When he’s not meeting with student leaders of chartered religious organizations on campus, providing pastoral care to university community members, or planning events to foster interfaith dialogue, University Chaplain Tim Auman is navigating ways to incorporate sustainability into the university’s spiritual agenda.
“We try to create opportunities for people from all faith backgrounds to identify shared values,” Auman said. “Certainly one of the values that all of the religions of the world share is an interest in environmental sustainability.”
Despite this, Auman admits that until recent years, religious attention to stewardship and interconnectivity has been disconnected from everyday life.
“Most of the religious traditions represented on campus see great value in connecting the spiritual journey with the natural world around us. Whether in examining the cosmos or climbing mountains, interacting with nature can act as a vehicle between the sacred and the natural world,” he said.“Yet as we enjoy nature, we have disregarded stewardship because our focus has been so set on the future and the spiritual. That kind of thinking or theology has not always been helpful to us as stewards of creation.”
Auman is working alongside fellow Office of the Chaplain staff members as well as other offices on campus to bridge this gap through education and earnest discussion, though the going has not always been easy.“People feel that they have to sacrifice their beliefs in order to engage in these discussions, but you just have to be open to new possibilities. If we allow ourselves to do that, we realize that most all of us have the same needs. We want clean air and water, enough food, work to do. Those are shared values that we all have.”
To this educational end, the Office of the Chaplain has worked closely with the Office of Sustainability to support the recent screening of Renewal. Auman is also working alongside School of Divinity student, Kayla Pucey, who is developing an interfaith Spring Break backpacking trip with sustainability as a focus.
“One of the things that concerns me about this generation is that you spend so little time outside and have less of an appreciation for the natural world because of this,” he said.
Auman’s personal relationship with sustainability is, fittingly, spiritual. He attempts to orient his life around simplicity by conscientious consumption and frequent reflection, particularly in the splendor of nature.
“Growing up in a materialist culture, I thought that if I accumulated enough stuff, it would contribute to my well-being. Over the years, I’ve realized that that is not really true,” he said. “One of the things I take really seriously now is my own spending habits. I try to be very intentional about buying only things that I need and trying to reuse things as opposed to buying something new. Part of what I’m doing is a spiritual practice to simplify my life.”
By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern