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Refugia Faith

Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth

Debra Rienstra

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Expected Publication: Feb 8, 2022
Publisher:
Fortress Press
Retail Price
: $23.99
Length: 216 pages
Binding: Paper
ISBN: 9781506473796

“Debra Rienstra has hit on a truly powerful new metaphor for helping us feel our way through an almost impossible moment in our career as a species. Her idea of ‘refugia’ offers some combination of solace, realistic hope, and inspiration; one prays that, in particular, people of faith will use this as a goad and a help to take the actions we all know we must. This book is a small classic.”

—Bill McKibben
Author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back on His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened

Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth explores how Christian spirituality and practice must adapt to prepare for life on a climate-altered planet.

Refugia (reh-FU-jee-ah) is a biological term describing places of shelter where life endures in times of crisis, such as a volcanic eruption, fire, or stressed climate. Ideally, these refugia endure, expand, and connect so that new life emerges.

Debra Rienstra applies this concept to human culture and faith, asking, In this era of ecological devastation, how can Christians become people of refugia? How can we find and nurture these refugia, not only in the biomes of the earth, but in our human cultural systems and in our spiritual lives? How can we apply all our love and creativity to this task as never before?

Rienstra recounts her own process of reeducation–beginning not as a scientist or an outdoors enthusiast but by examining the wisdom of theologians and philosophers, farmers and nature writers, scientists and activists, and especially people on the margins.

By weaving nature writing, personal narrative, and theological reflection, Rienstra grapples honestly with her own fears and longings and points toward a way forward–a way to transform Christian spirituality and practice, become a healer on a damaged earth, and inspire others to do the same.

Refugia Faith speaks to people securely within the faith as well as to those on the edge, providing a suitable entry for those who sense that this era of upheaval requires a transformed faith but who don’t quite know where to begin.

Author

Debra Rienstra

Debra Rienstra is professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has taught there since 1996. Her other books include Great with Child: On Becoming a Mother (first published in 2002 by Tarcher Putnam and now reissued by WordFarm), So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (published in 2005 by Jossey-Bass) and Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry (published in 2009 by Baker).

Endorsements

“Debra Rienstra has hit on a truly powerful new metaphor for helping us feel our way through an almost impossible moment in our career as a species. Her idea of ‘refugia’ offers some combination of solace, realistic hope, and inspiration; one prays that, in particular, people of faith will use this as a goad and a help to take the actions we all know we must. This book is a small classic.”

—Bill McKibben
Author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back on His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened

“At a time when we are too often consumed with talk of scarcity, devastation, deconstruction, polarization, and alienation, Refugia Faith offers more than a breath of fresh air. It presents us with a glimmer of genuine hope, a hope that resides in the small places. Filled with beauty, wisdom, and a vision for how things might be, this book itself serves as a refuge for the weary, discouraged, and disheartened. Imaginatively conceived and gorgeously written, it is a work of profound insight and deep goodness.

—Kristin Kobes Du Mez
New York Times best-selling author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

“When you talk with Debra Rienstra, it doesn’t take long to realize she has a deep consciousness of what is happening in our world on the ecological front, the dire consequences we all face, and the faith to which she anchors her understanding. Fortunately for us, her reality-based knowledge and her amazing hope for the future are available in Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth. She offers actionable hope for those who have become discouraged or even fatalistic about our ecological future. Get ready to rediscover your sense of wonderment!

—Randy Woodley
Author/activist and co-sustainer
Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice and Eloheh Farm & Seeds, Yamhill, Oregon

“For most of us, a crisis like climate change is cause for panic and withdrawal. Reinstra beautifully, winsomely invites us to flip this script. Rather than an insurmountable challenge, she argues the climate crisis is an opportunity for transformation—if only we have the courage, imagination, and resiliency to seize it.”

—Kyle Meyaard-Schaap
Vice President, Evangelical Environmental Network

“Now more than ever I believe we need ‘refugia’ in our country, communities, and churches. Debra Rienstra’s writing is a reminder and challenge to seek a new way amid the climate crisis to deconstruct our current existence and actively create a new order that rightfully places God at the center—allowing us to be in the right relationship with creation. I highly recommend this book for people of faith as we live in the tension between climate-related suffering and the hope of what is possible for our planet.

—Karyn Bigelow
Co-executive director at Creation Justice Ministries, Washington, DC

“I didn’t know what refugia meant until I read this book, I can’t tell one plant or tree from another, and I likely suffer from what is popularly known as ‘nature deficit disorder.’ In short, I am not Debra Rienstra’s target reader. But that’s why I loved this smart, funny, passionate book. It has connected the dots for me, beautifully and cogently, and shown me what’s at stake environmentally and theologically when I fail to care.

—Jana Riess
Senior columnist for Religion News Service and author of Flunking Sainthood

Refugia Faith provides a lyrical and personal reflection on the critical need for Christians to respond to the environmental crises that surround and threaten the earth. Rienstra is a steady guide in helping readers navigate the vast terrain of eco-theology, offering insightful and inspirational commentary. Readers will benefit from the thoughtful portraits and deliberate insistence that we re-examine our relationship to God’s good creation.

—Paul Galbreath
Professor of Theology, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina

“What would happen if Christians determined to become known as ‘the people of refugia’?” That question, posed by Debra Rienstra on her blog site in 2019, sparked her podcast series that led to this book. And what a masterful book it is! Blending beautiful and prophetic prose, Rienstra tells the stories of individuals and faith communities who are striving to be the people of refugia, nurturing ecological communities and their souls in the face of frightful challenges. Read this to be encouraged and to find hope for the future.”

—David S. Koetje
Professor of Biology, Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Refugia Faith is one of the best books in print on how people of faith can summon the hope and the courage needed to heal and restore our home planet. Employing an astonishingly wide range of sources—from Paul Santmire on the Christian tradition to E. O. Wilson on biophilia, from Dante’s beatific vision to Robert Bullard’s take on environmental racism, from David Ackerly on bioclimates to John Calvin on creation as a theatre of divine glory—Rienstra weaves a brilliant web in beautiful prose to make her case for the importance of refugia: small, humble, safe places where ecological restoration can take root. The web also includes rich readings of biblical texts and insightful theological reflections, as well as personal vignettes of people and places that illustrate different kinds of refugia. And perhaps most notable is her unflinching honesty about the obstacles ahead, combined with her clear-eyed hope about living in a world facing climate crisis. Take up and read.”

—Steven Bouma-Prediger
Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology, Hope College, Holland, Michigan, and author of Earthkeeping and Character: Exploring a Christian Ecological Virtue Ethics

Refugia Faith is a very personal journey combining Debra Rienstra’s faith, family history, and tender sense of place in west Michigan. Her destination offers a badly needed return to a counter-cultural Christianity, to refugia in the face of looming climate catastrophe. It’s a vision for a faith that is more communal, more local, more just, and more loving—especially to our more than human kin. One can almost miss how her scholarship is wonderfully interdisciplinary, weaving together climate science, theology, ecology, history, and literature, rendered as it is with grace and bracing clarity. But more importantly, it’s beautiful.”

—Tim Van Deelen
Professor of Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin—Madison

Suggested Resources

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