“We are re-humanized when our skin touches soil.” These words from our Theology Pub guest speaker, Sean Gladding, caused my train of thought to halt at Capsity, The WordHouse’s office, evangelism outpost and sometimes event space in the beginning of November.
Gladding, a community garden manager and church planter in Kentucky, keynoted this year’s Faith In Culture discussion series on Faith & Urban Gardening. He provided a biblical and theological framework for our conversation with particular focus on the book of Genesis and creation.
As someone who grew up in a small city suburban neighborhood and spent the last 8 years in Sacramento’s center city, I have an interesting, if not disassociated, connection to food. When I was little, I remember helping my parents’ plant and harvest – probably more like playing in the dirt – at the community garden on the outskirts of town. When I was older, after the owner sold the land and my dad’s job earned more money, my mother turned part of our backyard into a small garden. At this time we purchased most of our food at the local grocery store. I hardly remember my hands ever being in the dirt, except to slide into second base on the baseball diamond. Food mainly, so I thought, came directly from the store, and then to the kitchen where my mom prepared what was placed on the dinner table.
Since moving to Midtown, I have grown to love the Sunday morning farmers market under the freeway and the recent Midtown Farmers Market on 20th and J St. I still shop at the super market occasionally, but I’m beginning to know where my food comes from. I know the older peach and plum farmer who keeps talking about finally retiring to Idaho, hoping one of his sons takes over the family business. I am becoming good friends with the couple that quit their restaurant industry jobs to own a farm in West Sacramento, putting up a farm stand on Tuesday evenings during the summer in front of their Tahoe Park home alongside the Saturday Midtown market. I recognize the same number of young and elderly folks selling both berries and herbs from their family farm in Gridley with smiling and wizened faces.
As I attempt to follow Jesus’ voice, it seems as though I am headed further back down the path. Just last week I became a member of the New Era Community Garden. This could still flop; tilling and preparing the ground needs to happen first, let alone actually growing stuff to eat. But my neighbor and gardening partner sounds like she knows what she is talking about. There are also experienced members willing to lend a hand, I am told. Perhaps my parents can visit me in the garden too. As I get ready to put my hands back into the dirt, I feel like I am becoming more human, as though I am regaining a part of God’s image that has been dormant.