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Spirit in Nature Interfaith Path Sanctuary (SpIN)

Abstract Spirit in Nature (SpIN) Interfaith Path Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that brings together people of diverse religious traditions to promote reverence and care for the Earth. Through education, dialogue, and spiritual reflection in nature, SpIN seeks to awaken people to environmental problems, promote environmental action that is spiritually or religiously rooted, and provide a replicable model for engaging diverse religious traditions in caring for the Earth. Seeking to create an opportunity for people of diverse traditions to meet, meditate, walk, and worship in a setting that is conducive to spiritual reflection on nature, SpIN established a network of eleven “faith paths” in the foothills of the Green Mountains, near Ripton, Vermont. Nine of the paths represent different religions (Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Quaker, and Unitarian Universalist), while the other two, including the children’s path, are inter-religious. The paths meet at a sacred circle, highlighting the interconnections between different religious traditions and between humans and the environment. In 2004, a labyrinth made of natural rocks was added to the site. SpIN encourages reflective walking along the paths, which are marked with “nature notes” indicating special points of interest in the natural surroundings. The paths have benches and quotes from each religious tradition about connecting with the Earth. Located on seventy acres of land, the Vermont path center now has six to eight miles of paths with more than 6,000 feet of river and brook frontage. Beaver dams and signs of moose, deer, coyotes, bears, and bobcats are found in the area, and “Nature Notes” highlight twenty-five natural points of interest. In addition to maintaining the paths, SpIN sponsors public events geared toward stimulating dialogue and action on behalf of the Earth, such as its Bread and Soup Speaker Series, Earth Day Fair, discussion groups, guided walks, and experiential activities at the path center. Each year SpIN publicly recognizes a person who has contributed to the connection of religion and ecology with its annual Eco-Spirit Award. “Spreading the Seeds” workshops are available for people interested in starting SpIN path centers at other locations, and the quarterly Spirit in Nature newsletter keeps readers informed about events, activities, and political issues related to religion and the environment. The Spirit in Nature Handbook, which contains information about SpIN and the Vermont path center, is available in print and online. At present, SpIN has more than 270 members nationwide, about one third of whom are not affiliated with any particular religious organization. New SpIN groups are forming in Boston and western Massachusetts; Norwich, Vermont; and Saratoga Springs, New York.
Religion Inter-religious: Christianity, Bahai, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Pagan, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist
Geographic Location United States of America
(Northeastern Bioregion)
Duration of Project 1998–Present
History Spirit in Nature was founded in 1998 by a religiously-diverse group of local environmentalists and naturalists in Vermont, who came up with the idea of forming both a community-based, inter-religious, environmental group and an inter-religious, environmental “path center” in the Green Mountains. SpIN leases its seventy acres of land from Middlebury College, and attained its 501(c)3 status in 1999. SpIN honored Bill McKibbon, John Elder, Stephanie Kaza, and Warren King with Eco-Spirit Awards in 2001, 2002, and 2003, 2004 respectively. There are thirteen members on the Board of Trustrees, representing six different religious traditions. Five of the Trustees are Middlebury College students. In 2002, the Board of Trustees joined with the Middlebury Area Clergy to endorse the Global Warming Action Coalition’s program to reduce fossil fuel consumption locally by ten percent within five years. In October of 2002, Skidmore College opened a Spirit in Nature Sanctuary on its campus in Saratoga Springs, New York. At present, a path center is being developed in East Hampton, Massachusetts. SpIN is also affiliated with other nature centers in Ipswich and Plainville, Massachusetts as well as in Norwich, Vermont.
Mission Statement “A place of interconnecting paths where people of diverse spiritual traditions may walk, worship, meet, meditate, and promote education and action toward better stewardship of this sacred earth.”
Partner Organizations Crystal Spring Center for Earth Literacy
Fieldstone Foundation
In the Alley Bookstore
Jefferson Legacy Foundation
Mailboxes Etc.
Middlebury Area Clergy
Middlebury College
Moser Foundation
New England Grassroots Environment Fund
New Road Map Foundation
Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center
Skidmore College
St. Stephen’s Church
Vermont Community Foundation
Vermont Interfaith Power and Light
Long-Term Goals To encourage the creation of other Spirit in Nature Interfaith Path Sanctuaries in the United Sates and throughout the world.
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Spirit in Nature
Reverend Paul Bortz
P.O. Box 253
464 E. Main Street
East Middlebury, VT 05740
Ph:       802.388.7244
Email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)