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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 11 November 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Faces of Black Forest
  A minister of the environment
  By Bill Radford

   It has been quite a year for Logan Bennett. In the last 12 months, she has gotten married, been ordained as a minister and settled into a new job at La Foret Conference & Retreat Center in Black Forest.
   Bennett grew up "just down the street a little bit" from La Foret but didn't have any exposure to it as a kid. "I didn't know what it was," she said.
   Now, the history and mission of La Foret are well-known to her. La Foret was once the summer home of philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor. After her death in 1942, the Bemis Taylor Foundation deeded the property to the Colorado Congregational Church, now known as the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ. Today, La Foret operates as a nonprofit, full-service conference and retreat center with a mission of "providing sanctuary to consider the transcendent issues of life." It retains a "strong connection" to the Rocky Mountain Conference but welcomes all denominations, as well as nonreligious groups, Bennett said.
   Bennett was hired late last year as director of transformational programming, a new position.
   "In the most basic sense, my job is to make sure the facility gets really cool events that fit our vision for the future," Bennett said. One such event: "Earth, Sea, Sky: A Heart and Soul Immersion in Ancient Celtic Spirituality” is coming in late November. It is touted as "an immersive and experiential exploration of Gaelic and Welsh ancestral traditions" and is an example, Bennett said, of "more contemplative programming" that she is working to introduce.
   Previously, Bennett worked at Lakewood United Church of Christ for 18 months "in a variety of positions." She was ordained in February but doesn't have a burning desire to lead her own church, at least not for now. "I think that the churches in this region are in really good hands, and what we need is more innovative outside-the-church ministry," she said. "So I'm really glad to be here. I like doing ministry and serving the community in a different way."
   Faith was not really a part of her life growing up. "We went to church a handful of times a year," Bennett recalled. But growing up in the Forest did shape her.
   "I spent almost all of my time outside," she said. The family rule was no TV watching while the sun was up, and there were 6 acres to explore. "I had two older brothers that didn't like to play with me too much, so I just spent a lot of time just kind of by myself in the woods, and I think it formed a lot of who I am and my understanding of spirituality and how the world's connected."
   When she was a junior in high school, she began attending the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Colorado Springs; a neighbor had told her that it was a progressive church –- "different than you would expect," she was told.
   "The pastor was very social justice oriented in his messages and that was something that really resonated with me,” Bennett said. “I just felt really comfortable there."
   She became more involved in the church and, in considering her future, "I realized ministry was a job and people could do that for their work. And the idea just stuck with me." She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology at Colorado College and a master's in divinity at Iliff School of Theology. She and new husband Matthew live in south Denver.
   Bennett, 32, still has a passion for the outdoors; most weekends, you'll find her and Matthew up in the mountains, hiking or rock climbing or ice climbing. At La Foret, Bennett tries to take multiple walks in the woods every day, soaking in the serenity.
   "One of the reasons people love La Foret is it's just a really peaceful place to be."
   She is also passionate about various causes, including the fight against climate change.
   "That's probably my No. 1 thing I'm concerned about," she said. "I feel like we're approaching living in a 'Mad Max' world." She tries to stay positive though; she praises efforts to be "more green" at La Foret but looks at what more could be done, such as large-scale composting or the creation of an eco-camp.
   Another cause: LGBTQ rights. "As an organization, I think that's one of the places we've done a lot of good work," she said. "Our camps especially are very open and welcoming.”
"One of the reasons people love La Foret is it's just a really peaceful place to be," said Logan Bennett, La Foret Conference & Resort Center's director of transformational programming. Photo by Bill Radford
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