Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba and the Cahaba Environmental Center

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Kim Hall and Benga Harrison

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. – Psalm 8:1-8

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From the beginning, God gave humankind dominion over creation; thereby, creating humankind’s first call to stewardship. God has never taken that command away. This call to stewardship, to make “disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), and to “let the little children come to me” (Matt 19:14) inspired the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley to create sacred space – Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba.

In 2001, the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley sold two camping facilities and purchased a unique and important site in central Alabama. It is located on 440 acres of majestic forests and fronts 4 miles of the Cahaba River, one of the most biodiverse rivers in all of North America.

Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba continues the presbytery’s long tradition of youth camping and spiritual retreats. It is a place of natural and spiritual beauty where the soul is nourished and the spirit renewed. It is the perfect place to teach the importance of God’s call to stewardship.

Held by the waters of Living River, the Cahaba Environmental Center (CEC) was created with this in mind. What better way to teach people how to take care of the land than by showing them the ways to fall in love with it?

We at the CEC invite students of all ages into our backyard and immerse them in this special place. Students spend between three to five days exploring creation in all forms, from the tiniest carpenter ants to a whitetail deer to the stars sprinkling the night sky on a cool autumn night. At first, the students may be hesitant, scared even of some of the amazing, unpredictable forces of the natural world, but soon, both children and adults at the CEC slowly but surely discover the power of wonder for the natural world. As Rachel Carson said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Whether they understand it yet or not, these children are falling in love with the land and steadily becoming stewards of both land and water here on Earth. Their experience on the Living River property prepares them to care for this sacred space, along with all other natural spaces they come in contact with.

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At the Cahaba Environmental Center and Living River, we hope to open the door to the outdoors. We aim to bridge the gap between science and religion, between the environment and the church, between people and the land. We wish to someday live in a world where people understand the importance of becoming stewards of God’s creation. Our dream is to create this perfect world on a small scale, to build a model for how the world could and should be. And thus, we have created a Living River that we hope will wash away the barriers between people and the natural world, creating a path to stewardship and a commitment to a better world and a better us.

kimKim Hall is Director of the Cahaba Environmental Center, Contact her at




BengaBenga Harrison is Development Director for Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba, Contact her at