Teaching and Workshops

The Fraser River, Mission, BC

Teaching

I am currently a Lecturer at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. I teach for the Department of Humanities and the School of Resource and Environmental Management.

  • HUM 130: Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • ENV 100: Great Ideas in the Environment
  • ENV/REM 320W: Environmental Ethics: Writing Intensive
  • HUM 360: Religion, Spirituality and Ecology
  • HUM 330: Sacred Groves: Trees and Forests and the Human Imagination
  • REM 471: Forest Ecosystem Management

Student Writing Blog: https://envhub.wordpress.com/

I also teach courses at Western Washington University for the Department of Global Humanities.

  • REL 390: Religion, Spirituality and Ecology
  • HUMA 290: Environmental Humanities

I have also taught undergraduates at the University of British Columbia, Corpus Christi College, Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College.

Workshops

Sacred Groves: Cultivating Spiritual Practice with Trees and Forests

Introduction

The Holyscapes Project is about facilitating workshops that explore our own spiritual ecologies. This can have a variety of meanings, but primarily it means exploring the contours of and relationship between our inner and outer landscapes. In a wider cultural context, spiritual ecology is about reclaiming our sense of the holiness of the world as sacred activism.

The Sacred Groves workshop is the seed of a much more extensive academic course I teach at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. In this workshop we will look at the history of trees and forest in the human imagination mostly through the lens of myth, spirituality, philosophy and literature. As a workshop however, the emphasis will be on creating spaces to explore our own relationships to trees and forests, and to develop a practice of literacy and familiarity with these sacred earth beings and holy places.

Learning Objectives 

  • Define trees and forests in relation to human societies
  • Articulate issues facing forests and trees in urban and global settings 
  • Explore the role of trees and forests in the world’s religious and spiritual systems
  • Improve ecological literacy related to trees and forests
  • Deepen one’s personal relationship to trees and forest spaces
  • Cultivate a spirituality of trees and forests

Materials

  • Access to the internet, web camera and microphone
  • A field notebook and/sketchbook with reliable pen and drawing materials
  • A locally relevant field guide to trees

Assignments

Each week you will be given an experiential field journal writing assignment.

The class will be divided between discussing the field journal tasks and instruction.

This workshop is a gift. Participation is by donation, based on what you can afford or how much you value the gift.

The Spiritual Ecology of the Desert: A Lenten Retreat

(Typically during Lent)

Retreat Overview

In this half day retreat, we will explore Christian desert spirituality from our own spiritual and ecological contexts. The desert ‘fathers and mothers’ were intense ascetics who fled the cities and towns for the presence of God in tombs, abandoned forts and later, the open deserts of Arabia, Cappadocia, Egypt and Syria. In this Lenten retreat we will explore the relevance of these desert mystics for our own times and places. Using the lens of spiritual ecology we will look at the convergence of inner and outer landscapes in the original desert ecosystems and apply them to our own (my own being the temperate rainforests of Cascadia). We will look at the ecology of arid places and discuss how it gave rise to a spirituality that emphasized silence, asceticism and apophatic (beyond words) knowing.

This retreat is rooted in a contemplative Christian understanding of the world, but is open to people of all faiths, paths, journeys and worldviews.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the teachings of the desert fathers and mothers
  • Familiarize ourselves with the ecologies of arid and desert landscapes
  • Experience the power of silence and stillness
  • Deepen our connection to role of Kenosis and Apophasis in mystical theology
  • Explore our relationship to the spiritual ecology of ‘deserts’

Advent and the Dark Night of the Soul

(Typically during Advent)

Introduction

What do Advent and the Dark Night of the Soul have in common? From the Latin Adventus, Advent refers to the arrival, the coming of the Incarnation as a child. During Advent, we also reflect on the coming of Christ at the end of time and in our hearts.

Christians are an Advent people, but human beings are a now species. We want the light right away. Advent teaches us about the holiness of waiting. St. Augustine’s famous refrain that ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh God’ is echoed by the Advent call: Come, Lord Jesus!

Yet, there is another, perhaps deeper, meaning to Advent, the Latin verb Advenio means to develop. Thus Advent is also the slow ripening of God in each of our lives, even during times of apparent absence. For some time now, especially since my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I have wondered how a spirituality of darkness can contribute to our spiritual development. Our ability to trust times of spiritual dryness, or even trials to open us to God’s mysterious grace at work within our lives.

Learning Objectives

  • Explore the origins and purpose of Advent as a season of Christian liturgical life.
  • Explore the overlap with the Pagan and secular winter solstice.
  • Deepen our understanding of San Juan de la Cruz’s Dark Night of the Soul.
  • Apply and explore our own connections to a spirituality and ecology of darkness, silence and waiting.

This retreat and workshop are rooted in the early Christian understandings the world but is open to people of all faiths, paths, journeys and worldviews.