In a Garden 

“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.

So… What’s This Churchy Thing You’re Doing?

The Word House

Over the course of this year I’ll write a few articles for The WordHouse’s main partner congregation, Faith Church. In Faith’s newsletter I’ll generally discuss my thoughts on missional community. Why, How, What, etc, etc. Here’s the first one:

The main goal of The WordHouse is to form Jesus‐inspired community. We provide place and space for people to share their hearts. We are part worship service, part fellowship hour and small group, and part outreach/service activities and events. Our Community builds relationships with people to know Christ’s love, experience forgiveness and reconciliation, and participate more fully in God’s kingdom here on earth (and so we might learn and grow from them, too). We host worship gatherings in the familiarity of a living room. We sponsor a Theology Pub, a diverse religious conversation over a drink, once a month at a pub or coffeehouse. We serve the poor and oppressed in our own communities. We are forming new communities within The WordHouse so people can be in intimate, neighborhood groups for worship, discipleship and fellowship, and share in the gifts God has given us. We encourage one another to be honest to God and others, allow questions and doubt, and offer respect as well as accountability. We break bread, meet Jesus in Scripture, share our joys and concerns, pray, play and worship together.

Although many churches are closing, declining in membership and participation, and connecting less and less with younger adults, the mission of Christ’s church does not need to change. A recent Pew Research poll found that an increasing number of young adults (currently 1/3 of adults under 30) are “religiously unaffiliated today”. Only a few short years ago, 4 out of 5 worshipers in PC(USA) churches were over 45 years old, and the number of children has steadily decreased. But how we do Christ’s mission does need change, at least for some of us. The WordHouse church/ministry is a response to Christ’s call on our lives to be a ministry of community and a means to address some of the reasons many people might not have a church community.