I’m Gabrielle Poli, a first-year M.Div. student at Pacific School of Religion. I first became excited about the idea of seminary after joining a small church in Maine, a UCC congregation a couple blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. This group made me fall in love with Christianity. It was amazing how they were willing to share big pots of curry with strangers and knit prayer shawls for grieving friends. At the time, I was studying marine ecology as part of my undergrad program and started to wonder if churches could be involved with environmental healing. With the companionship of the church and my favorite book of Mary Oliver poems, it was revealed to me that “ecotheology” is a word and that people have been talking about it for a long time!
My current home church is the Christian Church of Pacific Grove (Disciples of Christ) in California, which I joined after moving to work with their Blue Theology Mission Station last year. I was so grateful to explore marine theology with them: the meeting of spirituality and ocean conservation. I currently work with Creation Justice Ministries as their “Blue Theology fellow” and love imagining how faith communities can engage with the ocean/watersheds. I’m inspired by non-traditional faith gatherings, like Victoria Loorz’s idea of “Church of the Wild.” At Pacific Grove, we celebrate God’s creation in a monthly “Church of the Wild Blue Yonder” service, a contemplative time for wandering on the beach, and a gathering afterwards to share where God led us (emotionally, physically, mentally). I like to think of this as a service where the sea stars, waves, or shorebirds are delivering the sermon.
I’ve not yet decided between the chaplaincy or ordination route, but I hope to serve in the realm of ecology and spirituality. I feel that a faith integrated with ecological care can be a healing, connective process that fosters mental health, community, creativity, and love. I’m also interested in exploring ecumenical/interfaith gatherings. I’ve found so much value through my long-time yoga and meditation practice and am fascinated by the overlap and differences between the many wisdom traditions. I love the opportunity seminary brings to hear others’ faith stories, to be creative, and to exercise theological imagination. I’m excited to explore this and so much more at PSR!