Conversation Circle
Chaplaincy and the Environment

Meet our Participants for Circle 2

Alanna Birch

Alanna Birch is an herbalist, holistic health practitioner and eco chaplain based in New York and Massachusetts. She works at the intersection of plant based medicine, education, deep nature connection and spiritual care. Alanna supports people to discover belonging and connection to their earthly and spiritual roots through nurturing relationships with the more than human world.

For over five years Alanna worked in community building and education, collaboratively designing and facilitating programs, workshops, retreats and community initiatives around forming transformational connections with land through hands-on learning. 

We are a part of the earth. Alanna believes that healing our relationship with the planetary body starts with healing our relationship to our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body. 

In service of this vision, after years of organic farming and independent herbal study she completed two years of intensive clinical herbal training with Arborvitae School Of Traditional Herbalism. She is currently entering her third and final year. In 2016 Alanna began meditating and studying Buddhist dharma, primarily in the Insight tradition, and in 2022 completed the Buddhist Eco Chaplaincy program through the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. Learn more about her work at

Astrid Love

Astrid is a Boston-based interfaith hospital chaplain serving Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Beverly Hospital.  Raised atheist, she came to chaplaincy work through No One Dies Alone, a program where volunteers accompany actively dying people who do not have loved ones to be with them.  In her graduate school work for a Master of Theological Studies, Astrid focused on how to make sense of endings, death, and our limitations in relation to our own lives and to Earth.  A poet and writer, Astrid views writing and chaplaincy as practices of reverence and meaning-making that place her fully in the joy and mourning of this moment in our planetary history.  Astrid now finds her spiritual homes in Soto Zen Buddhism and Catholic contemplative practices.  These traditions inform her understanding of spiritual care through teachings on what Buddhists calls the interdependence of all beings and what Pope Francis calls integral ecology.  Astrid makes her geographic home on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Massachusett and Wampanoag peoples in the Charles River watershed with her beloved cat, Lucinda.     

Chris Lambourne

In New Zealand you are often required to give your pepeha.  This is an introduction that talks of your ancestors and place of being (turangawaiwai.) 

Kia ora tatou (Hello to everybody)
Nō Ingarangi ōku tīpuna (My ancestors come from England)
Ko Captain Hobson te waka (They arrived on on the ship called the Captain Hobson)
No te Whanga-nui-a-Tara ahau (I was born in Wellington)
Ko Ruapehu te maunga e rū nei taku ngākau (The mountain that is important to me is Ruapehu)
Ko Thames o Ingarangi te awa (The river of importance to my family is the Thames in England)
Ko Chris toku ingoa (My name is Chris)
Ko Lambourne toku whanau (My family is Lambourne)
Ko tangata Tiriti toku iwi (My tribe is from the Treaty of Waitangi)
E noho ana au ki Heretaunga (I live in Heretaunga/Hawkes Bay)
Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou katoa (I welcome all of you.)

My fantastic wife is a Presbyterian minister.  
My boy has left home and now lives in Australia.
One of my sisters only lives a few kilometers away and we have a lot to do with  

My focus is on mission, specifically

  • Through response to human need in loving service
  • Through seeking to transform society
  • Through care for creation

I have been running Manaaki Energy, which comes from our church, and aims at alleviating energy poverty and promoting Maori ownership of energy generation.  We have put 50 roof-top solar systems on houses, and are currently scoping out building 3 x 1MW solar farms.

Saint Andrews is just starting community gardens to produce free food with the aim of connecting the community through the soil. We are setting up an environmental chaplaincy to bring focus to our missions in the area of energy and food and climate and community.

My work background includes developing the digital tv business of NZ’s largest broadcaster, through to working for World Bank in sub-Saharan Africa, through to being an engineer for an electricity distribution company. I am just about to start a government job running funding programmes for community distributed energy.

Eric Askren

I’ve been a chaplain at one of the largest Washington State prisons for about 21 years.  On top of my full time work, I was recently asked to become the chaplain for Climbers for Christ - an international climbing organization based out of Bend, OR.  Prior to chaplaincy I was a full time  community minister for 7 years.  I’m married, have two young-adult daughters, I live in eastern Washington, love all things climbing,  love to cook with family, love my friends and am working hard at living intentionally with community in mind.  I find writing a biography challenging but look very much forward to answering any questions anyone has for me or about me.  Grateful to grow and learn and listen from others doing this wonderful, strange work we do.


Liz Olson, M.Div., BCC

Late in life I had a calling to ministry and attended Starr King School for the Ministry (2013) in Berkeley, CA after a lifetime of work in experimental theater. The faith community that I’m affiliated with as an Associate Minister-at-Large is The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco – an independent, interfaith, interracial church founded by Howard Thurman. Since 2018 I have been serving as the Spiritual Health Provider for an in-patient Palliative Care team at Providence Medford Medical Center in Medford Oregon. I had moved to Oregon from the California Bay Area in 2015 and became immediately involved with a climate action group – Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN). Over the years I have been involved with many different projects and now serve on the board for SOCAN, and for the past 5 years I have been co-facilitating a monthly support group for the organization (and general public.) I am sustained by living in a beautiful rural area, by my family (2 daughters) and a few really good friends, my spiritual seeking, gardening, and my dog Oscar.

M. Paloma Pavel, PhD MDiv

M. Paloma Pavel, PhD MDiv is an author, educator and clinical/organizational/eco-psychologist in practice for more than three decades in a variety of settings including inpatient, outpatient, and crisis counseling.  As founder/director of the Breakthrough Communities project at Earth House Center (Oakland)  Paloma has worked as a spiritual activist with frontline communities in the SF Bay Area on issues of social and environmental justice. Roots include wilderness guide and creation of the first Deep Ecology retreat center in the U.S. She completed her seminary training (MDiv.) at Harvard Divinity where she worked on the anti-apartheid divestment campaign. With the Episcopal Diocese of California, she co-produces the Sacred Earth: Growing Beloved Community webcast series and serves on the Commission for Creation Care. She is trained in Buddhist practices through the order of Interbeing (Thich Nhat Hanh) as well as earth-based traditions.  She has received two Fulbright assignments in Environmental and Climate Justice, 2018 in Japan at Tokyo Institute of Technology and 2022 at the University of Oslo, Norway. Dr. Pavel was an official Episcopal Church eco-ministry delegate to the UN COP27, Egypt in 2022. Her chaplaincy positions have included public and private hospitals, San Francisco Night Ministry as well as eco-chaplaincy. She is the current recipient of  Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology’s Thomas Berry Award for lifetime leadership.

Preeta Banerjee, Ph.D.

Preeta Banerjee, Ph.D. is the Hindu Chaplain at Tufts University and a spiritual companion who draws on a broad and deep range of experience, having spent over 20 years in academia, coaching and consulting as an advocate, educator, researcher, and author. Her passion lies in creating brave spaces at the intersection of contemplation, activism and healing and deepening in interreligious manyness, from a lens rooted in bhakti, gyan, karma, and raj yog. She is a founding board member of the North American Hindu Chaplains Association; Advisory Council member of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network; and in process to becoming a Mass Audubon certified naturalist. 
Co-founder and partner at WhiteLeaf Advisors LLC, she previously led a team at Deloitte and was a business school professor at Brandeis and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She has a PhD in Strategic Management from the Wharton School; a BS in Computational Biology and Business from Carnegie Mellon; and her Graduate Certificate in Interreligious Studies at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.

Rachel Rose Payne

Rachel Rose Payne (she/her) is a second-year chaplain resident with New York Presbyterian Hospital, and her primary clinical site is Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Rachel grew up among the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts on the traditional territory of the Mohican people. She holds an MDiv from Boston University School of Theology. Prior to pursuing ministry, she worked in the nonprofit world as a project manager and grant writer for organizations tackling issues of poverty and corporate power. She draws on multiple religious traditions in her personal practice and aspires to be a good witch.


Shalom Kristanugraha

Shalom originally hails from the volcanic islands of Indonesia. Before finding their way to Union Theological Seminary in NYC for an MDiv focusing on Inter-religious Engagement and Environmental Chaplaincy, Shalom lived two years in glacial Montana completing a Master’s degree in Environmental Philosophy. Prior to resting in those locales, Shalom has made home in Michigan, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and England. Shalom spends a lot of time these days pondering the question of what it means to live and die well in this era of global climate change, and about outdoor experiential education as a means of spiritual formation. When not staying up too late at night thinking, Shalom enjoys long hikes, fixing bikes, reading multi-species ethnographies, doodling faces, and cooking with friends. Religiously, Shalom’s first language is Indonesian Protestant Christianity, though through life experiences and personal exploration, they have come to acknowledge a deeply Daoist spiritual sensibility. As of July 2023, Shalom will be a CPE resident at Mount Sinai Hospitals in NYC.

Wendy Cliff

I’ve never liked studying in libraries or exercising in gyms, so I guess it’s no surprise I’m called as a chaplain and Episcopal priest to want to be outdoors where I feel most connected to mystery and awe.  Celtic spirituality and process theology have healed my pastor’s soul.  I’m a graduate of the Seminary of the Wild and, come September, will be in UC Berkeley’s Center for the Science of Psychedelics facilitator training program for psilocybin assisted therapy.  I’m excited to serve and support people in Oregon as they explore their spirituality with the aid of plant medicines in clinical settings, but especially in outdoor retreat centers.  At the same time, I worry about cultural appropriation of indigenous practices and further harm being done to marginalized populations as a result of this “psychedelic renaissance.”  In the end, I hope my chaplaincy in this field will create safe spaces for people to heal themselves and the Earth because they’ve had a powerful experience of something greater than themselves and now feel compelled to protect, honor, and nourish our “one wild and precious” world.  I’m married to my husband Butch, have 2 young adult children, and love to cook, make books, and hike.