Created for Community

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What Nature taketh away, Nature giveth. Two days of endless rain once again swell the river…which, when it abates, leaves a stranded tide of thousands of edible hazelnuts.

I have noticed that I have again accorded nature a capital letter. What lies beyond the window pane is not anything as neutral or insipid as the ‘environment’. The more time I spend outside…the more certain I become that the living system around me is self-conscious, architected, immense and, ultimately, a verbally ineffable spiritual reality. One can harmonize with Nature – Pan, Creation, Spirit, Mother Earth, call it what you will – but only on its terms. Little Lewis-Stempel, Big God.

I don’t think nature is a person, but all the same John Lewis-Stempel’s experience resonates with me. In his book ‘The Wild Life’ (Black Swan, 2009) he describes how he spent a year living off the land he and his family bought in west Wales, eating only things he foraged, caught or shot in forty acres of rough farmland. This involved spending most of his days outdoors, and as his senses sharpened he tuned into his surroundings – and also into something spiritual. Continue reading

Guest Post – Psychology of Religion: Love the Lord your God with all your mind

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© ElisaRiva, pixabay

When asked which was the greatest of the commandments, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22.37). Mark’s and Luke’s accounts (Mark 12.30; Luke 10.27) also include “and with all your strength.” Part of loving God with our minds is, at least for me, learning more about our minds. This includes learning about how our minds conceive of God, how we can develop habits of mind that might bring us closer to God, and how worship shapes our attitudes and thinking. These are precisely the sorts of things that are studied by psychologists of religion. Continue reading

Guest Post: Normal Congregations Need Not Apply?

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Pixabay

One particular conversation has happened numerous times. When I’m asked about what I do, I reply, “I’m involved with religion and science,” and I often hear a still-unexpected response, “Religion and science? That’s not for me—I’m not smart.”

It’s hard to know what to say next. I do tend to think that this dialogue requires our best thinking. But I’m also troubled by an implied resistance. Is faith and science for elitist, “heady” congregations only? Continue reading

Guest Post: Connection and Community – When Neuroscience Meets Christianity

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by BSK, freeimages

How can a Christian community partnered with social cognitive neuroscience dramatically affect someone’s life? Valerie had recently moved to our city for a job. She didn’t have any family in town and knew only a couple of co-workers. After a few weeks, she found herself growing depressed, and irritable. As a single girl, she thought she just needed a boyfriend and everything would be fine. After several more months of feeling depressed, she decided to visit a church. That decision was the beginning of a new life.

When I was an undergraduate neuroscience student, the field of social cognitive neuroscience was still in its infancy stages. I didn’t hear much about it in my coursework or research (something I definitely regret!). In the years following graduation I slowly began to learn more and more about the field and its relevance to everyday life. As I progressed through my seminary education, I had no idea how helpful and relevant it would be to me in my career. Continue reading

Celebrating Science in Sacred Spaces

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What happens when you do science in one of the country’s most spectacular church buildings? This summer, Rev Dr Vicky Johnson got to find the answer to that question. Her doctorate in biochemistry equipped her to tackle the science, so when she started work as a Canon at Ely cathedral, she set about organising a month-long science festival as part of her work overseeing outreach and congregational growth. In this month’s podcast I found out the results (abbreviated transcript below).

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Guest Post – Magnificent milk: A biologist reflects on one of the unique experiences of motherhood

pexels-photo-235243.jpegAs a new mother, I am awestruck at the ability of my body to produce milk that can nourish my once tiny, now rapidly growing baby. For the first six months of life, this incredible substance was all the food and drink he needed. My body can change the milk’s composition depending on factors such as Continue reading

Natural History – Calling or Distraction?

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Countryside near Alton pancras Nigel Mykura [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I recently finished reading the work of a church leader who spent a huge amount of time observing his natural surroundings. His letters about local wildlife were so carefully written that they are still widely read today, more than 200 years after they were first published. Here is his description of an event that is happening at the moment – swallows leaving for their autumn migration. Continue reading