Thursday, September 3, 2009

Redemption of the Earth - Part II

Community Gardens - An Eden-oriented shift in Church Culture:

Yesterday I did the "field-trip" portion of a story I'm writing about churches involved with the community garden movement. I drove to Ocoee, part of the Orlando sprawl,where I interviewed a Methodist pastor as well as the church member spearheading the project.

Additionally, over the past week, I've conducted several phone interviews, talked with people involved in a similar initiative in Delray Beach, and looked at a lot of information on-line.

Everyone has a unique story about the "why?" of getting involved, the "how?" of what's going down in their particular location, and the all important "so what?" now the ball has been rolling a while and some measurable results are beginning to add up. The details may be different in every location, but there's unanimity when it comes to the "Big Picture" conclusion.

The Big Picture is up on the wall and it's a picture of God's ongoing redemptive action in this world, both in the community where we live and globally, and how the local church has a huge part to play in the delivery of grace.

Right off I noticed two arms involved in the same hug. First is the practical; wasteland is being reclaimed, food is being cultivated, and people are being fed. The rest of the hug is educational, theological, and metaphorical. By that I mean that something is happening that's much bigger than "x-number of people being fed" and "y-number of acres under cultivation". What's happening is an "Eden-oriented" shift in church culture (that's my phrase, it just felt like it needed "quotes"!); there's a reclaiming of an ancient mandate and it's all about understanding our relationship to creation.

Here's a little of what's happening in Ocoee: The preacher felt inspired to challenge the congregation to give more freely; not so much to the budget of the church as to the community around them. So the congregation had this giant "Free Yard-sale." People bought car-loads of stuff to the church, they set up like a flee-market, and they wouldn't take a penny. It was huge.

They were, essentially, capturing the spirit of Acts 2. Here are some highlights:
  • Jesus-followers broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts
  • They gave to anyone as need became evident.
  • They praised God and enjoyed the favor of all the people
So what, you may ask, has this got to do with gardening? A logical extension of the concept was to give away food. A lot of churches feed the homeless, help with co-op grocery programs, have bags of non-perishables ready to go at all times, provide food to people in need, etc. etc.. We do that at my church (First Presbyterian in Brandon) and a whole lot more... But someone at the Ocoee church said "Let's grow fresh vegetables and give them away..."

Consequently, a one-acre lot behind the church has become this enormous vegetable garden. It has been excavated, graded, re-soiled, irrigated and fenced. It is planned, zoned, cultivated, programed and maintained by a team. A lot of church members are involved, and people from the community help too. Families from the church can take vegetables, and people from the community can enjoy them too. The project has enjoyed success, failure, crops, pests, rot, bad ideas, poor execution, harvest, teamwork, joy and tears. In short, the community garden is a work in progress.

But - and back to The Big Picture - the church is educating itself, its members, and the community about sustainability, organic foodstuffs, nutrition, stewardship of the earth, balanced diet, pesticides, fresh foods, generosity, etc. etc. There is an obvious shift in the church culture that is theological at its roots, practical in its application, and prophetic in terms of its relationship to the community.

I like that!
  • Theological at its roots
  • Practical in its application
  • and Prophetic in terms of its relationship to the community
Lots more here - but I'm out of time. Gotta do some writing someone actually pays for!

In the meanwhile, do me a favor and start sharing this blog with everyone you know.
Love and blessings - DEREK

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