A pond with a rock bank in a forest.
Courtesy of Religious Lands Conservation Project

Religious Lands Conservation Project

Crystal Spring Center for Earth Learning
Plainville, MA

The Religious Lands Conservation Project (RLC) is a partnership between Crystal Spring Center for Earth Learning and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition. The Project’s mission is to bring religious communities and land conservationists together to develop new ways to share their common and complementary values to benefit the land.

“Young people are not going to churches. When their spirituality is activated, they’re going to the land.”
Chris Loughlin, Director
Crystal Spring Executive Director Chris Loughlin

Four questions with Sr. Chris Loughlin, Director

Where do ecology, culture, and spirituality connect in your work?

CL: Often it’s been said that women in all times and cultures have developed a spiritual dimension to our lives, even an ongoing strand of connection to cosmic mystery. In the late 1980s, aware of the signs of the times, cultural historian Thomas Berry spoke directly to women’s religious communities: “The time has come when the single greatest service that women religious could make to the larger destinies of the human and the Earth community would be recovery of our human intimacy with the spontaneities of all those wonderful participants in the universe of being.” We slowly became aware that the deepest sources for a spirituality that could carry us into the future were embedded in the stories of ancient voices, the stories of all living beings. We looked at the lands we held in common with new eyes. We recognized that if we explored a radically different context for making decisions about our lands, we might well participate in a deep spiritual, ecological, and cultural healing of the regions where our lands exist.

What brought you to this work?

CL: The time had come for contemplatives to return to the land. We are woven into profound relationships that constitute the very essence of life on Earth.

What do you see in your field—or beyond, in the world—that you’re really excited about?

CL: My generation celebrated the UN Charter of Nations. In our midst now is a new generation giving shape to a new covenant: the Earth Charter. Among us are those who seek a new beginning that requires a change of mind and heart; through their living, the Earth Charter is made manifest—peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, with others, with Earth, and the larger whole.

What does service mean to you?

CL: We are in service to a new story, a new manner of thinking that calls us toward a new humanity, where reverence shines in all that we do. This is our purpose now.