I walked in a part of the woods, this morning, that does not yet have a path. It will one day, I know,  possibly quite soon. But today, there is no path and I have only hints as to which way to go. 

The journey into God is like this. Occasionally, the way is clear. But most of the time, we can see only one or maybe two steps ahead. That’s where I am now. For the past 18 months, I have been hearing regular, consistent messages to “go deeper.” Deeper into the woods, deeper into God, deeper into the mystery of Love.

I’ve been following these little breadcrumbs into the woods, one step at a time, as best I’m able. Today, I am writing from my “poustinia” — my monk’s cell in the woods. Poustinia is a Russian word that literally means desert. In the Orthodox monastic tradition, it connotes a quiet, secluded place where a poustinik seeks God in silence, prayer, and solitude. In being here, I am exploring the territory with three intentions as my guide.

My first intention is to be here through May 31, the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends. Following Jesus who went back and forth from wilderness to town, I will come out of the woods as necessary to teach, heal, and serve. But this will be my homebase. I am, honestly, a bit frightened about all of this. But if ever there was a time to try it, it is now, when so many of us are in exile, in one way or another. In this, we are together.

My second intention is to be in prayer with and for all the people and places around the world who are suffering. I will pray so we may know that we are One. I invite you to send me names of People and Places to hold in prayer each day. This is what I can do for the world, now.

My third intention is to be writing every day, telling you a little about the territory I am walking. In this, too, I invite you to come along. We will make the path as we walk.

yours, from the poustinia, 


Read more from Church of the Woods.

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?