Monthly Nature Walks
Each month our Earth Care Committee at First Congregational Church of Sonoma, UCC, organizes and leads a nature walk. These are not fitness hikes, but rather leisurely walks to both accommodate participants of all ages as well as to foster a more deliberate and attentive connection with our natural world. Over the past two years, our 2-3 mile monthly outings have included bird walks along wetlands and bayshores, wildflower walks, and walks along trails in nearby State and County Parks. Several of our monthly walks have embraced the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”). Shinrin-yoku offers a series of intentionally guided exercises designed to help walkers absorb nature through all five senses.
Why a Nature Walk?
“Get out in those hills and really be in the midst of nature a little bit!
That is not only legitimate, it is in a certain way necessary….
The woods and nature should be part of your solitude, and if it’s not
periodically part of your solitude I think the law should be changed.” —Thomas Merton
There are several reasons for organizing these nature walks. First and foremost, we wanted to offer opportunities for deepening our sense of connection with the natural world — with Creation. As the UCC’s Creation Justice Church program emphasizes, “The word ‘creation’ inherently evokes meanings that transcend artificial divides between ‘human’ and ‘nature.’ … Genesis 9:15 reminds us that God’s covenant is not only with humans but with ‘every living creature.'”
Secondly, scientific studies have repeatedly confirmed that nature is restorative! We become more relaxed, more open and friendly, more creative with better memory and concentration, after being in nature. Nature lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and bolsters our immune system. Indeed, the health industry’s agenda now increasingly includes Rx prescriptions for nature walks!
For both these reasons, monthly nature walks can serve to intensify awareness of the sacredness of nature/creation, but, also, our awareness of the local and global threats to the very health and sustainability of our earth. With deepening appreciation of our interconnection with nature, and how it contributes to our own personal health, comes a growing sense of urgency to commit ourselves to take care of the earth—to become dedicated stewards of creation. To become advocates for climate justice!
How We Do It
Our monthly Earth Care Nature Walks are scheduled on the second Monday mornings of each month. A walk leader plans and leads the outing. Church members are invited to register for notification of monthly walks and to RSVP. Members are encouraged to invite friends or neighbors to join with us as another way for us to reach out to our community. Most walks have enjoyed 10-20+ participants. Of course, carpooling is encouraged.
“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out
’til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.” —John Muir
For more information, email John Donnelly, Chair, Earth Care Committee.
This article is part of an ongoing series on best practices for Creation Justice Churches.
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