When this land came into our hands, in 2012, it was a holy mess. My friends, Mark and Jenny, had brought me here seven years earlier in hopes of recruiting a neighbor of like heart and mind. We walked across the meandering stream and up a rocky knoll, entering what was unmistakably a sacred grove of towering white pine and hemlock trees. I was entranced.

Then the messiness of life intervened — my mother died, God called me to become a priest, the economy tanked, I crashed, quit my job, and went off to divinity school. By the time I surfaced in 2012, the land had been bought and sold a couple of times. Loggers, fueled by poverty and ignorance, had dumped truckloads of boulders and gravel into the stream, choking its flow of living water. They had run rampant over one hundred acres, cutting virtually everything with value in the marketplace. Topping it off, the Sacred Grove had been leveled. The land was devastated. I was devastated.

Now, another seven years (plus a few months) have passed. I walked this morning down to the stream where the water again is running, clear and boisterous and joyful. Upon the knoll, the Sacred Grove too, is recovering, though it takes longer to grow a towering white pine than it does for flowing water to roll downhill. The forest is regrowing, helped by an abundance of prayer, a modest amount of loving stewardship, and the inexorable healing power of Nature when we give her a chance.

Many hands, voices, and hearts — plus generous gifts of money — have set this land on the path to renewal of life. It is truly miraculous what is possible when people put their minds to healing and renewing the world and all its creatures.

This piece of land and its people are my little piece of renewing the face of the Earth. I know that you, too, have your own piece.

In this time when we are fearful, cooped up, and suffering, let us all remember how much good is possible. Let us rejoice in the Divine Mystery that makes all things, fills all things, renews all things. Let us pray for the grace and strength to cooperate.

yours, from the poustinia,


Stephen Blackmer

Stephen Blackmer is founding executive director of Kairos Earth and chaplain of Church of the Woods. Steve comes to this with 30 years of conservation experience, having founded and built conservation organizations including the Five Rivers Conservation Trust, Northern Forest Alliance and Northern Forest Center.

A midlife shift led him to Yale Divinity School and ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church, carrying the question in his heart and mind: “How can being a priest deepen my work to conserve the Earth? What does the Christian tradition have to offer to this work? How can the Christian tradition be re-understood and re-imagined in a time of need? How can the conservation movement recover its understanding of the Earth as holy ground?