Rev. Dr. Mark McReynolds, Mennonite Church EcoPastor. Our wild church is in the Mt. Baldy area of the San Gabriel Mountains and is part of SoCal A Rocha. It is in San Antonio Canyon, in the creek bed, that we meet each other, our Creator and a place full of life and lessons. Typically, we begin with a Welcome and move on to Singing and Reading from the Christian tradition. After that we disperse for individual silent Wandering and Wondering in which we ponder what the Book of Nature (God’s creation) can teach us about God, ourselves, others and our surroundings. We then Share observations and reflections, Pray, take Communion and end with a Blessing.
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IS YOUR WILD CHURCH ASSOCIATED WITH A DENOMINATION? No – we are associated with the Christian non-profit conservation organization called A Rocha.
WHAT LED YOU TO START A WILD CHURCH? I thoroughly enjoyed the spiritual discipline I experienced in seminary and the natural history from my bachelor’s and PhD. So, I now combine knowledge of God’s creation, aka the Book of Nature (general revelation), with the Book of Scripture (specific revelation). I was also trained as an Opening the Book of Nature facilitator a few years back.
WHERE DO YOU USUALLY GATHER? We usually gather in San Antonio Creek in the Mt. Baldy area within the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains.
WHAT IS YOUR CLIMATE LIKE? Our climate is Mediterranean – so we have rainfall only in the late Fall and Winter, followed by a quite dry period. We are also in a semi-desert area – so we most often have sunny weather even in the Winter. Summers can be hot, but streamside trees and the cool flowing water keep us comfortable.
WHO ARE THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE displaced by settlers in your bio-region? The Tongva people lived in San Antonio Canyon and the valley below it. Mission San Gabriel’s Spanish missionaries and disease were likely the cause of the Tongva population’s crash and their loss of the use of the land. The San Gabriel Mountains were unclaimed federal land in the 1900’s and eventually became Angeles National Forest with several Wilderness areas and a new National Monument.
HOW DO YOU INCLUDE THE LAND, CREATURES, ELEMENTS OF YOUR PLACE IN YOUR PRACTICES OR SERVICE? The Psalms say all creation praises God, so if we take the time to look we expect God’s creation – the swirling water, green canopy, bird calls, cool breeze, tumbled boulders – to help us better understand the place we are at, the people with us, ourselves and our God who has made “all things”.
IS YOUR WILD CHURCH INVOLVED IN CLIMATE ADVOCACY WORK AND/OR ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION? How do you embody that? We pick up trash as we walk from our worship site – the area before our site is well used (or abused) by the general public. Through SoCal A Rocha there are opportunities to be involved in microplastic pollution studies at the beach, keep track of birds behind a dam, monitor Bluebird boxes and more. Mark has spoken at a local climate change conference, and publicly written about forest fires and climate change. Our national organization, A Rocha USA, has Climate Stewards and Love Your Place programs for individuals too.
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 see Church in Creation as a pan-denominational Christian worship service. It’s led and influenced by a Mennonite pastor who, over the years, with his family, has attended Anglican, Christian Church, Evangelical Lutheran, Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Presbyterian, United Methodist and non-denominational churches. His calling is to bring Church and creation together – Church in Creation is one way to do that. We work with anyone, secular or spiritual, who cares for what we see as God’s creation. Spiritual nature lovers are welcome to attend Church in Creation: no one is pressured to participate and all are free to simply observe.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GATHER? Currently we gather monthly – usually on a Sunday afternoon to avoid conflicts with more traditional church services.
MARK'S LITURGIES AND Resources
Wild Church members can download and adapt any of Mark's resources. Please attribute borrowed resources to Dr. Mark McReynolds.
Church in Creation Order of Service
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