How We Began
In Sarah Anders’s role as a UCC pastor, and in Beth Norcross’s work at Wesley Theological Seminary and The Center for Spirituality in Nature, we were moved by the many people – often young adults – who told us that they were yearning for spiritual deepening and a direct experience of the Divine, but did not find it in a traditional religious setting.
We heard, too, of the deep spiritual connection many have in nature as well as the anxiety and grief they were experiencing in response to the impacts of climate change and other worrisome environmental concerns.
We began talking to others around the country who were starting to form nature-based spiritual communities and eventually joined together in what would become the Wild Church Network. We traded ideas and information, and were inspired and encouraged by each other.
In January, 2018, we held two listening sessions at our respective homes, with specific questions designed to elicit participants’ experience and desires around such a gathering. We were surprised when 50 people attended these sessions and expressed great enthusiasm for a regular gathering in nature. Subsequently, we sent out a survey to these individuals, and to others who had expressed interest, and asked an array of questions from optimal meeting time and places to specific spiritual yearnings for such a gathering.
We held our first gathering in April, 2018, and were so moved as we watched a trail of 60 people walk down the wooded path towards our circle in the woods. We drummed. We sang. We held silence. Afterward, the participants thanked us: “This is what I’ve been looking for.”
Since then, we have experimented with a number of different formats, spiritual practices, music and logistics. We have met in the pouring rain, in the muggy heat and everything in between. We average anywhere from 30 to 50 people, with many curious newcomers at each gathering.
In the fall of 2020, we began steps to become independent of the Center for Spirituality in Nature. The Center has birthed and cared for us during our beginning years and we are indebted to them for such important, solid support. We become officially independent on 12/31/20