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Author talks God, nature and humans’ place in the universe

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

Gary Kowalski has pondered where humans fit into the universe for decades. His questions mirror those asked at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb.

This weekend both will discuss the question, along with many more when Kowalski holds a book talk at 7 p.m. today and delivers a sermon at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N. Fourth St.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Kowalski, a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Divinity School, has written seven books on spirituality and nature. He is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and currently serves as the interim pastor to the Community Church of Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

“To be able to listen to someone who has had and taken the time and thoughtfully, with education, contemplated an understanding of science and God, it’s a gift,” said the Rev. Linda Slabon of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb.

His book talk tonight and sermon on Sunday will give people time to reflect on the place where humanity fits into the universe, Kowalski said.

“I hope people will come with an open mind,” he said.

Church officials approached Kowalski about visiting because his work has been at the heart of ongoing conversations. A study group of about 13 people at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has been discussing Kowalski’s book, “Science and the Search for God.” Among those is Toni Tolerud, who encouraged anyone with a hint of curiosity to attend the book talk and sermon.

“He has a fascinating outlook on God,” Tolerud said. “I think he raises issues that make you question deeper and reflect on the interconnectedness.”

Kowalski also has a connection to DeKalb. His brother, Jeff, is professor in the art department at Northern Illinois Unversity.

A reception and book signing will start at 6:15 p.m. today. Kowalski will deliver his talk, “Celebrating Our Kinship with Creation” at 7 p.m., which will be followed by refreshments and socializing. In his talk, Kowalski will share what sparked his journey to discover nature as the primordial sacrament and embrace the belief that humans are not the only species with emotional depth or mental capacity.

Kowalski said it started after hearing the story of Koko, a female gorilla renowned for her use of American sign language as well as the pets she keeps. Among those pets was All Ball, a kitten who escaped from Koko’s cage and was hit by a car.

When Koko’s trainers told her about All Ball, she signed “frown, cry, frown, sad,” Kowalski recalled from a story he heard.

“I realized my personal burden and pain wasn’t just mine,” Kowalski said. “I was part of this narrative that has been going on for millions of years.”

On Sunday, Kowalski will deliver a sermon, “At Home in the Cosmos.” His sermon was inspired by the spacecraft Voyager 1, which last fall became the first manmade object to travel outside of earth’s solar system to reach interstellar space.

Kowalski suggests science is beginning to answer the age-old questions of where humans fit into the universe and if earth is alone. He also said science has started to lay a foundation for a spirituality that acknowledges the universe is more hospitable and generous toward human hopes than previously imagined.

“I hope that people will come away from my talk on Sunday with a deepened sense of reverence and appreciation of the universe,” Kowaski said. “We are one thread in a beautiful tapestry.”

———

If you go

What: Gary Kowalski book talk, "Celebrating Our Kinship with Creation"

When: 7 p.m. today; reception and book signing begins at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N. Fourth St.

Cost: Free

What: Gary Kowalski sermon, "At Home in the Cosmos"

When: 10 a.m. Sunday

Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, 158 N. Fourth St.

Cost: Free

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