As a child in Hawaii, I spent my time divided between two places: church and the beach. Moving from the Sunday School room to the shore came naturally, and I carried the lessons of one place to the other. From the Bible, I took the teaching of Jesus that I should love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. From the natural world, I took the sense of immanence and interrelation that a young boy gets at the water’s edge.
Ever since, I have understood that loving my neighbor means loving and caring for the whole.
Christian mystics have always understood that we relate to God the way we relate to each and every living thing. Yet institutional Christianity often has reinforced metaphysical dualism, a divide between heaven and Earth with an emphasis on the former.
I think my tradition still has work to do in terms of bringing itself back to Earth and putting Jesus’ teachings into practice through ethical living here and now.
This way of being should come naturally to us here in the Lowcountry. After all, we live in a “Holy City” full of spires that is also surrounded by salt marsh and seashore. Here we feel our relatedness daily as the tides ebb and flow, the camellias bloom and bushels of local produce fill our farmers markets.
As I delight in the Lowcountry, I am also aware of our human impact on this delicate ecosystem. The best way I know to practice my faith is to live as lightly as possible while grounding myself in gratitude for our natural home.
The Rev. Jeremy Rutledge
Pastor of Circular Congregational Church, Charleston