OOS 30-4 - Cultivating a Sense of Place: Congregations Caring for Land and People

Wednesday, August 10, 2011: 2:30 PM
14, Austin Convention Center
Peter Bakken, Wisconsin Council of Churches and Interfaith Power and Light, Sun Prairie, WI, Jeff Wild, Pastor, Advent Lutheran Church, Madison, WI, Bret Shaw, Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI and Jenny M. Seifert, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI

A pilot project, funded by the Lutheran Community Foundation (LCF), was carried out in 2009-2011 with four congregations in South-Central Wisconsin to test whether a curriculum using a “sense of place” framework can engage religious congregations and their members in environmental activities and programs.  An introductory session for representatives of each congregation was conducted after which each congregation held a series of small group adult study sessions examining “sense of place” in a religious framework.  Each congregation was asked to develop a project to enhance its “place,” supported by LCF funds. Questionnaires were administered to participants before and after the study series to quantitatively assess any changes in attitudes, etc.  Qualitative assessment was also performed through in-depth interviews.


Findings from the study will be presented.  Looking at the promising connection between sense of place and environmental stewardship from a communication perspective, the research evaluated the effectiveness of using “sense of place” and “creation care” as alternative communication frameworks to engage faith-based communities, namely Christians.  Clergy and laypeople were interviewed about their beliefs and experiences with sense of place and Creation Care to gauge the impact of these frames on their attitudes and behaviors toward the environment. The research explored the meanings tied to spirituality and place, with results suggesting outreach efforts can potentially connect with beliefs that are fundamental to a religious audience and, as a result, motivate those individuals and communities to adopt and maintain pro-environmental lifestyles. Conclusions with recommendations for how ecologists can design outreach campaigns directed toward religious audiences, as well as how to collaborate with faith-based communities in caring for their church and communities, or their “places" are described. 

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