“Before we can evangelize people, we need to teach them about the sacred”

Dear colleagues,

This spring, I had the chance to spend a little time with my seminary classmate and friend Steve Blackmer. Steve is now the head of Church of the Woods, which is about what it sounds like. On 100 acres in New Hampshire, Steve leads worship and gatherings every Sunday, inviting people into the beauty of the Anglican liturgical tradition in the midst of the wonder of God’s creation. (You can read more about Steve’s ministry in a profile in Harper’s Magazine: “The Priest in the Trees”.)

We were both pressed for time, so we stood, as seminary friends do, and talked theology in a New before we can evangelize people, we need to teach them about the sacred.”

I’ve been reflecting on that ever since. Steve’s point is that so much in our world—our economy, our habits, our inter-personal relations—has been stripped of the element of the sacred. What is good and what we value is too often reduced to monetary or financial terms. We are induced to think primarily about ourselves and our needs before those of others. Before we can talk to people about religion—and ways of finding value that can’t be quantified—we need to remind people about what sacredness is. That’s, in part, what Steve is doing in the woods: reminding people of the sacred to be found in creation.

In my own experience—and I am not alone in this, I know—people often react with befuddlement or surprise when I tell them something as basic to my life as, “I go to church on Sunday.” (You should really see the look on their face when I tell them what I do for work.) For many people in Quebec and beyond, religion is simply not a category that computes anymore. In a situation like that, we can’t think that telling people why Christianity makes sense will mean anything. We first have to talk about what religion is. Steve’s way into that conversation is to talk about sacredness, a concept he believes many people can intuitively sense and feel when in the woods.

What is sacred for you? How do you experience the sacred? What concepts and words and phrases can we use to talk to people about religion and Christianity with a people who have no clue as to what those words mean? Answering those questions may help us as we continue to think about how we are called to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of our world.

Faithfully yours,
Jesse Zink

This reflection was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a community news digest named for our patron, St. Luke, and published weekly during the term on Monday (or Tuesday when Monday is holiday).

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