What is the podcast all about?

The Refugia Podcast explores how Christian spirituality and practice must adapt to prepare for life on a “tough, new planet.”[1] Refugia (re-FU-jia) is a biological term describing places of shelter where life endures in times of crisis, such as a volcanic eruption, fire, or altered climate. Even amid devastation, refugia are small sanctuaries that preserve pockets of life. Ideally, these refugia endure, expand, and connect, so that new life re-emerges.

The Refugia Podcast applies this concept to human culture and faith. In this era of crisis convergence, how can Christians become people of refugia? How can we find and nurture refugia, not only in the biomes of the earth, but simultaneously in our human cultural systems and in our spiritual lives? How can we create safe places of flourishing— “micro-countercultures” where we gain strength and spiritual capacity to face the challenges ahead?

As host, I interview a different guest for each episode, exploring the evocative idea of refugia from a variety of perspectives, from biology to worship to politics.

This is a podcast, ultimately, about watching for places where God is working at renewal—of the earth, of the church, culture, and society. It’s about seeking how we might participate willingly and courageously in that divine work.

The idea for this arose from an essay I wrote in 2019 for The Twelve blog:

Season 1 was released last fall. You can find the episodes, transcripts, and other goodies at refugiapodcast.com, which will also link you to my author website.

Here’s a list of Season 1 episodes and guests:

Audience?

  • Christians who are hungry for genuine knowledge and understanding, who are tired of shallow, sensationalist, or distorted Christian voices
  • people who long for spiritual richness but are wary of organized religion. Think of the audience of the On Being podcast.  

What should I expect?

  • I will send you questions and a Zoom link ahead of time. You can prepare if you like, but I’m expecting to ask you about things you think about all the time anyway. Please feel free to suggest other questions for me to ask or topics for us to discuss!
  • Once we get the Zoom call going, we will record two voice tracks. I will record the video, too, but the audio is most important.
  • Please have ready a good quality microphone and headphones or earbuds.

If you’ve done this before, you know: we want your microphone to record only your voice, not my voice over the internet. So you’ll need to wear headphones so you can hear my voice, but your microphone can’t. Ask me if you need help with this part.

Also, obviously, keeping ambient noise to an absolute minimum is important for a good quality finished product.

  • We will probably record 30 minutes of conversation. I will edit that down to about 20 minutes for a produced episode. We’ll try to edit out anything either of us is embarrassed about…
  • Episodes will be released this fall.
  • We will have you sign a release form.

Why are you doing this? The world already has a million podcasts!

I know, I know. We have probably reached and surpassed “peak podcast” or “full podcast saturation.” But I’m doing this for two reasons: to help me develop content for a book and in support of my university’s mission.

First, the book. (Or maybe two.)The Refugia Podcast is part of a larger writing project called Refugia Faith: Seeking God in the Household of All Life.

In the context of the climate crisis, we need spiritual capacities we haven’t much exercised. Refugia Faith takes the form of a memoir about working on those capacities, trying to rework my relationship with the place where I live. It weaves nature writing, personal narrative, and theological reflection. Seeking to connect with people securely within the faith as well as those on the edge, I unearth insights from theological study, describe adventures in re-connecting with dunes and woods in my home state of Michigan, and grapple honestly with my own fears of and resistances to loss and change.

I am also thinking of doing a second book, Refugia Church, in collaboration with my husband, a pastor. That book would address church leaders more directly and apply the refugia concept to worship and congregational life.

The second reason for doing a podcast is to help extend the mission of Calvin University. I began the podcast during the summer of 2019, when several Calvin colleagues and some of our Centers/Institutes were experimenting together with “public scholarship.” We were learning by doing, trying to understand what it might mean for Calvin to be a “trusted educational partner” for constituencies beyond our residential undergraduates. This is one of the main goals of Calvin’s 2030 Strategic Plan.

We engaged the professional leadership of John Hwang, a Calvin alum who owns Lanio Creative, a business that helps people create content and build their tribe—to use the current lingo. As scholars and teachers, we already know how to create great content. The trick is to figure out how to make our work available, in process, to a wider audience. John helped us get started using social media platforms and multi-media formats to do this.

Podcasts are relatively easy to produce and they allow us to make collegial conversations available to the public. I love being able to hold up the amazing work that so many extraordinary people are doing!


[1] Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011).

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