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In this episode, biologist Dave Koetje returns to kick off our second season. We discuss Zoom church services, our homes as refugia, and some ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink what refugia looks like.

For more background

You can hear Dave Koetje’s previous appearances on the podcast here: Episodes 1.1 and 1.13

We mention a special refugia-themed issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, which can be found here. Don’t worry if you’re not connected to an academic library; the articles are all free and open-access! 

Dave mentions Mark Charles’s idea of conciliation (as opposed to reconciliation). For more on this, see Mark’s recent book Unsettling Truths

We also discuss Greg Scheer’s song “We Will Extol You, God and King” (also known as “One Generation Will Call to the Next”) and the accompanying liturgical dance at Church of the Servant. See below for a video of the dance!

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Transcript

Debra Rienstra: Refugia, a podcast about renewal. Refugia are places of shelter where life endures in times of crisis. From out of these small sanctuaries, life re-emerges, and the world is renewed. We’re exploring what it means for people of faith to be people of refugia. How can we create safe places of flourishing; micro-countercultures, where we gain strength and spiritual capacity to face the challenges ahead?

I’m Debra Rienstra, professor of English at Calvin University, and this is Refugia.

Dave Koetje: A refugium is not a place where you just go to turn your back on society. It’s a place where you still feel the hurts and the pains, and you go there and you share those hurts and pains with other people who are also hurting and feeling pain themselves. And that sharing becomes sacramental in itself.

Debra Rienstra: Hi, everyone! And welcome back for season two of the Refugia podcast. Last season, I had so many rich and inspiring conversations with my guests, but when it was all over, I kept thinking about more amazing people who might have wise and winsome things to say about refugia. So here we are! More amazing people, more great conversations.

This is a podcast, ultimately, about watching for places where God is working at renewal of the earth, of the church, of culture and society. And it’s also about seeking how we might participate willingly and courageously in that divine work. I’m hoping that as you listen to this podcast while driving or making dinner or otherwise going about your business, you’ll find that these conversations provoke your own creativity and imagination.

And I’m hoping that you continue to explore what refugia might mean in your own context. In this first episode of season two, I come back to my friend and colleague at Calvin University, biologist Dave Koetje. Dave and I check in with each other amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We talk about zoom worship, garden pests, and stepping-stone refugia. And we ponder how our ideas have changed since our last conversation many months ago. We hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening.

Today I’m talking with Dave Koetje, my colleague at Calvin University from the biology department. Hey Dave.

Dave Koetje: Hey!

Debra Rienstra: How are you doing?

Dave Koetje: I’m doing all right. How about you?

Debra Rienstra: I’m doing well. Thanks for being here today. I really appreciate it. So your encouragement is what got this podcast started, so I just want to thank you again for that initial push.

And you also helped me launch the podcast last year by being my guest on Episode 1 and walking us through some “refugia” basics. And then you came back for the final episode of Season 1, and we talked a little bit about what we had learned. So you’ve just continued to be really generous with your time and with your wisdom about this “refugia” topic. And I’m really grateful for that. So thank you again.

Dave Koetje: Yeah, and thank you for doing this, because this is a very timely and important topic. And the more we dive into it, the more we realize—there’s a lot here.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. And a lot has happened since we recorded the last episode of Season 1. That was last November. So a lot has happened since then. The climate crisis continues, but so many other things have been piled on top of that since then. So, we have had the COVID crisis and the pandemic, our being stuck in quarantine, which continues in various ways.

And we’ve had basically a new civil rights movement happening this spring in the United States. I dunno. What else am I missing?

Dave Koetje: Uh, there’s a heat wave happening as we speak right here. You know, it just seems like we’re almost expecting something bad to happen again, just because it’s 2020.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. Right? When will this, ugh, when will this year be over? So, I do want to share some good news with you. First of all, I think I’ve found the motherload of refugia science in a journal called Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. So, their latest issue is all about refugia.

Dave Koetje: That is very exciting. There’s—indeed, there’s a lot of work that’s been happening here, especially as scientists try to go from thinking about what might happen with climate change to thinking, okay, how do we manage this? How do we do this in a way that doesn’t end up in complete, utter chaos and catastrophe?

So, yeah, there’s a lot of excitement in that particular issue about, you know, coupling the science with the management piece.

Debra Rienstra: Right, which is really exciting. And I enjoyed learning all these new terms about refugia: hydrological refugia and disturbance refugia and micro- and macro- and hyper-micro-refugia and hyperlocal refugia. So that part, just the language, has been really fun, but to see this concept become useful for management in a conservation biology context is really exciting. So I’m enjoying thinking about how what I’m learning about the science can be applied in other contexts too, which is what we’ve been doing all along.

Second piece of good news is that I’m now working on a book manuscript. I’m about halfway done. It’s gonna be called Refugia Faith, and Fortress Press has agreed to publish this sometime next year.

So I’m really excited about that development and about continuing to explore this topic more and more deeply.

Dave Koetje: Congratulations on that. That’s awesome.

Debra Rienstra: Thanks. Yeah, I’m very excited to be working with the good people at Fortress. I think they’re a really appropriate publishing house for this project.

So I invited you back to talk a little bit about how we’ve been reflecting on refugia lately. And you wrote an email to me a couple of weeks ago, in which you lamented that all the great ideas that you had about refugia are being put to the test by the upheaval of life in 2020. You said, “COVID-19 makes a mockery of some of my ideas.” So I want to hear what you mean by that. What great ideas are being put to the test?

Dave Koetje: Well, you have all of these great ideas and, you know, I often think of refugia in terms of my garden at home. I think of it in terms of spaces that we build within our yards, like you just did—thinking about how these places might be areas of refuge for wildlife. It might be areas where we nurture native plants or plants that are best able to thrive in light of the expectations of climate change and so on.

And, you know, you’ve got all of these plans, right? About how things are going to work. And then if you bring the social dimension and the faith dimension into that as well, and you think, okay, we’re gonna have this network of people that are going to be working together and building these things, and then 2019 or 2020 comes. And we have COVID-19 and we have to socially distance, and you think, okay, how do we build these refugia together if we can’t be together?

Debra Rienstra: Ugh. Yes. So are we stuck with conceptual refugia now? I mean…

Dave Koetje: Yeah, no, it can’t be.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. And I think just the frustration—refugia is such a positive idea, and it is inherently hopeful, but we don’t necessarily like to talk about the frustrations and the setbacks that inevitably come, and COVID-19 has been this huge setback for so many things.

I mean, in some ways it’s been good for the climate crisis, as I’ve been reading about the reduction in carbon emissions. Now, whether that’s going to change is a huge question, whether this is going to be the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel industry and so on, that’s still a huge question. But it has felt like this huge setback in whatever positive movements we’ve seen socially and culturally.

Dave Koetje: Yup. It’s a big setback there. It’s also just the challenges of so much of the planning requires cooperation, international cooperation. It requires local governments cooperating with businesses and so on and so forth. And all of that’s just become so much more challenging because we can’t meet in person and we’ve gotta constantly be thinking about COVID-19 in the back of our minds. And, at the same time, recognizing that the things that COVID-19 has revealed about the weaknesses within our societal structures and the inequalities.

It’s a reality check that says, oh my goodness, we can’t move forward with these grand plans unless we also tackle the problems of inequalities and so on. Because we’re in this all together, and if we’re not going to work together, because of, you know, politicization and so on and so forth, then how in the world are we going to solve these things?

And I think that’s the reality check that just—wow.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah, I remember during the last episode of last season, you used the phrase “important dying.” That part of what happens in a refugium is important dying, and—wow. We’ve seen a lot of that. And it’s difficult to know what needs to die. I mean, some things, some cultural things are dying, just because we are split up.

Dave Koetje: Yup.

Debra Rienstra: But other things are dying that maybe have to die.

Dave Koetje: And they’re gasping for their last breath.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah.

Dave Koetje: You think of white supremacy and white nationalism, and you think, you know, on the surface, what does that have to do with refugia? Well, everything.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah, yeah. Right. So, in the first chapter of the manuscript, I’ve been thinking about refugia as a place of deconstruction. Before new things can grow, some things have to die. So we are witnessing that in real time, and it’s terrifying. It’s exciting, but it’s also terrifying.  So during these weeks we’ve been stuck at home or just severely limited with what we can do and where we can go, have you thought about refugia in any new ways?

Dave Koetje: Well, in an astonishing way, my home has been sort of a refugium.

Debra Rienstra: I was gonna ask about that.

Dave Koetje: Yeah. I’ve gotten comfortable with teaching at home, which surprises me in a way. Not that—not that I prefer it, right? Beause I would still strongly, strongly prefer teaching in person. But I think that what really struck home to me—this idea of my home as a refugium—is, you know, this has become a safe place, right? It’s a place where I can interact with my family without worry about spreading COVID-19 because we’re one unit. And it’s a place as well, where, because I don’t have to commute back and forth, because I’m not so busy with all of the other things—you know, church committees aren’t meeting and whatnot except online—then I have more time to do some things at home. And I’ve actually spent more time with my wife, working on our garden and our lawns and—well, not the lawn so much as the flower gardens and so on. And there’s been, I don’t know, more of an opportunity, I think, for us to do some things together in a way that feels much more like a refugium.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah, so we’re grateful that our homes can be refugia for us. That’s not true for everybody. But I would certainly agree. I’ve thought quite a bit, “Is my home a refugium and is this a place where we can build capacities that we wouldn’t normally be able to build? And being stuck at home, are we able to work on those capacities?”

So for example, deep conversations with each other. I’ve been building the capacity for crossword puzzles. That’s been one way to cope. But one thing that has surprised me is that, being stuck at home, it feels like this great opportunity, and it has been in a lot of ways, but there’s also this sense of bewilderment that we’re dealing with and this kind of atmospheric anxiety that gets in the way. The sense of disorientation and bewilderment kind of gets in the way of thinking, “Okay, what virtuous and noble capacities are we going to build today?” A lot of the time, we’re just thinking, “Okay, I need to get through the day, and I spent a half an hour looking at the news and now I’m depressed.”

And a lot of people profess that they’re getting kind of sick of their families. It’s one thing—togetherness is nice, but it can also cause tensions. And so this wonderful idea of building capacities in refugia is to some extent very true, and to some extent undercut by the very nature of a refugium as a place in the midst of crisis. And that crisis takes its toll.

Dave Koetje: Yeah. I think for my home, at least, and my family, we spend a fair amount of time together. We’ll be reading the news in the same room, you know, all on our iPads and things like that, right? And there may not be a prolonged conversation. But we’ll touch base on different things.

We’ll be reading something and we’ll share that. And I think in that way, we’re not expecting each other to have these prolonged conversations about deep things or anything like that. It’s a sort of a playfulness in a way, and I think in that sense it also helps us not to get tired of each other.

We don’t offend each other that way, right? Not that we think that differently anyway, after we’ve been married so many years, right? But still, there’s a playfulness there and there’s a stillness, a quietness. That, to me, has become more powerful than I ever would have expected  Just sitting together having a cup of coffee while sitting in our three-season room, overlooking the backyard and thinking, yeah, there comes another hummingbird. And just noticing things together like that, that’s been priceless.

Debra Rienstra: Lovely. I mean, neither of us has small children at home. So we can do a little more hummingbird-sighting than maybe people with small children at home can do.

Dave Koetje: True.

Debra Rienstra: You also mentioned in your email that you felt during this time you’ve been experiencing a kind of spiritual chaos sometimes. On top of everything else that’s going on, you’ve had a death in the family—you lost your father-in-law in the past few months, and other health issues with parents. And I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling of spiritual chaos with so much happening at once, and so much of it unexpected and disorienting. So I am curious how you would say you’re adjusting your spiritual life in these days of crisis convergence.

Dave Koetje: Yeah. I’m a rather sensitive person. And I think when I deal with a crisis, it’s not that I get overwhelmed easily, but I’m fairly attuned to little things that maybe other people wouldn’t notice. And something simple can really start to get the tears flowing.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. We’ve had to live without in-person worship for a while, which has been really hard on me for sure. I think that’s probably what I have missed the most. That’s how I usually cope with a crisis. That’s my usual refugium—is to go there to the church where we both go and see the people and those songs.

I mean, one of the things about worship is that we build up over time the layers of meaning in a particular song that we sing quite a lot. And then when we really need it, it’s there with that whole depth of meaning. And that’s when the tears come. But I think we’ve sort of earned that, in a way, by regular worship, and by getting to know those songs over a long time.

Dave Koetje: Yeah. One of them that does that to me is “We Will Extol You.” You know, “One Generation Calls to the Next”?

Debra Rienstra: Oh, yes. That’s by Greg Scheer.

Dave Koetje: Yes, and of course our dancers at Church of the Servant dance to that one as well. And, the meaning of the dance, it stops me every time. I have to stop part way through singing that because I was like, I’m speechless.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. The dance—I should explain, for those listening—involves the building up of generations. It’s kind of hard to describe, but as the verses go by, the dancers link to other dancers and it becomes this whole sort of “cloud of witnesses” thing at the end and the—

Dave Koetje: You have the older dancers first and then the middle-aged dancers and then the very young dancers. And then it reverses again.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. So what do you think it is about that particular song that feels meaningful right now?

Dave Koetje: It’s the connections, you know, it’s the connections from one generation to the next. It’s about God’s faithfulness. It’s about our faith-telling—

Debra Rienstra: Yeah.

Dave Koetje: In many ways. And it’s about what ultimately makes our life meaningful and worth living.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. I mean, I wonder if it’s a sense of perspective, too, this sense that we are living at this moment in history that we will remember, our children will wonder about, their children will wonder about. That our parents and grandparents lived through their own crisis moments in history.

And so we have this sense of the scope of history right now that maybe we don’t always think of. Maybe that’s part of it.

Debra Rienstra: One of the things I’ve been reading in this science journal is that refugia need to be connected somehow. So that one of the management strategies is to create stepping stones, like, refugia that are close enough so that species that can move—so for example, migrating monarchs, or, I don’t know if salmon works the same way—but that there are ecosystems that are suitable, that are close enough together that the creature in question—this is harder for plants, obviously—that the creature in question can move from stepping stone to stepping stone.

Dave Koetje: It works the same way actually for plants. Now, plants, of course, they’re rooted, right? So they don’t get up and move, but plant seeds get dispersed. And they get dispersed by wind, they get dispersed by birds. And there’s a Calvin grad who’s just finished his PhD, if I remember correctly, at Purdue University, and he’s been studying how trees are migrating with respect to climate-change sorts of pressures and showing that in the Midwest trees are tending to move a bit northward, as expected, but also a tiny bit westward. So there’s sort of this northwest push of these plant communities, these trees.

Debra Rienstra: They’re heading for the resorts in Traverse City and Suttons Bay. They’re really in need of a vacation, man. (laughter)

Yeah. So one of the conservation strategies is to sort of assist that along. So, actually deliberately plant seedlings along the route that the trees seem to be moving, to sort of help it along, so… fascinating.

One of the other things I really miss about in-person worship is the sacraments.

Dave Koetje: Yes.

Debra Rienstra: Ugh, which I think suggests that any kind of refugium has to be embodied. And for us, that is the moment of deepest embodiment where all the symbolic meanings come together, but it’s tangible. And it’s an enactment of—remembrance, communion, and hope are the three usual things we talk about with the sacraments.

And it is not the same, on your living room couch with a cracker. And it is not the same as standing in the circle as we usually do. So that too, I think, has been really hard. This kind of, as you were saying before, the need for connection that we always have in a crisis, and the fact that we are so separated.

And I wonder if plants and animals feel that way too, when they’re stuck in little refugia and not in a whole habitat, you know?

Dave Koetje: Yeah. You know, one of the things that you explored last year with your podcast series was the idea that refugia are not little cloisters, you know, little bubbles, where people go to just, you know, get away from it all. And in fact, I think this year really demonstrates that, that we can’t meet together in person; however, even though we might set up our little refugia and in some ways, even like a Zoom worship service is a bit of a refugium, right?

You’re there with other people, and certainly before and after the worship service there’s all of these people connecting and talking and saying hello and whatnot. But within that bubble, we’re constantly expressing sorrow and lament over things that are happening in the wider world that touch our lives and hurt us deeply. And so a refugium is not a place where you just go to turn your back on society. It’s a place where you still feel the hurts and the pains, and you go there and you share those hurts and pains with other people who are also hurting and feeling pain themselves. And that sharing becomes sacramental in itself.

Debra Rienstra: Mhmm. I think last year we talked about honesty, that a human refugium, in many ways—it’s not exactly a safe place, as Jeff Chu mentioned, but it’s an honest and a brave place, where whatever the surrounding crisis or crises might be, they’re very present. But at least this is a place where life continues, however curtailed.

Dave Koetje: And there’s little moments though, in the sacraments—coming back to the sacraments—and even when we do those online. So there’s little moments, though, of pure joy. I think of the comments that—when the pastors, for example, are trying to administer, you know, the bread and the wine and their children of course, are there with them. And you hear the little comments that you wouldn’t hear in church service.

Debra Rienstra: Yes. So, right. Our pastor’s son, who must be about four, maybe five, one week–poor Andrew was trying to do the words of institution and Asher says, “I can’t wait to eat!”

Dave Koetje: It was perfect.

Debra Rienstra: I just thought, “Asher, you little prophet.” That’s how we all feel. Yeah.

Dave Koetje: And then, many, many Sundays ago, I forget who it was. Maybe it was Kristen, Kristen Lee, who I think was pouring the water of baptism into the bowl. And then as soon as that water hit the bowl and she kind of set it aside, the cat came and started drinking that water. (laughter)

Okay. That, too, is a moment to me of, we don’t have to take our life so seriously that we fail to see little God moments like that inside of the sacraments.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. Yeah, people have said more cats and dogs have heard the gospel than ever before. (laughter)

Dave Koetje: Karen Saupe’s cats need more work.

Debra Rienstra: Oh, do they? Okay. (laughter) So are there any other practices or habits or things that you’ve been doing, spiritual or otherwise, that have been helping?

Dave Koetje: Yeah, I said my wife and I have been doing a lot of gardening work, and we plant a very large vegetable garden. Well, it’s not just veggies, there’s berries and so in there too. I was just picking berries this morning; I’ve got the scratches to prove it. But this time of the year is usually a busy time of the year for us because we’re gardeners and things are growing.

And there’s always little pests that come in there and, you know, try to eat your cabbages and whatnot. And so you have to—we’ve got fences all over in our yard to keep the deer out and so on, but the fences and the garden itself creates refugia. And there are refugia within our yard because we’d like to plant—oh, my wife loves hostas, for example, and there’s way too many deer in our neighborhood, and deer think hostas are candy.

Debra Rienstra: Oh, they think it’s their personal salad bowl.

Dave Koetje: Oh, they do. And so we’ve got these fences. They are only five-foot fences, but  they surround everything that we are trying to keep the deer away from. Thank goodness these are city deer that are pretty lazy, so they don’t jump the fences yet. But, to us, that is part of our refugium too. We’re able to do things outside together.

When we have friends that come over, that becomes now our safe living space, where we can interact together outside. And that too for us has become a refugium in ways that—we didn’t really think of it that way before.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah, we do appreciate any kind of face-to-face, even at eight feet distance, more than we have before. You mentioned, too, in your email that gardening is wonderful and it’s great to be with living things. On the other hand, “nature, red in tooth and claw,” and stuff dies and pests get it, and that’s very disheartening, especially now.

Yeah. So what do you do?

Dave Koetje: Get out with my BT spray bottle.

Debra Rienstra: Okay.

Dave Koetje: Thuringiensis, right. That’s a soil bacterium that you can use for organic farming. Well, so these are little bacteria that make the caterpillars sick and die. And so biological warfare is what I’m doing. (laughter) All organic.

Debra Rienstra: You do what you gotta do in your refugium, I guess, right?

Dave Koetje: You do. You do. And then, you know, sometimes you’re picking, like today when I was picking berries, I noticed the Japanese beetles, like, okay, that’s the first one that I’ve noticed all year, but okay. That one is no longer.

Debra Rienstra: Okay.

Dave Koetje: So, you have to be the predator. If there aren’t predators around, you have to be the predator.

Debra Rienstra: It’s the circle of life.

Yeah. Are there any other theological ideas or biblical passages that you’ve been dwelling in especially? You mentioned the Psalms before, but maybe there’s something else.

Dave Koetje: Yeah. Yeah, usually the text that our pastors will preach on, preaching in Romans lately, right? And in those texts our pastors are so gifted at weaving into these texts our current contexts, our current challenges, issues that we’re facing. And in that practice of doing that—it’s part of why I often say that our church has a very restorative form of worship.

Because we don’t ignore the problems, the challenges that people are facing, but we deal with them in a way that always brings us back to the promises of God, to what we can do together as a body to practice restorative kinds of action. And even the way we pray, we pray in a way that is not about me. It’s about us collectively, yes. But even more importantly, it’s about faith communities around the world. That, to me, is such a restorative practice, to be thinking about the timeless things.

So, scriptures that were written, you know, a couple thousand years ago. And now bringing new life and new meaning into our current context because of these scriptures and what they tell us about truths that are timeless. And then applying that to situations, not just here, but around the world. That to me is something that I often will spend time reflecting on after each Sunday.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. Yeah, that word restorative is really lovely. I think I’ve been dwelling—besides on certain select imprecatory Psalms—I’ve been dwelling on the healing stories in the gospels and their connection to the healing of all creation, especially in prophetic literature, Isaiah in particular.

And just thinking about our vocation as healers. I don’t have much patience anymore for our vocation as rulers in creation. That just—it just feels to me like that part of the Genesis narratives is what we need to diminish while we let the other aspects, the other dimensions of those narratives rise, and indeed, the whole thread in scripture of healing and restoration. So I have been sort of long—a feeling of longing and wonder at the healing stories in the gospels.

And then, similarly this sense of the healing of all creation. I was just reading Randy Woodley, who’s a Cherokee. Also a Christian pastor. And he suggests that we don’t even use the word kingdom anymore, and he has a really good argument for why it’s problematic. And instead he wants to use “community of creation.” So that Jesus brings in the community of creation, which makes me think of your kitty-cat drinking out of the baptismal bowl, because that’s it, right? We all gather around these signs and seals, these means of grace, that are signs of this community of creation coming, happening.

Dave Koetje: And you think about, too, some of the deepest, most rewarding spiritual experiences that people often have are the experiences they have when they’re out in someplace where they’re away from all of the noise, except for the noise of creation.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah.

Dave Koetje: And they’re seeing these wonderful vistas, like a sunset over Lake Michigan, and they’re feeling the warm breeze and they’re hearing the birds and maybe some gentle wave action and it’s just—it’s a deeply moving spiritual experience.

And you think, yeah, that’s because we are supposed to be tuned in to the whole creation. We’re part of that community. I love that idea.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah, so there’s an alienation there that’s being healed. Now, you did not describe mosquitoes in Michigan. (laughter)

Dave Koetje: We’ve actually had some students in the biology department over the years who have asked questions: “Now, are they the result of the fall?”

Debra Rienstra: I don’t know. They’re part of the circle of life now.

Dave Koetje: I said, “That’s a human being asking that question, because if you were a fish, you wouldn’t be asking that question at all.”

Debra Rienstra: No, that’s right. There’s certain birds or bats, right? Yeah. No, you’d to be pretty happy about it. They can live, they just have to keep their distance.

Dave Koetje: Yeah, exactly.

Debra Rienstra: We all need our space. So, I’m going to be asking questions like this of my guests, for the rest of this season. And we’re going to just ask people to be a little more personal about how they’re adjusting their particular spiritual practices, whatever that means to them.

So are you curious, are there questions that you would like me to be asking people?

Dave Koetje: So, you know, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about—and this goes to the text in 1 Corinthians that talks about the ministry of reconciliation that we’ve been given. And I think of Mark Charles, who has said, you know, reconciliation? No. Reconciliation means you’re coming back together. We’ve never been together. And so he said, we need a conciliation. You know, he would like to see a conciliation. Think of what South Africa did to end apartheid, and to have a restorative process like that, where the nation comes together and seeks, as Mark says, conciliation, not reconciliation. Because, you know, from the get-go, this country was founded on principles that sought, you know, for whites, white nationalism, white power. And I think about okay, what does reconciliation, conciliation, look like in terms of spiritual practices that inform how we build refugia? Refugia of faith, refugia in the physical sense of our community with the rest of creation.

What does that conciliation look like?

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. And it’s more complex than ever, because there are almost eight billion of us, and we have millennia of civilization behind us, with all of its wonders and all of its plunder.

So we are going to have to find new ways, and it’s a moving target because the climate is changing in ways that we can’t entirely predict with certainty.

And so, whatever new rules we’re trying to devise, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error, but the problem is we don’t have a lot of time.

Dave Koetje: No, no, exactly.

Debra Rienstra: So we are going to have to be more ingenious than ever.

Dave Koetje: And we’re going to have to cultivate a type of humility that almost seems antithetical to what we’re trying to do. But I think it’s crucial that we approach this work with a deep sense of humility. Because if we go in thinking, “Well, we’re gonna fix the world!” That’s not gonna work.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a real sense in a lot of the things I’ve been reading about working in partnership with the rest of creation, which seems sort of obvious, but it’s a very different way of thinking, even than, say, stewardship.

Dave Koetje: Yeah, yeah.

Debra Rienstra: Which is still, you know, as some people would say colonizing, right? But the sense of working in this kind of humble partnership, and striving always to know more than we know already. It’s surprising to me–we know so much about the biological world, but biologists will tell you, there’s so much we don’t know.

Dave Koetje: Oh, my goodness. Yes. Yeah. And we need the approach that Wendell Berry basically takes and how to live within a place and to be able to have the place speak to you. You know, what does it take? It takes dwelling in that place. It takes being tuned in to what’s going on in that place.

It means you have to put away the human noise for a while so that you can actually listen to what that place is trying to tell you. And I’m learning how to do that, but I’m afraid that I’ll only master this at the very end of my life. And then, you know, you can’t pass that on.

Debra Rienstra: Well, I think indigenous peoples would say that is why you need elders to hold those stories and carry those stories from generation to generation.

Dave Koetje: Yeah, and there’s much wisdom there.

Debra Rienstra: Mhmm. It’s really encouraging that I think people are starting to listen to indigenous wisdom in ways that we haven’t before. So we’re in this place of huge deconstruction, and we are hoping and praying that what comes out of this is some kind of just transition to different house rules for the planet.

Dave Koetje: Different house rules.

Debra Rienstra: Yeah.

Dave, I really appreciate your talking with me today. Thank you so much. It’s great to talk again. And I hope you’ll come back at the end of this season and we’ll do another review. How about that?

Dave Koetje: That sounds like fun. Let’s do it.

Debra Rienstra: Okay, sounds good. Thank you, Dave.

Dave Koetje: Alright. Thank you.

Debra Rienstra: This has been Refugia, a podcast about renewal. If you enjoyed this episode and you have a moment, please write a quick review on your podcast platform. Reviews help other listeners find us. You can also leave us a comment on our website: refugiapodcast.com. Send us your ideas about what refugia means for you and explore links and transcripts from this and all our other episodes.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter at Debra K. Rienstra. Thanks for listening to the Refugia podcast.

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