Victoria Loorz to encourage combination of nature, faith for ILS

When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound? The Church of the Wild movement encourages all to become one with nature, and Victoria Loorz, Wild Church pastor and eco-spiritual director, is hoping “people take away a yearning that’s within them to belong to the land.”

Loorz will be giving her lecture “Restoring Spiritual Practices to Reconnect with Our Place as Sacred,” to start off the Interfaith Lecture Series Week Two theme, “Reconnecting with the Natural World,” at 2 p.m. Monday, July 4, in the Hall of Philosophy.

“(My lecture) is about how our separation from nature has not only impacted the Earth, and the very obvious climate crisis,” Loorz said. “(Separation of faith and nature) is destructive to our own spirituality, our own emotions and our own sense of belonging to the world.”

When people just look at the planet as is without incorporating faith, the Earth becomes objectified, Loorz said. The separation impacts the rest of the world and forces people to reevaluate their needs.

“When something gets objectified, you are in the process of desacralizing it,” Loorz said. “(Separation) puts us in a position where we prioritize our own needs over the needs of everybody else … and that obviously destroys the planet a little bit at a time.”

Loorz’s work includes creating spiritual practices to allow people to deepen their intimacy with others and the rest of nature. She said there’s a difference between saying “nature is my church” and taking it seriously.

“These spiritual practices, when practiced together in a group of people with intentionality to connect with the Earth as sacred, is church,” Loorz said. 

All of the components of a “normal” church are in the Wild services, with elements of nature added in. The service includes liturgies, an altered version of communion, singing and drumming, prayer and silent reflecting.

Loorz led a service last month for people who had never experienced a Church of the Wild service before.

“They’ll say that was the first time that they had ever slowed down and really listened to the land,” Loorz said. “It’s a reaction of, ‘This is something I’ve never done before, and yet it’s something I’ve always known, it’s something I used to do when I was a child, naturally.’ ”

The Church of the Wild movement, while having primarily Christian traditions and attendees, is open to any faith. 

“The connection between us and every other being is sacred,” Loorz said. “That’s whether you’re part of a Christian religion or Jewish, or a spiritual but not religious (faith).”

A typical Church of the Wild service includes attendees wandering in nature and connecting with what they see. Loorz said people often come back with writings, poems, songs or other forms of art to share.

“The focus is on an invitation to wander,” Loorz said. “After some time in gathering together, everybody is invited to wander outside the circle and be drawn to a particular place, tree, animal or the sky … and bring back what comes up for you.”

Loorz said integrating nature and faith forces a reality of connecting with all things. Indigenous people have always had a “land-based gratitude,” she said, but those in the Western world have to go back many generations to remember this connection.

“When we disconnect from the rest of the natural world to engage in spirituality, there’s something missing, no matter what religious tradition you’re in,” Loorz said. “… This is really more of a movement of remembering for all of us.”

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.