Spiritual Ecology for Spiritual Leaders Retreat

Renewal and connection, with Earth and each other

Sunday June 5, 2022 • 5:00pm (Eastern) - Wednesday June 8, 2022 • 12:00pm (Eastern)

With the support of our funders, all retreat expenses will be covered for participants. Also, participants will receive an honorarium of $500 in recognition of the time they will take away from their work and the wisdom they'll bring into the community. After the gathering, participants will also be eligible for a grant of $500 to catalyze their local organizing or community partnerships. 

We are no longer accepting applications.

“A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky.  It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.” — Wangari Maathai


Spiritual Ecology for Spiritual Leaders is a four-day retreat in Portland, Maine for a diverse group of early-career faith leaders and others who are working for justice in communal contexts. This will be a time of deliberate engagement with each other, the Earth, and stories of our collective spiritual ecology.

This gathering is offered in partnership between Auburn Seminary and The BTS Center, and it is part of the Emerging Leaders project, a program housed at Auburn that provides pastors, faith leaders, and other spirit-rooted leaders with the prophetic imagination, networks of mentorship, and ongoing peer support they need to lead and minister effectively in the face of rapidly changing contexts today. 

To date, the Emerging Leaders project has included regional gatherings of faith and community leaders across the United States. Each group intentionally includes participants from several religions and cultural backgrounds. 


We will spend our time together in and around Portland, Maine, which is on the unceded territory of the Wabanaki — People of the Dawn. Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine (though quaint by most accounts) with a downtown area that weaves together good food, quirky shops, spacious parks, and a working waterfront. Situated on the southern edge of Casco Bay, with nearby beaches and forested trails, Portland serves as an excellent urban basecamp from which to find quiet corners of connection with the natural world. 


Spiritual leadership calls us to find ways to center ourselves and our communities with day-to-day ritual, seeking the sacred in mundane activities, and finding comfort in familiar forms of gathering. 

During our retreat we will take time to immerse ourselves in restful and comforting practices of nature connection, artistic expression, meal sharing, and story-telling.

Spiritual leadership also demands of us a prophetic commitment to revealing, naming, accounting for, and unsettling the forces of domination festering on our planetary home.

During our retreat we will take time to uncover challenging questions about the climate crisis and to reflect on the exigent historical and contemporary experiences of native tribes in our local contexts.

We hope that each leader will return to their community with creativity flowing, imagination sparking, body rested, and spirit renewed. Through these four days of retreat we hope to seed lasting connections that can grow as needed into regional forms of solidarity, encouragement, and collaboration. 


Spiritual leadership matters. It is practical. It takes up space. It is elemental. It lives in deep time and it must be grounded. Spiritual leadership is accountable to the health and wholeness of the Earth-bound relationships that give it shape.

Spiritual leadership is an ecology of diverse commitments to justice. It thrives when various elements commingle and form a habitat that pulses with common good. It is not a solitary affair. It is a shared project.

At its best, spiritual leadership expresses through multifaceted rhythms of mutual engagement. These rhythms manifest at times as collective action, at times as collective rest, and always with careful attention to the bodies that give form to our theories of self, Earth, and other.


What gifts, traditions, and insights can spiritual leaders offer a world beset by multiple ecological and social crises? 

What impact can we have beyond mobilizing communities to advocate for needed policy change and technical solutions?

What new relationships, voices, and perspectives do we need to navigate the days and months and years ahead — through this pandemic, through ecological transition?

What old or new ways might we need to set aside or take up to prepare our communities for deep transformation in our daily lives and across the planet?

What are some practical ways that we can deepen our relationship with wild nature and align ourselves with Earth’s regenerative tendencies? And how can we invite our communities into these practices that amplify our interconnection?

Host Team

Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie

Matt Deen

Aram Mitchell

Nicole Diroff

Meet Auburn Seminary

Auburn equips leaders with the organizational skills and spiritual resilience required to create lasting, positive impact in local communities, on the national stage, and around the world.

They amplify voices and visions of faith and moral courage. They convene diverse leaders and cross-sector organizations for generative collaboration and multifaith understanding. And they research what’s working — and not — in theological education and social change-making. 

Learn more about Auburn Seminary