Drew Theological School’s Global Faiths and the Earth Course Has a Profound Impact on Students

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Drew Theological School’s Global Faiths and the Earth Course Has a Profound Impact on Students

The course offers an often unexpected awakening of ecological appreciation


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Dr. Laurel Kearns, center, shares her passion for the environment with students.





July 2022 – Drew Theological School’s Global Faiths and the Earth course is an example of the unique and enriching curriculum offered by the school.

The course, required for all Master of Divinity (MDiv) and some Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry (MATM) students, lays the foundation for interfaith communication, coalition building, and leadership by exploring attitudes and respective practices of various religious traditions towards the earth and the common challenge of the current environmental crisis.

Global Faiths and the Earth was designed by Laurel Kearns, professor of ecology, religion and society, and Hyo-Dong Lee, Associate Professor of Comparative Theology, encourage students to explore the worldviews and religious practices of many faiths with a particular focus on issues of eco-justice.



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Dr. Hyo-Dong Lee is co-designer of the course.





By showcasing the teachings and practices of multiple faith traditions around the world, students learn how faith communities can respond effectively to environmental crises by learning from and working with each other.

As part of the 16-week course held during the spring semester, students are required to spend 15 minutes each week outdoors in a “special place” – the least man-made place possible in nature.

“Many students are starting to observe ecosystems in their area,” Kearns said. “As this is a spring course, we want them to observe the changes that occur in nature. It’s quite dramatic to go from winter to spring.

Students report finding peace and comfort in their special place, and many return to their special place long after classes are over.

“A lot of students tell us they really haven’t thought about environmental issues, so this is a wake-up call for them,” Kearns said. “They never realized their own impact and how they can bring change. If we don’t have a sense of admiration and appreciation for nature, then we don’t really care about the impact we have.

“As a Christian, I learned to appreciate my heritage of caring for the earth as an African child and allowed myself to recognize my inherent heritage,” said MDiv student Lerato Pitso T’24, who has attended the course synchronously from his native South Africa.

“Africans appreciate all creation. I realized, again, ways to listen to the rhythm of all life around me. I continue to learn to live in the rhythm and flow of all creation and have discovered that I am a syncretist and that much in this global world crosses various religions and traditions.

Kearns and Lee want their students to feel empowered to create change by understanding the seriousness of climate crises and the importance of learning about other faith traditions. “All religious traditions display a sense of gratitude for the basic elements of life – earth, soil, air, water, food – and these are in danger,” Kearns said. “We only have one earth and we better work together to bring about a change.”

“The course showed me that although all religious and ethnic groups are different in many ways, all of them do things to bring justice on earth,” said MDiv student Roeline Ramirez T’24. “Therefore, it challenged me to have a deep mission to lead our church to what we are called to do – to love God and all of God’s creations.”

“In our daily lives, we encounter different people with different beliefs, backgrounds and circumstances. Global Faiths and the Earth teaches us about various theologies, histories and backgrounds of others, allowing us to better understand who they are and how they think,” said Stephanose Melaku T’21.

“We can learn from others while bringing sound ecological insight into their thinking process to implement changes that will solve climate crises, emphasizing the mutual responsibility of humans to care for the earth because the earth provides to humans,” continued Melaku.

“It was a valuable opportunity to rethink that theology should be accompanied by doing, not just learning,” said MDiv student Yeeun Kim T’24. “The class helped raise the question of the ordering of the creative world. Additionally, the class taught students to think for themselves about what the solutions might be to the community’s obligation to share healthy land. Beyond the simple study of theology, as a human being living in a large community called the earth, I could commit myself to take the position that the “gray earth” could be restored to a “green earth”. .

“For me, it’s a joy when learning and change happens completely outside of the classroom as well,” Kearns said.


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