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ISSUE 115 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/3/2002

Spirituality of spring: Christian values found in study of environment

By Stefanie Graen
Staff Writer

Friday, May 3, 2002

Karen Cherewatuk, a professor in St. Olaf’s English department, spoke in chapel last Wednesday as part of the series "Christian Tradition and the Environment." She started her speech by proclaiming, "I have no environmental credit; I am a humble environmentalist with a compost pile in my yard."

Cherewatuk spoke of spring and its relation to the academic year at St. Olaf, and used metaphors of nature. She is an avid gardener, and loves to tend to the earth. Although it is hard for students and faculty to concentrate on academics as spring approaches, she told the students, "You need to be a fruit before the academic year dies. . . [and] I know it’s my God-given job to cultivate your minds."

She continued with thoughts on the changing of the seasons, and how Christians like herself tell time through liturgical history with events such as Easter and Pentecost.

Given the eco-crisis we find ourselves in, however, she stated, "Will God’s world last?" She feels that academics, seasonal cycles, and salvation history need to work together in a way that helps humanity and the earth.

Cherewatuk finds an example in Hildegaard of Bingen. Hildegaard was a female Benedictine monk, physician, musician, and poet who lived in the 11th century. According to Cherewatuk, the Benedictine motto was ‘I pray and I work.’ Singing praises and prayers marked the beginning of the day, and the work of study and the labor of the fields went in cycle with the seasons of the year. Hildegaard believed that God was the power that made the world green, and in her writings she used the word ‘veritas,’ which describes the powerful and holy act of creation that she attributes to God.

Cherewatuk also discussed the sin of greed for more goods or quick profits, and the human soul that is the freshness from which the flesh prospers. She commented that greenness comes down to us through Jesus, who is the link between nature and divinity. "We are called by God to be co-creators, to complete His work here on earth." She said. "Those who approach Jesus, the living vine, become greener and more fruitful. Also, the greenness of God can be associated with the Holy Spirit, who is the breeze that makes all things green, brings the rain that refreshes the earth, and "gives us rest in finding justice for the earth."

Cherewatuk concluded her talk by mentioning liturgical and solar time as the green life force that brings people together. Humans need to hear and listen to the call of glory that helps to tell us "what we can do here and now on Earth to complete God’s earth."

Besides speaking in chapel, Cherewatuk is finishing up a book manuscript entitled, "Marriage in Malory." According to the St. Olaf website, in her book she "seeks to uncover in Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur (completed 1469) the author's and original audience's attitudes toward marriage and adultery, as well as children, parents, and sexual relations."

Other professors in the English department have been working on books as well. Six books have recently been published, which include Mark Allister’s "Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography," Rich DuRocher’s "Milton Among the Romans: The Pedagogy and the Influence of Milton’s Latin Curriculum," Jim Heynen’s "The Boys’ House" and "Standing Naked," Joseph Mbele’s "Matengo Folktales," and Colin Wells’ "The Devil and Doctor Dwight: Satire and Theology in the Early American Republic."

Jonathan Hill, English department chair, is pleased with the literary progress his fellow faculty members have been making. "It is a tremendous achievement not only to sustain a full load of teaching, but also to contribute to original scholarship and knowledge," he said. "Publishing helps to reshape the subject."

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