One of my friends in Hawaii used to practice what he called "guerilla gardening." Hunter could not afford to purchase land, so wherever he could, he would plant gardens. He would often clear a spot in some of the dense jungle, ridding it of invasive plants and putting in food crops. For a time, he lived in a tent on my property and worked a few hours as a Willing Workers on Organic Farms (Woofer). We would cut invasive grass that was 10 to 15 feet tall, and had barbs, sharp blades, pollen and usually mildew. Unlike much of the area, my property had somewhat level places and fewer rocks. Tending that land was hard work. Hunter's enthusiasm and commitment to making gardens reminded me of Johnny Appleseed - casting blessings wherever he went. Long after he moved off of the island, I would find parsley, turmeric and other gifts. When I tend my bed of greens here, I give thanks for his assistance in those days.
Another friend from many years ago was even more of a rebel gardener. He worked in the Philippines encouraging diverse food crops that would actually feed the people rather than be mono-crop exports. It was pretty dangerous work saving and distributing seeds and encouraging these ways of caring for people and the earth. The ancient practices that may seem benign many places in the world were considered revolutionary.
Our gardening here in Juneau seems tame compared to that. While fishing may not be as abundant as some here recall, there are still opportunities for subsistence hunting and gathering. In the two years I've lived here, people have gifted me with strawberry and raspberry plants. I've bought a few other berry plants. And the harvests have been growing each year. It's not really a revolution, but it feels like a move in the direction of health, wholeness and connection with God's creation.
Last Sunday, Aldersgate United Methodist Church celebrated a Forest Sunday at Auke Rec pavilion. Yes, it was that one blustery, drenching day amidst a few pleasant, sunny ones. But it seemed appropriate for us to thank God for the beauty of the earth in the way we experience most frequently. There is beauty even in the rain when you live in a rainforest. There is music even in the winds and dancing trees. Fortunately, we had that great shelter and a warm fire. We also knew how to dress for the weather. We know something about living in right relationship with our surroundings and that is a great deal of what spiritual practices are all about.
How do we live in right relationship with other people - not just our family and friends, but those who differ in beliefs and practices? How do we live in right relationship with the competing needs for resources and environment? These are questions that faith must address.
"While the Bible has some 490 references about heaven and 530 about love, it contains over 1,000 references to the earth. From beginning to end, the Bible is firmly grounded in the wonder and glory of creation," writes author Rebekah Simon-Peter, in her book "Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!" Aldersgate invites the community to join us in considering these questions of faith and living at our six-week study for all ages from 9:30 until10:45am Sundays beginning Sept.12. The classes for children and adults will have continental breakfast and the middle and high school youth will make their own pancakes.
More and more churches, liberal and progressive, are considering how, as people of faith, we are called to care for creation. Far from the temptation of passive waiting for God to bring the Kingdom in its fullness, we are called to co-create with God, to actively rethink church, and as some suggest redo church.
What will you grow and harvest in your life?
Judy Shook is pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.