Areas of Expertise
- Religion and Science
Liturgy: theology and practice
Ritual and Ecology
Natural burial as a spiritual practice
Baptism: history, theology, renewal
The Wisdom in a ‘post-truth’ culture
B.A., Capital University
S.T.M., Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Ph.D., Emory University
Rev. Dr. Benjamin Stewart is the Gordon A. Braatz Associate Professor of Worship and Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he has taught since 2008.
Dr. Stewart's academic work illuminates how various forms of liturgical participation are theologically generative, especially for the work of liberation and renewal, and for everyday life in the world.
In addition to his contributions to churchwide liturgical resources and other academic and public scholarship, Ben is author of A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology (2011). His current book project is a liturgical ecotheology of funeral practices, tentatively titled Returning to the Earth: the Spiritual Wisdom of Natural Burial.
Ben recently completed his second, three-year term as convener of the Ecology and Liturgy seminar of the North American Academy of Liturgy.
A Lutheran pastor, Ben served as pastor to a small congregation in the Appalachian region of Ohio and as village pastor to Holden Village retreat center in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of Washington, where he now serves on the board of directors.
An avid backpacker and fan of poetry read aloud, Ben lives in the Chicago suburbs with his spouse, Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, who works in population health nursing.
Returning to the Earth: the Spiritual Wisdom of Natural Burial (forthcoming)
A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth's Ecology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2011).
Worship Guidebook for Lent and the Three Days. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2009). With Susan Briehl, Mark Mummert, Liv Larson, and Gail Ramshaw.
“Little Apocalypse: How Green Funeral Practitioners Reconfigure the Iconography of Climate Catastrophe.”
“Little Apocalypse: How Green Funeral Practitioners Reconfigure the Iconography of Climate Catastrophe.”Currents in Theology and Mission 47, no. 3 (June 10, 2020).
“Fertile Ground for Conservation Burial.” Call to Worship 52, no. 4 (May 2019).
“Fault-lines in the Graveyard: The Contested Nature of Green Burial.”
“Fault-lines in the Graveyard: The Contested Nature of Green Burial.”Dialog 57, no. 4 (Winter 2018).
“The All in All Saints Day.”
“The All in All Saints Day.”Living Lutheran, November 2018.
“All Flesh is Grass: Natural Burial as Embodiment of Wisdom Literature’s Mortality Tradition.” Proceedings of the 2017 North American Academy of Liturgy: 153-164.
“Food and funerals: why meals matter for Christian mortality and how we might respond gustatorily to changing death practices.” Liturgy 32, no. 2 (April 3, 2017): 52–61.
“The Church’s Morning Song: Guiding our Feet into the Way of Peace.” CrossAccent: Journal of the Association of American Lutheran Church Musicians 24, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 6–11.
“Stream, Flood and Spring: Water Renewing the Earth and the Church.” (cover story) Living Lutheran, April 2016.
“What’s the Right Rite: Treating Environmental Degradation as Sickness or Sin.” Currents in Theology and Mission 43, no. 2 (March 22, 2016).
“The Earth is Full of Your Glory.” Currents in Theology and Mission 43, no. 2 (March 22, 2016).
“Why We Need an Altar Call to the Font.” The Yale ISM Review 2, no. 1, Article 3 (2015).
“Listening for the Accents: Noticing Patterns in the Conversation about Table and Font.” in Let’s Talk: Living Theology in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod 19, no. 4 (Advent 2014).
“Invitation and Open Table.” in Table and Font: Who is Welcome?, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2014.
“The Place of Earth in Lutheran Funeral Rites: Mapping the Current Terrain.” Dialog 53, no. 2 (June 1, 2014): 118–126.
"A Forgotten Body of Knowledge? The Earth as Tutor in Prayer." Let’s Talk: Living Theology in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod 18, no. 2 (Easter 2013).
“The Risen Gardener.” Blogging Toward Sunday, Easter Sunday 2013, on The Christian Century website.
“Palm/Passion and Paradox.” Blogging Toward Sunday, Palm/Passion Sunday 2013, on The Christian Century website.
“Living By the Word: Easter Sunday 2013.” The Christian Century, March 20, 2013, p. 23.
“Living By the Word: Palm Sunday 2013.” The Christian Century, March 20, 2013, p. 22.
"Worship Without Walls: Taking Liturgy to the Streets." (cover story) The Christian Century 129, no. 20 (October 3, 2012): 22–25.
“Spiritual Nomads: Exploring the Landscape, Points of Interest of Young Adults in Worship.” (cover story) The Lutheran, August 2012, p. 20-25.
Edited volume: Liturgy 27.2, theme issue on Liturgy and Ecology, February 2012, invited guest editor.
“Committed to the Earth: Ecotheological Dimensions of Christian Burial Practices.” Liturgy 27.2 (February 2012).
“Lessons and the Arts for Advent 2 – 4 and Christmas Day.” Lectionary Homiletics and GoodPreacher.com (December 2011).
"Water in Worship: The Ecology of Baptism." The Christian Century 128, no. 3 (February 2011).
“‘I Too Must Sing When All Things Sing:’ Paul Gerhardt’s Nature Hymns.” CrossAccent: Journal of the Association of American Lutheran Church Musicians 15, no. 1 (2007): 40-44.
“Liturgical Preparation: Reviving the Center by Reaching Toward the Horizon.” Liturgical Ministry 16 (Winter 2007): 30-35.
“O Blessed Spring: Paschal Initiation in an Age of Ecological Disintegration.” Seattle University Theology Review 6 (2006): 76-88.
“Flooding the Landscape: Luther's Flood Prayer and Baptismal Theology.” CrossAccent: Journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians 13, no. 1 (2005): 4-14.
“Robert Hovda: Facing the Assembly.” Worship 78, no. 5 (September 2004): 421-444.
On the eco-sacramental dimensions of death practices (title TBD), in the T&T Clark Companion to Sacraments and Sacramentality, 2021.
On Gordon Lathrop’s liturgical theology (title TBD), in Doing Liturgical Theology: Method in Context, eds. Jason McFarland and Stephen Burns. Peeters, 2020.
“The Earth We Carry: Cooperation and Tactility in Funeral Practices” in Fully Conscious, Fully Active: Essays in Honor of Gabe Huck, eds. Bryan Cones and Stephen Burns. Chicago: Liturgical Training Publications, 2020.
“Wisdom’s Buried Treasure: Ecological Cosmology in Funeral Rites” in Full of Your Glory: Liturgy, Cosmos, Creation, ed. Teresa Berger. Liturgical Press, 2019.
Essays on Psalms 15, 49:1-12, 52, 85, 107:1-9, and 138, in Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship: Year C, Volume 2, Season After Pentecost. eds. Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby. Westminster John Knox, 2019.
“Natural Burial,” in In Sure and Certain Hope: A Funeral Sourcebook, ed. Melinda Quivik. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2017).
“The Stream, the Flood, the Spring: the Liturgical Role of Flowing Waters in Eco-Reformation,” in Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril, eds. James Martin Schramm and Lisa Dahill. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2016.
“What, then, do theologians mean when they say ‘culture’?” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland? After Twenty Years: The Ongoing Life of the Lutheran World Federation Study Series on Worship and Culture. ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.
“Baptismal Water in Lutheran Worship and on the Earth: A Living, Sacramental Landscape” in Eco-Lutheranism: Lutheran Perspectives on Ecology. eds. Shauna Hannen and Karla Bohmbach. Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2013, 87–99.
Blue Christmas' Services Offer Refuge From Holiday Cheer. Weekend Edition Saturday, National Public Radio, December 21, 2019 (winner of the 2020 Religion Communicators Council's Wilbur Award).
Ash Wednesday Brings A 'Welcome Honesty' To Discussions About Mortality. Here & Now, National Public Radio, March 6, 2019.
Interview of Don Saliers and Emily Saliers. Practical Matters: A Transdisciplinary Multimedia Journal of Religious Practices and Practical Theology, Issue 1. Spring 2009.