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‘America’s Holy Ground’

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Anyone who knows me well knows I love our national parks.

Hopefully, they also know how important my faith is to me. Recently, I came across a new book that encompasses both of these loves.

It’s called “America’s Holy Ground: 61 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks.” The book was written by Brad Lyons and Bruce Barkhauer and was published by Chalice Press.

Knowing that many likely share my love for the national parks, I thought I’d share with you a bit of information about the book.

“America’s Holy Ground” covers all 61 of the national parks in the U.S. Although you will find valuable information about each park, this book is not a field guide.

Instead, the authors offer a brief devotion or “reflection” on each park. Most parks receive four pages of coverage; some only receive two.

For each park, a Scripture passage is given, and Lyons and Barkhauer choose a one-word theme. Here are some examples of the themes they chose:

  • Grand Canyon: Grandeur
  • Death Valley: Life
  • Crater Lake: Reflection
  • Big Bend: Borders
  • Great Basin: Adversity
  • Petrified Forest: Time
  • Yellowstone: Faithfulness
  • Yosemite: Trust

Sometimes, the themes chosen seem obvious; other times, not so much.

At the conclusion of each devotion, the authors give a series of questions for reflection.

For example, after writing about Everglades National Park (theme: preservation), they ask, “In what ways have you participated in the preservation of creation? Did such an action feel sacred? Does it change your behavior when you realize the world is an interconnected web of meaning in which you cannot affect part without impacting the whole?”

Most of the questions raised truly are thought-provoking. Many remind us that we are all called to be good stewards of God’s creation.

“America’s Holy Ground” includes nearly 200 color photos. Many of these were taken by the authors.

The photographs illustrate the parks well and leave you wishing for more. How do you adequately illustrate a park like Great Smoky Mountains or Yosemite with just two or three photos? You can’t.

The book closes with a benediction, a collection of spiritual sayings connected to nature. Among those quoted are Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Wendell Berry, Maya Angelou, Thomas Merton and Theodore Roosevelt.

Following the benediction, there are a few pages for the owner of the book to journal in when visiting the parks.

If you are a person of faith who loves our national parks, this book is for you. My only complaint about the book is that I wish I had come up with the idea first.

Editor’s note: A version of this review first appeared on Summers’ blog, Seeing Creation. It is used with permission.

Chuck Summers

Chuck Summers is a pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henderson, Kentucky.