RNA Is Growing

Last weekend I was cutting an apple for baked oatmeal (a Pennsylvania thing) when I noticed something odd. As I sliced through the apple’s core, where there would normally be a space around each seed, long spindly white things were woven between adjacent seed chambers. Looking closer, I realized that each apple seed inside the core had sprouted, and the white threads were rootlets, each nearly an inch long, already growing and tangling together inside a fresh apple.  

Maybe I should introduce myself. I am thrilled to be your new RNA Secretary, and feeling a bit daunted by it for two reasons: (1) Michael Cavenaugh left me some size 15 Secretary-shoes to fill, and (2) our President Ursula Goodenough’s recent flurry of book interviews has meant a deluge of new members (???? waves excitedly at the new members!) so there’s a lot to keep up with. I will do my best.  

After 25 years of sharing profound insights from nature in K-12 science classrooms, this past June I struck out on my own as a “science ambassador,” effectively expanding my student base to include anyone who will listen????. RNA members and officers have been wonderfully encouraging during these months of steep learning curves and fast professional growth. 


This time of year, I am often surprised at life’s enthusiasm for growth. Like those apple seeds, life expands into new territories so boldly, and so impatiently, that I’m nudged to do likewise. In that light, I think we may be entering a spring of sorts for this Association of people who “take nature to heart.” Why do I think so? Let me count the ways…


1- Our membership is rapidly approaching 1,000 people, from all over the planet, and while there’s nothing objectively special about round numbers in an arbitrary number system, 1,000 still feels like a milestone to me. We are on track to fly past it in the next few weeks.


2- The term “Religious Naturalist” is rapidly (dare we say “exponentially”?) gaining a foothold in the larger culture.


3- RNA’s Operations Team, which we affectionately call The Hub, has more ideas than it can possibly manage for pushing that envelope further and faster. 


4- Sometime in the next few months The Hub will use this monthly newsletter to describe our unique, very mycelial plan for coordinating this growing global group of enthusiastic volunteer members. 


5- Once the plan is out “in the wild,” like any evolving fungal network, I predict it will grow in a thousand different directions at once, with your selection-pressures and energy to guide and nurture it. 


6- I’ve met enough of you to know that there’s so much talent and enthusiasm in our members, RNA’s growth will be astounding to watch. Where does your joy align with RNA’s mission to bring a naturalistic worldview to a needy world? 


Watch for it! In the meantime, get out and dig deep into all the ways life is emerging and persisting where you are. 


In appreciation, 


JD Stillwater

RNA Secretary



To be of the Earth is to know

the restlessness of being a seed

the darkness of being planted

the struggle toward the light

the pain of growth into the light

the joy of bursting and bearing fruit

the love of being food for someone

the scattering of your seeds

the decay of the seasons

the mystery of death

and the miracle of birth.

    —John Soos, in Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, Earth Prayers