the Anacostans, who lived around the Anacostia river.
HOW DO YOU INCLUDE THE LAND, CREATURES, ELEMENTS OF YOUR PLACE IN YOUR PRACTICES OR SERVICE? We begin with a standing greeting to the Universe, moving from the planets and galaxies to the skies and mountains, the trees and winged ones, the shrubs and four-legged ones, the wiggly ones above and below the ground, and the soil itself. We’ll often invite participants to speak out loud a specific gratitude, “Thank you red-tailed hawk!” A spiritual reflection on the theme of the month is offered, and also a “Note from Nature” that reflects upon what is happening in the natural world around us. Our guided meditation before our silent, solo walks serves to open our senses and quiet our minds. It often includes a prompt or suggestion for the walk. We share reflections on our walks when we return to the circle, sometimes with five words, and sometimes with more.
IS YOUR WILD CHURCH INVOLVED IN CLIMATE ADVOCACY WORK AND/OR ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION? How do you embody that? Our fervent hope is that opening to and honoring the natural world at our gatherings encourages, enhances and supports our individual climate advocacy work. With many of us already engaged in a variety of climate advocacy and ecological restoration organizations, our availability as a group is limited. We do, however, often engage in conversation about our actions and come together as a group for direct action at least once a year.
The root causes of the environmental catastrophe are complex and many, including economic and political factors. The causes that we seek to address directly include a disconnection from relationship with the Earth and the Divine presence therein, a lack of gratitude for the Earth’s blessings, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the impacts of our lifestyles. Our work is to build a spiritual community of deep belonging within our sacred eco-system - one that challenges us to reject dominant cultural norms by living simply and sustainably.
FROM THE "CHRIST TRADITION" IS ONE WAY WE HAVE DESCRIBED THE COMMONALITIES OF WILD CHURCHES IN THE NETWORK. HOW DOES (OR DOESN'T) THIS DESCRIBE YOUR COMMUNITY? We are people who come from different traditions or no tradition at all. Some of us have left our tradition in search of an experiential, expansive, and nature based understanding of Great Mystery. One person may come from a particular sense of “the Christ tradition” while another may not. The Spiritual Leader, Sarah Anders, is in an interfaith marriage and has raised her children in an interfaith community.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GATHER? Currently we gather twice a month.
Sarah'S LITURGIES AND Resources
Wild Church members can download and adapt any of Sarah's resources. Please attribute resources to the author and the Wild Earth Spiritual Community.Church of the Wild Poem
We Are One Song and Lyrics
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