April 2, 2020

What Makes a Church a Church?

“I grew up attending churches surrounded by parking lots and populated by congregations that didn’t connect their spirituality to ecology. So when I first heard about the church forests of Ethiopia, I was intrigued.

One of my great passions has been the environment, fighting for it, telling stories of its abuse and our need to be caretakers and champions of our shared home. I was eager to meet people whose religion had some built-in practice of respecting trees and preserving biodiversity. And that belief, coupled with the ballooning threat of climate change and a growing sense of despair, propelled me to visit the church forests of Ethiopia.

A few months later I was in the office of a forest ecologist, Alemayehu Wassie Eshete, who started his interview by telling me, “A church, to be a church, must be enveloped by a forest.”

I had never heard those words before or that idea, but I was hearing a truth I already knew: The church should be immersed in creation, enjoying and protecting the forest and shores and mountains, the whole earth.”

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