Create Life and Community in a Garden

04.13.15 | Advocacy and Action, Creation Care | by Rev. Rebecca Iannicelli

    As we think about how to bring abundant life to lives and communities, where do we begin? Where Adam and Eve began? Where Jesus is buried and begins new life? Or where the Bible ends? With climate change, agricultural policy, population, poverty and hunger, or with concerns about relationships between food quality and health, do we begin at the table? Beginning in any of these places will eventually take us to the garden.

    Kepos” is Greek for “garden.”  The place where Jesus was buried and rose again. Where God blew the breath of life into humanity from the topsoil of fertile land.  Where on the banks of the river in the new earth the tree of life will grow. Where hungry people can find empowerment and nutrition for life. Where we eat together what has been grown in a garden, and where someday, we will feast at the heavenly banquet. Where we can find nutrient-dense food that is one of the building blocks of the abundant life God intends for us.

    PURPOSE: Mission Kepos envisions communities of people working together in gardens designed to restore relationships with earth, so that people can learn to grow, prepare, and share nutrient–dense food in accordance with God’s plan for abundant life.

    PRINCIPLES: There are a few value frameworks that inform Mission Kepos work – both from our Wesleyan heritage and from the field of permaculture. Permaculture is a creative design process that is based on ethics and design principles. It guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building.

    1. Wesleyan ethical framework:

    • Do no harm.
    • Do all the good you can.
    • Stay in love with God.

    2. Book of Discipline (2012) Social Principles:

    • Para. 160:  The Natural World. We support measure designed to maintain and restore natural ecosystems. We affirm local, sustainable, and small-scale agricultural opportunities that allow communities to feed themselves.
    • Para. 162: The Social Community. q. We support a sustainable agricultural system that will maintain and support the natural fertility of agricultural soil, promote the diversity of flora and fauna, and adapt to regional conditions and structures.
    • Para. 163: The Economic Community. e. We call upon churches to develop these and other ministries that promote asset—building among the poor. h. The concentration of the food supply for the many into the hands of the few raises global questions of justice that cry out for vigilance and action. We call upon our churches to do all in their power to speak prophetically to the matters of food supply and the people who grow the food for the world and to develop ministries that build food security in local communities.

    3. Permaculture Ethics:

    • Care of People
    • Care for the Earth
    • Share the Surplus

    4. Permaculture Principles:

    • Observe and interact
    • Catch and store energy
    • Obtain a yield
    • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
    • Use and value renewable resources and services
    • Produce no waste
    • Design from patterns to details
    • Integrate rather than segregate
    • Use small and slow solutions
    • Use and value diversity
    • Use edges and value the marginal
    • Creative use and respond to change

    Co-originator of the permaculture concept, David Holmgren, gives an overview of the design principles as thinking tools that when used together allow us to creatively redesign our environment and our behavior in a world of less energy and resources. Explore the permaculture ethics and design principles further by visiting their website.

    POTENTIAL PATHWAYS: To live out the purpose of Mission Kepos, there are several potential pathways your church might want to explore.

    • Community gardens, especially with veterans, children, addicted, immigrants:  many hands make light work, and veterans could join us. Children could learn where food comes from and help in the garden. There is healing for many of our addictions in the good word of the garden, and many immigrant populations miss being able to grow food. These gardens could be on– or off-site.
    • Permaculture design of church property: a system of design embracing the human place in the ecosystem, one example would be edible landscaping.
    • Health Ministry around foundations of Good Food: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cognitive decline all have nutritional aspects to the progression.
    • Advocacy as needed in the community around land use, agricultural and food policy.
    • Start a Farmers’ Market at the church.
    • Partner with those in the community already working in this area (Farming4Hunger, etc.)

    POTENTIAL NEXT STEPS: Sometimes a pathway feels too daunting. If so, pick a next step.

    American Community Gardening Association builds community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.

    Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live.

    People’s Garden project of the USDA is a collaborative effort of over 700 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country. The simple act of planting a garden can help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire locally-led solutions to challenges facing our country – from hunger to the environment.

    Kepos. A place for life and community. Is God calling you to this mission field? What is your passion? What does it look like to work in this mission field? Have you practiced discernment? Are you ready to be part of a team? What would you add to the list of resources, pathways or next steps?