Discussing the precious gifts of food and faith

Community invited to once-a-month series on the first Sunday

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2009

This summer was a fabulous time to start a garden in Juneau. Many have just winterized our gardens with seaweed. It is a great time to give thanks for food and abundance of our wonderful earth.

Our church sold seaweed at the farmer's market as a fundraiser for children and youth ministries. There were a number of folks who were too busy or not physically able to gather their own.

Having farmed most recently in Hawaii for six years, the differences amuse me at best. Farming has been a part of my life from the beginnings in Oklahoma, where in early grade school my parents gave us an allowance for seeds and a space of our own to tend.

I was a picky eater, but I loved the carrots I grew. By the time I was in middle school, I was driving the tractor and tending the family ranch and caring for animals as part of our family's food production. In high school, I became a Future Farmer of America. Land, plant and animal care have stayed with me long after my FFA jacket with the State Farmer award. All of the places I've lived I've enjoyed walking in the garden or the wild and eating food freshly picked.

Family memories are often richest around food from fishing to cooking to licking the beater of the homemade ice cream. Both my Native American grandparents and my Scot-Irish grandparents taught the importance of knowing where your food comes from and giving thanks for the life given that sustains your life.

My dad hunted all sorts of animals that he ate as a child and wanted us to try them all - squirrels, deer, rabbits and various fowl. I turned up my nose at the thought of eating opossum or skunk and many of the "cute" ones were hard to eat. Many animals I raised also became food.

Here in Alaska, I continue to learn about issues of subsistence eating and farming. I had a hard time saying goodbye to my wonderful crop of lettuces and snow peas that feed me for months.

Food affects us all. Many folks find their survival skills most highly practices by driving and eating at the same time or even just squeezing time in to make thru the drive-through between getting the kids to everything on their schedules. Too many in our community do not know the source of their next meal.

There are many issues around how we use and share food that will be explored in a once-a-month series on food and faith.

The community is invited to this series, with a potluck dinner and program, held on the first Sundays of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. Guest speakers who are experts in the theme will join us:

• Nov. 1 - Celebrating the gifts of Food; Bring a favorite food of someone you love who has died. We will share these in a potluck meal in honor of All Saints day. This time of year many different religions honor those who have died.

• Dec. 6 - How eating affects our health and challenges with food addictions.

• Jan. 3 - Food production and justice issues (hunger, farm workers rights, etc.).

• Feb. 7 - Food production and our environment.

Suggested reading for this series are books such as Food and Faith by Wendy Whiteside and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, along with numerous books with related topics. Any the resources online are also abundant. I'm excited to be a part of a newly forming "Slow Food" group which will also be addressing similar issues.

Necessary source for our existence, a source of pleasure, nourishing on many levels, food is a precious gift from God. Food is one of the things we are called to steward, to use wisely and share generously.

• Judy Shook is pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

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