Having recently returned from participating in a Growing Food and Faith conference sponsored by the Procter Center in London, Ohio, I would like to share my reflections and thoughts on the experience.
Alive, awake, and aware! These words describe the energy I encountered in meeting the individuals who attended the conference, and the spirit in and around the sites we visited together.
Just imagine a group of 35 or so, gathered together in the “upper room” of the Procter Center, working with their hands with seed and soil. We also focused our minds around the importance of each small seed ball being part of the work of our hands, demonstrating both the spiritual and practical aspects of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Abundant Life Garden Project, our curriculum. This exercise, frankly a contemplative one, allowed the entire room to connect to the idea of planting, growing, and sharing food with others.
Another hands-on project at the Conference that struck me was when most everyone was participating at some level in making raised bed planters, adding soil, or ultimately planting the seedlings for “kitchen gardens.” The multiple raised beds – carefully constructed and, most importantly, connecting all who participated – are much like kitchen gardens planted by families in countries like Honduras and Malawi with support from Episcopal Relief & Development. This effort allowed all to experience both the practical aspects and sacredness of our food.
“Faith and Food” is central to our Christian life, and the farm is central to both faith and food. Indeed, for this author, the farm is both a vocation and often a metaphor. So let us insert “farm” into the equation here, and seek to understand more deeply the consequences of farming practices, and how they impact creation (oikos) – our home. Agrarianism is a practice, a sacramental way of life.
I’ll reflect more on agrarianism in Part 2.
Michael Trent Thompson is Director of the Organic Prayer Project, a program of the Center for Religion and Environment at Sewanee (The University of The South). Actively involved in Faith-Farm-Food initiatives, Thompson weaves biodynamic farm practices with his vocation as a Lay Cistercian (Oblate of St. Benedict). He is founder of the Ecumenical Lay Associates of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, and currently serves on the Commission for Spiritual Growth in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.
Photo: Growing Food and Faith conference attendees participated in several hands-on exercises, including making vertical planters from pallets. Courtesy of Cynthia Coe.