It’s not often that seminary students find themselves outdoors for their theology courses. It’s even more unique to be coexisting with wild animals.
Saint Paul School of Theology Science, Theology and Ministry students went to the zoo recently to better react to reflection questions posted by Dr. Nancy Howell. Since Dr. Howell is now serving as Acting President of the seminary, she requested that Dr. Kyle Butler, a 2007 MDiv alum of Saint Paul, lead students at the Kansas City Zoo. Meanwhile she experienced the Oklahoma City Zoo with students from Saint Paul at Oklahoma City University.
Each group opened with the prayer of St. Basil the Great.
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.
The group then answered reflection questions individually while observing wildlife and nature. As they observed the wildlife, students reflected on Scripture passages. They met together at the end of the afternoon to reflect as a group. A highlight was watching the gorillas as each zoo had a baby gorilla around a year old. Several social interactions and feelings were observed while watching the gorillas.
Some students identified with the antics of one species or another. What do you think this identification between a human and an animal means? Is it a welcome or a troubling one? Some students empathized with the animals when they saw them desperate to escape. Another student realized that as humans we can be helpful in saving some species from extinction.
The afternoon concluded with this question, “Are humans the only children of God?” Food for thought.