Monday, August 26, 2013


FOR A GOOD NUMBER OF YEARS I have had a dream of turning some unused church property on the other side of Zayante Creek into a community orchard. It's presently host to a number of local tree species and healthy stands of poison oak as well as temporary homesites for some of local homeless folks.

Truthfully, we have never really done anything with this property since the founding days of our church over 50 years ago. When I returned as senior pastor to what is now the Felton Bible Church we were in the throes of a land swap with the California State Parks system who desired that piece to complete a hiking and horse trail system.  Long story, short, we couldn't give that property away and not for want of trying...but I digress.

I have just finished reading "Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith" by Fred Bahnson. I can simply say, that this book has reinvigorated my hopes in building a God-honoring community garden with the deep desire not only to feed the hungry of our community (The San Lorenzo Valley) but also to be a good steward of the land that God gave this fellowship of Christians over 50 years ago.

The title of the book is an apt description as we follow the spiritual and horticultural pilgrimage of the author. We watch as he grows not only in his knowledge of the care of God's land, bu also what it means to minister to "the least of these." (Matthew 25:31-46) We follow him through times of success and failure, we meet those who will stand shovel to shovel with him to develop his community gardens as well as those who seem dead-set to stand in his way.

Fred Bahnson allows you to tag along as he recounts his pilgrimage journey that will take him to the Mepkin Abby and it's mushroom growing monks, to Chiapas, Mexico. From the garden project of Tierra Nueva and it's "Underground Coffee Project to the weeklong celebration of Sukkot in the Jewish farming community of Adamah Farm in Connecticut.

The reader will not only gain keen insight into sustainable organic community-enhancing gardening, but maybe more importantly, they will encounter the vital spiritual truth of our responsibility to be good stewards of the land which is not ultimately ours, but God's.

Bahnson quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel work, "The Sabbath," "There is a great longing in the world." I believe there has been a great longing in me to put back into the land more than I have taken out (which is a lot), and this book has gone a long way to moving me to seek to bring life to the dream of a true community orchard. One not owned by the church to serve the down-and-outers, but one that is simply seeking to be good stewards of God's blessings and allow the community to share in those blessings.

If you enjoy gardening, if you like to read of spiritual pilgrimages that cross borders of race and creed, then I highly recommend this book to you. Maybe, like me, yours will become dog-eared, underlined, and annotated and then passed to some one like heart and soul, and who thinks that dirt under the fingernails is not always a bad thing.

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