Common ground can be found, and reverence realized, when we look to nature for inspiration.
I’m from a Catholic family and my wife, Alison, is from a Jewish family. When we had a son, we felt pressure to choose between a baptism or a bris as a rite of initiation for little Hap. After some negotiating, we decided to invite family members to a small homemade ceremony down by the creek with poetry, creek water, and a song I wrote for the occasion.
The song was “Church of the Woods” and it tried to capture our desire for a spirituality that borrows from many faith traditions and roots those values in the common ground of nature’s grandeur.
Coincidentally, the month we release this new song into the world, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other places of worship all over the country and world are closed to large gatherings and celebrations.
Easter, Passover and Ramadan will be very different this year in many places. We may need an alternative place of worship for the time being—and maybe one to complement our worship going forward as well.
The English word Lent (Christianity's solemn time before Easter) is a shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning "spring season." While churches and the like are closed during this pandemic, Spring, on the other hand, cannot be canceled. Not by a virus, nor by a called-off ceremony or liturgy. Spring continues all around us. It’s happening in the woods and fields and bursting forth in buds and songbirds.
This year we can celebrate resurrection in the Church of the Woods. There we can witness sacraments. There we can recall that the first act of divine revelation is creation itself. We can ponder and praise those woods; not only the strong upright trees reaching skyward, but the buried roots, the broken limbs, and the fallen trees as well. There is no hierarchy among the trees, only common unity, calling out to be modeled.
Listen and sing along to "Church of the Woods" by the Okee Dokee Brothers.
Church of the Woods
On a moonlit night in a temple of birch
The wind chanted mantras in nature’s church
Cathedrals of clouds spiraled up in the air
They blessed us with rain and we sang out a prayer
May you lose yourself in the woods to find yourself again
May you keep on singin’ and dancin’ ‘til the end
May your dark turn to light and your death into birth
May your spirit be wild and may your heaven be on earth
The stars above were shamans dancin’ ’round the fire
The river sang harmony in the bugs and critters choir
The maples were facin’ mecca and they were bowin’ their hallowed trunks
The birds went on a pilgrimage through all the winter months
Some say that our afterlife is in the sky somehow
But let’s bring that then and there right down to Here and Now