What is Mental Health?
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.
Given that we live in an age troubled by unhealthy emotional, psychological or relational states, maintaining mental health and physical wellbeing requires the urgency of lifestyle choice or, at times, measures that involve self-preservation. Mental health and wellbeing are your greatest strengths to punch above your weight when mood, moment or meaning is challenged by the default patterns of life regardless of age or stage.
For further help relating to your mental health symptoms, diagnosis or intervention, please refer to your general practitioner, NZCCA or NZAC counsellors or depression.org.nz.
What is an EcoQuest Retreat?
EcoQuest is a six-hour group activity that awakens the inspiration of God’s omnipresence in and of nature. It also highlights nature’s health benefits and mindfulness meditation as a natural stimulus for personal faith, mental health and well-being.
Highlighting the spectrum of eco-biblical meaning means describing how God sees himself and his relationship to creation and mankind. This gives each EcoQuest participant the opportunity to see God, nature and themselves in a similar context.
An EcoQuest retreat embraces nature’s symmetry, by seeing the natural world as God’s healing therapist or mentor for the enrichment of body, mind and soul.
What is Eco-Quest Theology?
In simple terms, EcoQuest Theology (EQT) is a contemporary name given to the spectrum of eco-biblical meaning concerning God’s omnipresence (in everything and everywhere). Describing how God sees himself and his relationship to creation and mankind allows each EcoQuest participant to see God, nature and themselves in a similar context.
EQT will help participants appreciate why nature features so prominently throughout the Bible and its relevance to spiritual vitality, mental health and wellbeing.
EcoQuest Theology celebrates God’s creational ingenuity, nature’s enduring goodness and the relationship to mankind’s unique identity as found in Geneses: 1. EQT also emphasises the providential narrative that God’s legacy of spiritual efficacy is not only central to the values of Christian faith and practice but as a powerful antipode to the stressors of modern life. (The EcoQuest workbook has more details).
Is EcoQuest influenced by EcoQuest Theology?
- Because EQT is anchored in the eco-biblical belief that God, humanity and nature share a solidarity that is worthy of admiration, respect and reverence, each EcoQuest retreat gives participants an historic biblical perspective on God’s nature-based omnipresence.
- Each EcoQuest portrays the theological container of God’s ingenuity, goodness, identity and legacy as signs and wonders for believers to draw inspiration from.
- A practical way that EcoQuest is influenced by EQT is describing the presence of God in a variety of nature’s beauty and symmetry, nature’s serene and enchanting delight, the abundance of life, ambience, pristine, captivating diversity or breathtaking artistry on display.
- EQT celebrates the legacy of spiritual efficacy, of what is valued, significant and authentic about being a child of God during our time on planet earth
- The diversity of eco-scriptural reference in each EcoQuest is a portrayal of how down to earth the spirit of God’s omnipotence is and how grounded or practical our faith needs to be.
- The simplicity of EQT unfolds during each EcoQuest and is encouraged as a life-long therapeutic practice rather than it being a nature-based theory.
- The relationship between EcoQuest and EcoQuest Theology is reinforced by elements of systematic, practical and applied theology as well as contextual, constructive, natural and liberation theology.
- EcoQuest encourages participants to undertake their own theological research or study into the relationship between God, his earthly kingdom and its spiritual and psychological effect on mental health and well being
What are the limits to EcoQuest Theology?
- EQT doesn’t declare the physical appearance of God in or of nature
- EQT isn’t nature worship nor does it humanize the natural world
- EQT is not a substitute for other theological, doctrinal or religious formal practice
- EQT does not place nature above the Apostles Creed
- EQT does not align itself with pantheistic or new-age mythology
- EQT isn’t a magical cure for life’s problems
- EQT doesn’t undermine other forms of Christian faith and practice
“Being in the company of nature overwhelms the senses with awe”.
What are the Key Elements of EcoQuest?
EcoQuest (EQ) is a six-hour nature-based retreat that focuses on renewing body, mind and soul while presenting the inspiration of nature as a lifestyle companion. A priority of any EcoQuest retreat is focusing on being grounded in the contemporary values of EcoQuest Theology.
- Experiencing the meaning of Eco-Metaphors in the company of like minds
- Exploring the virtues of mindfulness, gratitude and meditation
- Being inspired by the legacy of spiritual efficacy
- Tuning into the five senses of; Sight, Hearing, Taste, Touch and Smell helps to embrace the intrinsic worth and effect of nature’s health benefits
- EQ is a gentle, on your mind, approach to reverencing God’s omnipresence in and of nature and a way of refreshing Christian spirituality and a love for eco-biblical truth
- The EQ experience is designed to complement Christian spirituality and personal well-being
- EcoQuest is limited to ten individuals and participants are encouraged to review the online information about each EQ activity and format
- While EcoQuest is an introduction to eco-biblical meaning, the retreat experience can be adapted for use in a shorter time-frame and with limited content etc. In the case of developing the values of EcoQuest as a life-style, it is recommended to undertake the full six-hour retreat. A colour-coded workbook is used to guide the process of spontaneity, synergy and enlightenment
- Also of importance are EQ formalities that include: Participants’ Conditions, EcoQuest Protocols, Safety and Risk Disclaimer, Health Questionnaire, Professional Code of Ethics and Reference Material .
What is an eco-metaphor?
The general meaning of the term metaphor, refers to a figure of speech or symbolic expression that connects two objects for the purpose of communicating a perceived truth or resemblance to a greater meaning.
Statements like; “A mighty fortress is our God” or “Her eyes are like diamonds” demonstrates this figurative or metaphoric meaning.
In each EcoQuest experience, eco-metaphors are used to discern the commonality between ecological diversity and eco-biblical importance. In this context an eco-metaphor is descriptive of a particular land feature where personal meaning and mindfulness meditation draws inspiration from the simplicity of nature’s symmetry.
Perspective awareness or spiritual discernment plays an important part for interpreting what God is saying in each eco-metaphor exercise.
Why do an EcoQuest?
The following reasons may resonate with your interest for undertaking an EcoQuest retreat:
- An EQ experience is open to all who seek nature’s gift of serenity, reassuring influence or antidote for spiritual renewal and/or well-being
- If you’re over the performance of human doing and desire the synergy of human being, then the natural health benefits of nature will always provide holistic balance
- From the rigors of unhealthy communication, routines, perfectionism, psychosomatic stress, depressive, anger or anxiety tendencies then the EcoQuest lifestyle needs to be part of your recovery compass for creating change
- Even through there is an EcoQuest workbook, your experience in nature is designed as a self-directed quest for individuals, couples, group or professional development. It can also complement your relationship/s, family or prayer life, business life, pastoral ministry, counselling or therapist career. You may even consider incentivising your leadership team, staff workshop, conference or retreat with the values of the natural environment
- EcoQuest will prompt you to create better choices about appreciating the simple things in life, learning how to become more self-aware and getting physical exercise
- Realizing that holistic faith in God requires the company of nature’s nurture
- Discovering the simplicity of EcoQuest Theology and how that intertwines with God’s natural presence
- Cultivating the calming influence of EcoQuest, as a template for creating mental, emotional, physical and/or relational well-being
- Learning the therapeutic virtues of mindfulness, gratitude and meditation in nature
- Being enriched by the values of nature’s health benefits
Undertaking this soulful encounter will enhance your love of nature at a leisurely pace that’s right for you.
Creating EcoQuest as a lifestyle choice will also enhance your sense of identity, happiness, relationships and what’s more, others around you will notice the change.
What motivated the development of EcoQuest?
Apart from thirty years of tramping in New Zealand and training in eco-therapy, there are a number of biblical change makers who have been the salt that savours during the past fifty years of Christian faith and have been a source of spiritual motivation for developing EcoQuest.
Another important trailblazer and source of encouragement is the Rev Dr H Paul Santmire. Paul is a leader in ecological theology, a position he held for over forty years. This theologian, historian and pastoral scholar has championed the disciplines of ecological theology, environmental ethics and Christian spirituality.
EcoQuest also draws inspiration from sixteenth-century theologians Martin Luther and John Calvin for their less-known views on the immediacy of God’s omnipresence in and of nature. EQ has also been encouraged by some of the constructs of Liberation Theology. This radical movement grew up within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1960s as a response to the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people.
Is EcoQuest influenced by pantheistic belief?
A challenge facing EcoQuest is the perception that pantheism is behind this nature-based initiative.
EcoQuest discounts any implication that holding a flower, gathering pebbles from the beach or drawing inspiration from a landscape reflects the worship of nature.
EcoQuest isn’t influenced by the teachings of eastern religions or paganistic belief. It is also naive and incorrect to believe pantheism somehow holds religious superiority over nature and thereby disqualifies Christian doctrine from practicing eco-biblical meaning because it is deemed pantheistic.
“In God’s natural cathedral, there is growth in silence and healing in the practice of serenity.”
What is meant by Eco-Therapy?
Eco-Therapy is an umbrella team which includes:
- Nature-Based Therapy (a focus of EcoQuest),
- Animal Assisted Therapy,
- Wilderness Quest,
- Somatic Mindfulness-Based Eco-Therapy,
- Forest Bathing and
- Therapeutic Gardens to name a few.
- Nature-Based Eco-therapy includes semi structured outdoor activities that create awareness, meaning, calm and personal growth from connecting with nature’s many land, sea, sky and mountain features.
- Eco-therapy embraces nature as a natural health supplement for enhancing personal well-being, mental health, palliative care or treatment and/or rehabilitation of other health conditions/disorders.
- EcoQuest encourages individuals to see nature as therapist, teacher, nurture or healer.
- Training or study in Eco-Therapy can provided invaluable understanding for developing eco-scriptural meaning that complements Christian spirituality.
Is EcoQuest only available for Christian believers?
EcoQuest is open to anyone regardless of religious persuasion.
While there are Christian themes throughout each quest, individuals will undoubtedly apply their own theological or spiritual insights while respecting the common belief of: ‘God as you understand.’
Are there risks in undertaking an EcoQuest?
Each EcoQuest activity, location and walking track are checked for possible concerns or risks before starting every EcoQuest. Each outdoor activity is rated easy or medium according to each person’s level of fitness and health details provided by each participant at the time of registration.
At all times, your safety and welfare are our primary concerns. For more details, please refer to the online sections on:
“The mental health benefits of nature are complimentary tokens of God’s restorative and transformative love story.”
What is meant by eco-spirituality?
- Eco-spirituality refers to the spiritual dimension of the natural environment and the present ecological crisis.
- Eco spirituality brings together the science of ecology, spirituality and environment activism.
- For some, this earth-based spirituality embraces the practice of pagan religious traditions.
- Proponents of eco-spirituality come from different religious backgrounds and include: Islam; Jainism; Christianity; Catholicism; Judaism; Hinduism; Buddhism and Indigenous traditions.
What is the Place of Nature in World Religions?
In the context of religious traditions, the natural world is rightly revered.
- Buddhists believe all life from the smallest fly to the mighty whales including all animal species are sacred and worthy of compassion.
- For Hindus, every part of the natural world is infused with divinity.
- Muslims believe the natural world was created by Allah and only given to humans as a gift to be held in trust.
- Indigenous cultures worldwide celebrate the natural world as Mother Earth and in 2009 the United Nations established International Mother Earth Day.
What is meant by Ecological Christian Activism?
In recent years, the Christian response to global warming, climate change, sustainability, famine, deforestation and concerns over nuclear armament has given rise to what many Christians are calling; Eco-Theology.
European and American academics, eco-theologians and the ‘Greening God Movement’ is influencing a global Christian discussion on environmental responsibility, theological stewardship and/or earth keeping.
In the broader context, Eco-theology is emerging as a form of constructive theology that studies the relationship between religion and nature. As a result, global efforts have produced numerous religious environmental projects around the world.
Given the state of our planet there is no doubt the time is right for the global church to incentivise unprecedented action for preserving God’s creation.
One such initiative was the launch of A Rocha Aotearoa NZ in 2020 where several churches around New Zealand have joined the eco-church network through an award system. The project is a bold new initiative to support churches to actively care for God’s earth as an integral part of their mission.
The launch coincided with a zero-waste programme which supports churches to reduce their waste through training workshops, resources and waste audits.
The pioneering organization, A Rocha UK has around 3000 churches registered across England and Wales. Climate Sunday brings together the biggest mobilisation of churches to address the climate crisis involving over 1000 churches across the UK.
There is a range of groups and beliefs that are related to earth religions, such as Paganism which is polytheistic (the belief and worship of more than one god). Earth religions involve the worship of the earth, nature or a fertility deity, goddess or matriarchal religious belief.
- Animism has a world view that all living entities including plants, animals, and humans possess a spiritual soul.
- Wicca, holds to the belief in an earth mother goddess as well as the practicing ritual magic and witchcraft.
- Druidism equates divinity with the natural world while others believe there is a connection between earth worship and the Gaia theory (the ancient goddess who personified the earth in Greek mythology).
- Currently there is a resurgence of paganism in modern Europe and north America where historical ethnic religions such as the ancient Norse religion (home of the Thor and Odin gods) is combined with modern movements like the Wicca, Theosophy or other New Age philosophies.
How Great Thou Art
Oh Lord, my God
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art …
“Even though it has taken climate change to awaken Christian activism, the eco-Church initiative has the potential of becoming a world-wide movement during the next decade.’