Webster Groves, Missouri
To foster imagination about worship spaces that can help to draw people into a deeper relationship with their natural environment, experience that environment as sacred and sacramental, form them spiritually as agents of ecological justice and recovery, and help them to process and respond faithfully to increasing ecological disasters.
1. Project Summary
The purpose of this project is to inspire faith leaders and congregations to begin establishing the kind of
local, outdoor worship spaces that are needed for an era of ecological crisis and paradigm shift. This goal will
be achieved by means of a student design competition. The competition and the research leading up to it will
seek to foster imagination about worship spaces that can help people to interact and develop deeper
relationships with their natural environment, experience that environment as sacred and sacramental, form
them spiritually as agents of ecological justice and recovery, and help them to process and respond to
increasing ecological disasters.
2. What questions about worship and your discipline will be guiding your project?
- What will the spiritual/liturgical needs of Christian congregations be in the next 20 to 30 years, as
environmental disasters continue to worsen and the need for major changes (particularly among
communities that contribute more to pollution) continues to grow?
- How might outdoor liturgical spaces, used regularly, contribute to the spiritual and ethical formation of
worship participants in ways that indoor worship cannot?
- What design elements of outdoor worship spaces will best help worshipers to encounter the natural
world (more than human construction) as sacramental?
- How can the design outdoor worship spaces contribute to ecological knowledge?
- What kind of design will make it easiest for local congregations to worship outdoors more regularly?
- What kind of design can help outdoor worship spaces to be healing spaces in the wake of climate
3. How do you envision this project will strengthen the worship life of congregations?
Our hope is that this project will strengthen worship by helping to shift ecologically-oriented worship
from words and images *about* the natural world toward local church practices that meet and collaborate
with God *in* the natural world. We hope that the project will help local congregations to engage more
directly, more consistently, the era of ecological upheaval and renewal we have already entered.
4. What do you expect might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?
Right now, my greatest challenge is the question of how to get landscape architecture and architecture
students to participate in the project. I think seminarians will be excited about participating, but I'm less sure
about getting commitments from other students.
Another big challenge/opportunity is the question of how to get students from an entry/beginning level
of knowledge about ecology, AND design, AND liturgy to a level where they can rise to the task of producing
outdoor worship space designs for the competition. We are trying to figure out how to balance a lower time
commitment with the need for education before the actual design competition begins.
5. What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?
I hope to learn how others are engaging their constituencies, how they are engaging multiple
constituencies, and how they are going about undertaking their research. I hope to gain additional
understanding about how to align the goals of my project with the goals of the Calvin Institute.