“To Plant a Garden Is To Believe In Tomorrow” (Audrey Hepburn)
As The Keep & Till, we’ve entered yet another season of our life together.
If the first season was about generating interest, and the following season was about sustaining that interest, this season is about building a structure to house this fledgling community of faith. We do not mean finding a building. Rather, we are asking: how we structure our life together? At the same time, we are learning that setting deadlines, while useful and important in many ways, can be a synthetic imposition upon this fledgling body. This church is indeed a body; it has its own DNA, rhythms, and capacities. While this can be frustrating at times, it’s a constant reminder that we are still a soil-based body. Our health will be found not by transforming ourselves into something we are not, but rather by respecting all that God has already made us to be.
Most urgently, we are working on our agricultural expression. Without a formal place to call “home,” we always sensed that this was going to be a difficult piece to organize, and undoubtedly it has proven to be that way. Managing a “farm” spread out over multiple garden plots over half a county is a challenge, no doubt. But we’ve found that our folks are flexible and eager! So we are working now to prepare the soil. We’re a bit behind because of the unseasonably cool temperatures of a mid-Atlantic spring, but we are nearly finished the process of turning yards into gardens. Once that task is complete, we’ll begin planting.
We have two separate approaches for these patches. We plan to use the larger garden plots to produce large quantities of easily usable food – tomatoes, peppers, beans, root vegetables, and the like. The goal here is to produce as much as possible to be donated to local efforts to further our county’s efforts against hunger. The smaller plots are aimed at education. We are planting themed gardens, which will allow us to use the produce to teach people basic food preservation techniques. For instance, we have a “salsa garden,” where tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro are all grown together. We also have a “pickle garden,” complete will pickles, dill, peppers, and onions. We’ll host classes throughout the summer as the produce comes in. Following the summer season, we’ll repurpose all of these plots to produce cool-weather crops that we can sell to local restaurants as an investment in the local food movement in our county.
However, going outdoors shouldn’t just be for work; we want to play! We have a slate of summer activities for folks to just get outside, disconnected from media, technology, and stale air! We’re doing everything from outdoor movies to kayaking on our local reservoir to an overnight camping trip at a local park. Each of these activities is to demonstrate not only the benefits of being outside, but also to show that one doesn’t have to be a mountaineer to enjoy such benefits.
Finally, we are at the place in our organizational life where we realize there is a “critical mass.” We have a viable congregation who understand the vision and want to see this mission thrive, and it now falls to us to organize that congregation according to our values and point it towards our goals. Therefore, we have begun the work of creating our 501(c)3. In accordance with our values, we believe that there is much to be gained in looking at past ecclesial structures, and we hope to learn valuable lessons in using them as models. However, we also believe that this unique expression of church may require a unique structure moving forward. So we are knee-deep in important questions: What does it mean to be a member? What is the role of the pastor? One of our critiques of current congregational life is that worship can easily be separated from mission; we worship together, but we serve apart. How do we find a way to do mission in the same connected way? Our hope is that by answering these deeper questions, the structure of the organization will make itself apparent.
So that’s what we’re up to these days. All in all, it truly is spring –we’re really excited for what lies ahead, but there’s a lot of sweat and sore muscles to get there. Yet we remain encouraged! Every time we think we have come to a breaking point, our people push past the barrier. For this, we give thanks to the Holy Spirit. We also have this community here in the Christian food movement to thank as well; you all keep us encouraged and regularly remind us that this isn’t just a crazy project being hatched in the hills of Carroll County MD, but rather a movement of God at this particular time. We are honored to be a part. Peace and good!