by Rev. Racquel Ray,

Associate Minister of Congregational Life


Christianity is an embodied faith. Beginning with the Incarnation of Jesus, humans are called to relationship with God in body, mind, and spirit. Paul’s letters speak much about the flesh; our temptations, our faults, and our shortcomings. But, even with the limitations of the human condition, we are still called and enabled to embody our faith. Sometimes, our church voices are mind and spirit centric and overlook the embodied elements of our spiritual practice.

This summer, I’m reading Sen. Tim Kaine’s book, Walk, Ride, Paddle: A Life Outside. I’m enjoying Tim’s descriptions of the Virginia landscape through the Appalachian Trail, State Parks, National Parks, roadways, and waterways. He recreates the visceral impact of the land and water through narratives of temperature, precipitation, flora, fauna, and geology. The story follows Tim’s journey of a three-year exploration of his state as he hikes, bikes, and kayaks the natural resources.

I am reminded of my desire to ‘be a tourist in my hometown’. In years past, it was my praxis to ‘tour’ the town in which I lived. I would visit historical societies, museums, and walk or ride by the historic ‘plaque’ houses. When our family lived in Idaho, we spent every other weekend camping in either a State Park or a National Park. We would attend the Ranger Talks and participate in any park exploration activities. Our kids were Junior Rangers.

With the exception of Roger Williams Park in Providence and Blackstone River Valley my National Park Pass has been collecting dust for about seventeen years. We’ve visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Friendship in Salem. But, we have not been able to explore as much of New England as we did of Idaho. Regrettably.

Reading Tim’s book brought me back to the joy of being outside – and NOT working on a project. We spend a lot of time outside in the gardens and yard which helps to feed our family. We need to reconnect with being outside for fun, pleasure, relaxation, and connection – and Spiritual wellness.

Christianity is an embodied faith. So, reconnecting our physical bodies with the natural world is also a spiritual practice. Cohabitating with all of creation as creatures of the Creator brings us to a calm, centered, groundedness, and connection that only comes from the natural environment.

Our family has only recently discovered the Sowams Woods Trail in Barrington. After living here for over seventeen years, we decided to explore our neighborhood and discovered this natural gem. Halfway through the trail we came across a metal sculpture with a sign and a QR code. We found our first RI Walks Creature and that led us to the RI Walks Creature Challenge where we found resources to explore other RI nature trails in a fun and interactive way. The RI Walks website says, “Hidden along 34 trails are unique steel-creature sculptures inspired by nature. These creatures can be difficult to find, but when you see one, you’ll know that you’ve found a very special place! Each creature has a QR code for you to scan and track your progress, and when you have found all 34 you will be a challenge winner and win some great prizes!” That’s for me!

Among all of the wonderful and delicious summer activities that are culturally outside in Rhode Island, I’m partial to the beach, clam boils, Riverside Creamery (small vegan coffee sugar cone with jimmies), the pool, gardening, back yard cookouts, at home fireworks show, catching fireflies, and hanging laundry outside to dry. This year, I’m going to add finding some creatures along the 34 RI Walks.

What is your spiritual practice outside going to be? What appeals to you and your connection to creation? How will you Go Outside? (And if it’s a lobster bake on the beach please let me know!)