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Steven Bouma-Prediger Leads Talks on “Earthkeeping as Homemaking” at Annual Grad Fellows Conference

Feb 10, 2012

Rich snow blankets the pine forest outside, a cozy fire crackles in the stove, and whisps of steam unfurl from coffee mugs. The Au Sable Graduate Fellows sit inside discussing a topic fitting for the setting: home.  During this year's annual Au Sable Graduate Fellows Conference on the Great Lakes Campus, Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, Hope College religion professor and author of For the Beauty of the Earth, led the fellows through presentation and discussion on the theme of "Earthkeeping as Homemaking."  Bouma-Prediger has thought quite a bit about home lately.  His latest book, Beyond Homelessness, explores the ways humans have become ecologically homeless.  In two sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday, he guided the Grad Fellows through the key biblical and theological questions on home and God's intentions for creation (click on the link to see handouts from each presentation):

Bouma-Prediger used the first session to discuss the home God has created for us and the rest of creation.  It is a home fashioned and firmly held by a sovereign God.  It is dynamic, with God lovingly nudging us to be creative agents ourselves.  And it is a home we share with other creatures.  Genesis is not about anthropology as much as it is about ecology.  Fittingly, we derive the word ecology from the greek word for home, oikos.  As ecologists, we study home.

The second and third sessions focused on Christ as Creator and Redeemer of a groaning creation.  Bouma-Prediger guided conversation through the themes of Christ holding this world together, coming to Earth to begin making all things new, and returning to usher in a new heaven and earth.  However, as Eugene Boring comments on Revelation 21:5, it is important to note that "God does not make 'all new things,' but 'all things new'" in the new kingdom.  God cleanses and refurbishes our earthly home into a glowing city with flowing water and trees, a place of healing and peace.

This year's conference experienced a significant jump in attendance, including participation from our eleven new graduate fellows.  Graduate fellows represented all five chapters, including our newest chapter at the University of Minnesota, making a total of 27 participants.  This level of participation moved the group from the comfy confines of the Pines cottages to Au Sable's main campus, and from community-prepared meals to dining hall fare.  It also allowed for large group skis and raucous broomball games in the evening.  Fun and games accompanied good conversation.  Through good times and discussion, Grad Fellows connected with one other, forming bonds with fellow Christians who care about taking a leadership role in their professional, vocational, and church lives in spreading the good news to all God's creation.

On Sunday, Grad Fellows closed their time through worship, prayer, and reflection on God's redeeming creation (see the Liturgy).  Lucious waves of snow spread from the steps of the Lodge down to the banks of Louie's Pond, bringing life to the liturgy spoken:

Let the snows fall and the west winds blow,
Let hearts be glad and minds be calm
And let God's people say, 'Amen.'

Au Sable provides a home to God's people learning about the natural world and their place in it.  The Graduate Fellows gathering is a beautiful picture of the communities that form as a result.  Amen to that.

The Au Sable Graduate Fellows provides the opportunity for graduate students interested in Christian environmental stewardship to connect with peers within their home university and across other major research universities.  Members of the Graduate Fellows program attend one of the following major research universities: Cornell University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and the University of Wiscons-Madison.  Fellows are recognized by Au Sable as having exceptional abilities, interests, and leadership potential in the area of environmental stewardship.  Please visit the Graduate Fellows webpage for more information.