In 2009, Stephen Blackmer stepped away from a 25 year career in conservation to go to church for the first time in his life, be baptized, attend Yale Divinity School, and become a priest. His was an unusual response to a question that many people feel: How can I be of greater service in responding to climate change?
Steve’s path reflects his belief that head-knowledge such as science, technology, and economics, while critical to addressing climate change, are not enough. Such a massive, intractable, and possibly hopeless problem also demands opening, and even breaking, our hearts. This is a spiritual response, calling us to be transformed as human beings, an undertaking best explored with guidance from the world’s religious traditions. With deeper religious experience and knowledge, the environmental community can learn once again to speak genuinely in the language that most of our society uses to talk of our deepest values and concerns – the language of religion – and thereby to connect more widely with the American populace about climate change.
To pursue this, Steve is forming a network of people committed to connecting their environmental action with spiritual and religious transformation – a network he calls the “Green Friars” (without limitation as to gender or faith) – and creating a new multi-faith church, The Church of the Woods in Canterbury NH, particularly to serve people who find “God” in nature.
Prior to taking this path, Steve served as founder and president of the Northern Forest Center, founding chairman of the Northern Forest Alliance, co-chair of Americans for our Heritage and Recreation, conservation programs director for the Appalachian Mountain Club, and policy director of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Steve is an Environmental Fellow with the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, was a Bullard Fellow at Harvard University, and was awarded the National Conservation Partnership Award for his work in building partnerships and networks to conserve the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
Steve received his Master’s degree in Religion from Yale Divinity School in 2012 with a focus on Christianity spirituality and the environment; he also holds a Master’s degree in Forestry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Dartmouth College. Steve was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in February and will be ordained a priest in the fall of 2013. He lives with his wife, Kelly Short, in Canterbury, New Hampshire. You can explore his emerging work at Kairos Earth.