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October 22nd, 2019
By Rev. Rob Brown, Episcopal Priest
My earliest memories revolve around images of the outdoors. Walking along a stretch of Grand Strand beach with my older brothers, the sound of bobwhite quail flushing out of high grass along an old fencerow at a family farm in McCormick, and a glimpse of the gray and blue outline of the Blue Ridge lifting its shoulders above the horizon just north of Spartanburg. The fields, forests, and waters of our beautiful state feed my soul.
As an Episcopal priest, I feel compelled to be a steward of God’s creation. In Genesis 2:15 we are told to till and keep the garden. We are caretakers and have a responsibility to safeguard the land and water and renew or restore whatever is broken. It is a Holy task, but it doesn’t speak to my heart as work or obligation. Instead it is an invitation to live in peace with purpose.
There is an old story I’ve heard attributed to multiple sources of an old man who watches his granddaughter leave their synagogue and wander into the woods where he hears her praying among the trees and wildlife.
He asks her why she goes there to pray. She tells him that she feels closer to God when she is in nature. He smiles and says to her that God is the same everywhere. She answers quite simply, “I know, but I am not.”
The Bible says God’s ruach, that is God’s breath, or God’s Spirit, moved across the face of the deep. I feel God’s presence with the touch of the wind and I hear God’s voice as that same wind sighs among the branches of tall pines. God surrounds me in the outdoors and changes me.
Rev. Rob Brown is the Rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Spartanburg. This story was initially published in the Upstate Advocate, a twice-yearly print newsletter produced by Upstate Forever, as part of a piece called "Human + Nature: Ten Upstate Residents Share How the Natural World Shapes Their Lives." View the full issue (PDF)