Thursday, September 7, 2023

Q&A with Daniel Cooperrider




Daniel Cooperrider is the author of the book Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You: A Field Guide to the Bible. Also a teacher and pastor, he lives in Wisconsin.


Q: What inspired you to write Speak with the Earth and It Will Teach You, and how was the book's title chosen?


A: I was inspired while pastoring a small rural church in Vermont with a strong creation care and climate justice ethos. I realized that if I were to make the Bible and spirituality come alive in that community, I needed to find a way of preaching and teaching that was ecologically attuned and inspired by the elemental features of the landscape—trees, mountains, rivers, clouds.


I wanted to write a book that both highlights the beauty of earth-based spirituality, while also speaking to the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis.


The title comes from the book of Job, and invites us as humans to de-center our view from focusing only on ourselves, and re-center and re-engage in the great conversation with the more-than-human world.


Q: The book’s subtitle is “A Field Guide to the Bible.” Can you say more about that concept?


A: I’ve always loved reading field guides as ways of learning about the world, most recently guides to mushrooms and other edible plants while foraging. I love how the “field guide” notion speaks to a book that you bring outside with you, read under the open air, and turn to to help make meaning and sense of the world.


In my case, the notion is used playfully as this is not a scientific guide, but a spiritual, theological, and poetic guide to the world. I hope it still has the plein air invitation of a field guide to get outside and see for yourself the wonders of the world!

Q: The writer Bill McKibben said of the book, “This is a volume that’s equal parts charming and necessary. As we try to grapple with the greatest crisis humans have ever faced, it would be of immeasurable value to have the Bible helping, not hindering. And as Daniel Cooperrider makes clear, that also makes for good theology. This book will make a serious difference!” What do you think of that description?


A: I consider Bill to be the leading climate prophet of our time, and so I was deeply honored by his endorsement. I love his point about needing to harness the power and beauty of the Bible—and spirituality and religion more broadly construed—and bring the gifts of our best religious resources and impulses to bear in our moment of urgent climate crisis and opportunity.


We as a species need to change, and grow, and become more aware and compassionate and loving, and at its best, that is exactly the high purpose task of religion.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: A sense of wonder, awe, and curiosity about the world around them, and about the spiritual lessons that are inherent in nature. I hope readers seek out a tree as a spiritual director, hike a mountain as a spiritual exercise, sit by a river and listen for the ancient words of water dancing around rock.


I hope readers look to the clouds each day as the “daily bread of the eyes,” and the “ultimate art gallery just above us,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called them. I hope readers grow in love and care for the flourishing of the earth.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: In addition to guest preaching, speaking, some new writing, and leading retreats, I most recently completed a Wild Church Leadership training through the Wild Church Network (, and I am beginning to create a Wild Church community named Flicker, a pop-up wild church (that is, outdoor church).


I am inspired by the model to create new ways of not just bringing indoor church outdoors to worship in nature, but seeking ways of worshiping with nature, ways that re-connect and re-align ourselves with the landscapes and ecological communities that we belong to. You can learn more here:


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Speak with the Earth won the Gold Prize in the 2023 Nautilus Book Awards (Religion and Spirituality of the West). You can learn more about the Nautilus Awards (“Better Books for a Better World”) here:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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