Food, Faith, Land & Sustainable Agriculture – Reverend Nurya Love Parish

Food, Faith, Land & Sustainable Agriculture – Reverend Nurya Love Parish


So I was asked to give a flash talk
about the Faithlands Network. I’m Nurya Love Parish and an Episcopal
priest. I co-founded a farm-based ministry in
greater Grand Rapids, Michigan. But,
even though you’re going to see a picture of that farm-based ministry in a
minute, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about this broader work that is underway,
that has barely begun and that is still very much beginning. So the Faithlands Network is an
interfaith network that came into existence of March of this year,
and it still doesn’t have a structure. So that’s okay.
It came into existence in March of this year through one meeting that everybody
thought was just going to be one meeting.
And at the end of that meeting everybody thought,
oh, we have to keep doing this. If you were at that meeting would you
raise your hand, because there a number of you in this
room? And then there are some folks like Hazon
was at that meeting, but Jana was there and not Shamu,
because we tried to get Shamu, man! And then at that meeting we said that
this is a new interfaith and secular alliance and learning community seeking
to connect religious traditions, agriculture and ecological stewardship,
inspiring a spiritual and ethical revolution in our relationship to each
other and to the land. It was a gathering of people that didn’t
know each other before they were all in the same room.
Land access professionals, land-trust leaders,
Muslim, Christian,
Jewish, indigenous. And yet,
also it was a gathering of people that were trying to figure out why they were
there and what they could do together. And then after it was over and we had
realized that there was something here that wasn’t finished yet,
I got invited by Wake Forest to put together a gathering that was just last
month. And co-edited it with Darriel Harris. And that was focused on the Christian
side of this intersection. And if you happened to be there,
if you would raise your hand. So a couple of folks.
Yeah. And there is no budget at present for
any future convenings, so hopefully someone here will feel
moved to help with that because the harvest is great and the laborers are
few. So,
if I can figure out how to advance my slides there…here’s a picture of just
one tiny piece, just one piece of the opportunity at
this sector. This is a screen grab of the Episcopal
churches asset map, which is a new tool my denomination is
using. It’s pretty simple.
It’s an online map of the church’s ministries,
and it’s independently updated by all of the local communities that are
represented there. Now I’m a priest in the episcopal church
as well as a foreign ministry founders. So when I look at that map,
I see things that you might not see. I see our churches average age,
which is about 60 years old. That’s one of the first things I see
when I look at that map. And I say to myself,
how many of the ministries that are currently on that map will be there in
10 to 20 years? Then I also see decisions being made
about land stewardship by people who do not yet understand what is possible when
it comes to land stewardship because they come to it from a position of “I
just go to church. I don’t understand food and land
decisions.” And I see something else.
I see strategies for climate change mitigation through carbon draw down into
soil, which even though Norman Wirzba but I
wrote about it in the Christian Century, the church still has not grasped. I see demonstration projects for what’s
possible in rural communities happening in church on land,
influencing farmers because farmers have been taught to trust the church. I see land once again being tended by
indigenous peoples or being made available to historically marginalized
and traumatized people. I see habitat creation on land that is
now lawn. I see relocalizing economies because of
the availability of church owned property already dedicated to the work
of God, which is health for all creation. I don’t just see it.
I know it is possible, and I know it is possible because of
this slide. I have to start by saying that this is a
slide from Plainsong Farm is 20 minutes north of Grand Rapids in Rockford. I’m saying that for Chris who
understands Grand Rapids semi-rural Michigan.
Our local community is 96 percent white people and that’s why this is a slide of
white people, but because I know these people,
I know they represent a diversity of churches. Lutheran and Methodist and Episcopal.
And I know they are having a hands on experience of a parable that Jesus spoke
to. All of us,
not just accessible to white Christians. “The Kingdom of God is as if someone
would scatter seed on the ground and would sleep and rise night and day,
and the seed would sprout and grow. He does not know how.
The earth produces of itself. First the stock,
then the head, then the full grain in the head,
but when the grain is right at once he goes in with his sickle because the
harvest has come.” They’re having a hands on experience of
that parable. Which is going to provide wheat for
their communion bread as part of Honorary Growers Guild. They are also conserving biodiversity
because that’s an heirloom grain that’s Turkey,
Red Wheat. They are also learning about carbon draw
down because that’s part of what we teach when we do this program. They are also participating in the
redevelopment of the small grains economy because we will blend this grain
that we grow as an educational experience with other small scale
growers, experimental heirloom wheat. But what as a religious leader seeking
health for creation, what excites me most is that they are
learning to see communion with new eyes. And I believe that by beginning to ask
where and how their communion bread begins,
they will also learn to ask where the rest of their food begins. A spiritual and ethical revolution in
our relationship to each other and to land is what God is calling us toward,
in my experience as a disciple of Jesus. God has scattered seed on the ground.
Look at, look at all the seed that God has
scattered even just in this room and then all of the places that you’ve come
from. And God will bring a harvest of grace
and plenty through God’s will and God’s time.
And I pray to be a laborer in that harvest.

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