“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
As part of the GreenFaith Fellowship Program, each Fellow writes an autobiography as a way to explore our relationship with the Earth. As well as helping program participants to get to know one another when we share these with one another, the process of writing also offers a way to help us reflect on how factors such as where we are from, where we have lived, our ethnic background and our family history influence how we think about the environment.
Here I share my eco-spiritual autobiography, as shared recently with other GreenFaith Fellows. What would you write in your autobiography?
I was born in England into a middle-class family. My father and his father both served in the British Army and my mother’s father served in the Royal Air Force. Our family ancestry going back as far as records can be found includes many working-class and skilled trades people.
I grew up in a town on the Thames Estuary, east of London. From there, public transportation provided access to the city, to the coast (on the English Channel or North Sea) and to more rural areas. Some of our family vacations took us to other parts of the country, including forests in the midlands and hill country in the west.
At the age of seven, I discovered in my classroom library books about atoms and planets. I was fascinated to learn that I was a natural part of such an amazing Universe. Twenty years later, and living in San Diego, I watched the Sun set over the Pacific, I watched meteor showers from a ledge in the mountains, and I hiked in the coastal forests. I felt intimately connected to the natural world during these experiences, a feeling that persisted.
Special places I have experienced include Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast, and The Mountain, near Highlands NC. I have been to both for conferences, but I also enjoyed many opportunities to be outside, exploring the natural surroundings.
I have had pets since I was a child, most importantly our family dog during my childhood and adolescence. As an adult, I have had cats as pets and, with my wife, rabbits. They have provided comfort and companionship during difficult times, though it has always been very difficult saying goodbye to them when they die.
Some members of my church took part in a “Clean the Bay” day last Summer, and my daughter and I joined them. We worked at a small park overlooking the Hampton Flats, cleaning the park itself and the shoreline of trash. Within an hour, we had filled a number of trash bags with all manner of items ranging from cigarette butts and bottle caps to newspapers and plastic bags. There were a lot of single-use tooth flossers amongst what we found. It was disheartening to find so much trash in such a small area.
From an early age, I have understood myself as part of the natural world, sharing in the cycling of elements that I now name, in the words of the Seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism, the interdependent web of all existence of which I am a part. My parents encouraged my curiosity about the world and also taught me to be mindful of the consequences of my actions.
After finishing graduate school, I stayed in town for a while and shared a house with some undergraduates. We were all vegetarians for various reasons, mine being concern over “mad cow” disease. I learned a lot from them about environmental issues and subsequently became active with the Sierra Club, which led me to seminary with my first course on environmental ethics.
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