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What is Eco-Chaplaincy?
Letters by Sarah Vekasi
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The Great Turning


      The term the ‘Great Turning’ came to the Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy during an exercise used in the Work that Reconnects where participants engage their moral imaginations to speak with beings who are born seven generations from now. The ‘future being’ to whom she was speaking referred to this time as the “Great Turning” – and the name stuck.

      David Korten used the name as the title of his new book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006). He begins by asking: “by what name will our children and our children’s children call our time? Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling?” Is it possible that instead they “will they look back in joyful celebration on the noble time of the Great Turning, when their forebears turned crisis into opportunity?” Korten’s introduction continues by stating that “the premise of the Great Turning [is] that we humans stand at a defining moment that presents us with an irrevocable choice. Our collective response will determine how our time is remembered for so long as the human species survives” (2006, 3).

Joanna Macy says that the Great Turning is unfolding in three simultaneous and mutually reinforcing dimensions which are holding actions, structural changes, and shifts in consciousness.

  • The holding actions are what we generally think of as activism: direct action, legislative and regulatory work all aimed at slowing down destruction.

  • Structural changes involve new technologies that are more Earth-friendly, alternative forms of farming and healing and schooling, etc.

  • Shifting consciousness involves working at the root to transform how we think and perceive the world which includes living systems theory, the work that reconnects, and eco-theologies.

The reason it is important to see how many roles can and need to be filled for the Great Turning to turn and not unravel is to understand that no one is left out. There is no hierarchy
involved where one role is more important than another, but rather the roles work in a circle where everything belongs and affects everything else. For this reason, eco-chaplaincy is suitable in a myriad of situations.