JESSICA HETHERINGTON, Ecotheologian

Getting out in the canoe is one of my favourite activities. Photo by Jessica Hetherington
The Ottawa River watershed. Map courtesy of ottawariverkeeper.ca
I live right in the City of Ottawa, closest to the Rideau River.

More about me….

My passion for ecology and Christian faith began in my teens, with the founding of an Environment Club at my Catholic high school, and the creation of my first organic garden with a high school friend. Later, my concerns about how we change our actions in response to the ecological crisis came to a head when I became a mother and became dismayed by the magnitude of the problem of environmental change and how difficult it seemed to be to respond effectively. It became very clear to me that recycling and line drying my clothes were only minor efforts in the wider scheme of things, and this led me to ask the question that has driven my life and work for nearly 20 years: How could I, and ordinary people like me, become able to engage in the really difficult work ahead of lifestyle changes, massive reduction in our consumption habits, moving away from fossil fuels, and the like?

This led me to graduate school, where I began to explore the question of how we can change our behaviour in response to the ecological crisis within the realm of Christian faith. Through the course of writing my dissertation, I discovered something that changed my entire worldview professionally, personally and spirituality: I discovered that the behaviour changes that we are required to make in response to the ecological crisis, as Christians, is about discipleship. It is about a radical, faithful response to God lived out in our actions. My graduate research in this area clearly struck a chord in others, leading to being awarded numerous awards, including the prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship.

Eventually, my understanding of discipleship and how it is to be lived out in our current era of ecological devastation deepened to the extent that I heard God calling me to pursue ordained ministry. Ordained in 2018, I have been blessed to be able to bring together my twin vocations as an ecotheologian and an ordained minister into a satisfying ministry of speaking, preaching and teaching on behalf of God’s creation.

I have served in numerous congregations in the Ottawa area, and taught courses at Saint Paul University, Montreal School of Theology, and the Ottawa School of Theology and Spirituality since 2006. I have been offering lectures and workshops to individuals and communities since 2005. In addition to my  published academic work, I am currently working on two writing projects, one a short overview of ecotheology, and a book on understanding Christian discipleship in response to the ecological crisis.

I am a settler who lives on unceded Algonquin territory in the Ottawa River watershed. I live less than an hour from the land on which I learned to walk, talk and fall in love with the natural world. Along with my spouse and children, I am committed to learning the ways in which this region has formed me and my love for God and the world.

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