Are You a Secular Chaplain?

With a Sense of Wonder

Secular Chaplains

Practicing a Secular Chaplaincy

(in the “spirit” of Burroughs and Muir)

-note: this can be practiced whether you are a person of faith or not

 “True religion is not a theory-it is a practice.  

It is not a creed-it is a life.”

~Robert Green Ingersoll

“Secular”: concern for this present world; without concern for any other

“Chapel” (Church/Sanctuary/Temple):  the natural world and universe

“Chaplaincy” (“Ministry,” “Mission” or “Call”):  Wonder; Reverence for Life; Presence; Listening; Compassion; Inclusive of Diversity; Justice; Preservation; “To entice into Nature’s loveliness” (Muir); To practice the “Faith of a Naturalist”–an enthusiasm and love of the earth (Burroughs)

Primary Professor/Respected Teacher:  Nature  

“Clergy” (“Saints,” “Prophets” and “Honored/Holy Heretics”): Socrates; Hypatia; Copernicus; Thomas Paine; Frances Wright; Margaret Fuller; Ralph W. Emerson; Henry Thoreau; Frederick Douglass; Walt Whitman; John Burroughs; John Muir; Theodore Roosevelt; Aldo Leopold; Rachel Carson; Carl Sagan. . .many, many others (famous and unknown)

“Scripture” (Veda/Gita/Dharma/Torah/Gospel/Qur’an):  The Cosmos

“Religious Rituals”:  silence; sauntering; presence with the smallest and largest; appreciation for “the breath of life” (Burroughs); searching and questioning; communion/eucharist=grateful taste of living

*Qualities of a Secular Chaplain

-Awake and alive to the world, the cosmos, Life

-Humility as a Human made of Humus (one species among species)

-Practicing a “natural spirituality” and “sacred secularity” (constantly reflecting on what this means!)

-Caretaker of the Chapel of Nature (“ecumenical”: managing the great household)

-A respectful relation to other inhabitants

-A curiosity about inter-connection and inter-dependence

knowing that everything is “hitched” to everything else (Muir) 

-No focus on “worship” (immanence rather than transcendence)

-Naturally undistracted by the non-natural, the super-natural

-A sense of the Wild and Wildness (as “the preservation of the world”- Thoreau)

-Do No Harm (“ahimsa”-Gandhi; not only “leave no trace”)

-Practicing the art of seeing (direct observation)

-Noticing the unnoticed (minding the margins)

-A delight in discovery; excitement for exploration

-Endless education, continual learning, active openness to new insights

-Building bridges rather than walls

-Working beside people of faith and people without faith to “do the right thing” for the common good

-Encouraging other Secular Chaplains and learning from their experience

-Having a “joy in simple living” (Burroughs)

-”Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you” (Muir)


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