Last month, we held our first meeting of UMB Church of the Wild. There were 15 of us, gathered together in a circle in a little clearing among the Monterey Pines at Via Paraiso Park. It was one of those lovely, warm Monterey evenings that remind us why we love living here. There were a group of crows who accompanied us and they were quite chatty, cawing and cawing to one another throughout our gathering.
We began with a short prayer and meditation, centering ourselves and becoming present, noticing our surroundings, tuning into the sights, smells, sounds, and sensations of the natural world around us. We took time to honor the ancient peoples who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia. We took time to name, one by one, some of the many species of birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, and plants who share our home with us. We vowed to tread lightly on this land and respect all of its inhabitants.
Next we had a reading from Church of the Wild by Virginia Loorz, the book that inspired me to start these gatherings and that has prompted a movement of such gatherings all over the country, crossing all denominations and faith traditions.
We then came to the “sacred wandering” portion of the gathering, which Virginia Loorz has termed terra divina. For 20 minutes, we spent time wandering in nature, allowing ourselves to be drawn naturally to any tree, plant, or creature that called to us. We invited them into sacred conversation with us, opening ourselves to receive whatever message Spirit was conveying to us through that precious being. We brought back carefully chosen twigs, leaves, rocks, and other treasures, lovingly placing them on our tiny altar. We shared with one another the rich experiences we had during our sacred wandering.
We then expressed our gratitude for the experience, for the richness of God’s creation, and for all of the ways that it inspires us, teaches us, and sustains us. We ended with Prayer Song from the Banana Slug String Band.
It was a beautiful, prayerful, sacred gathering that has put us squarely on the path to reclaiming our relationship with the natural world, a relationship which our wild hearts long for and which is our birthright. If this sounds like something you are interested in checking out, we will be gathering again this Sunday, August 27, at 5:00 p.m. at the upper parking area of Via Paraiso Park, just down the street from our beloved church home. All are welcome.
“The natural world—that world where we already belong—is an alluring invitation into the sacred, into relationship with something larger. And that very sacred presence invites us into the wild. The whole process is holy. It is a dynamic, a reciprocity, a loving conversation, a relationship—one that includes me and you and God and the whole wild, alive world.” (from Church of the Wild by Virginia Loorz)