Hands in the Soil: Clergy at CommonWealth

Clergy Renewal Through Environmental Awareness

Have you ever…

…Tasted a crunchy, sweet, plump radish that you just pulled from the holy ground, formed from tiny seeds planted only a few weeks earlier?

…Enveloped yourself in a field of snapdragons, larkspur and sweet peas in bright June, soaking in their exquisite glory?

…Knelt by a bed of soft, dark, fertile soil, with an offering of seed in your hands?

Join us as we walk inside the words, “God’s creation” and co-create with the natural world; as the garden becomes our church, God revealed in seen and unseen form.

CommonWealth is a grassroots-based urban farm and community in near NW Oklahoma City. Over the nine-month program, participants will join with this community in the ancient cycle of sowing seed and reaping the harvest, of entering the sacred partnership between earth and humanity whereby we are all sustained and nourished.

In the morning, we’ll participate in the daily activity of a working urban farm, right in the heart of the city. As we pause for lunch and break bread together, God comes to us in the pleasure and nourishment of food straight from the field. After our shared common meal, as the experiences of the morning settle into our bones and psyches, we’ll explore ways to ground our lives in the essential truths found in nature/ourselves.

A small group (6-8) of clergy attend a day-long program once a month, in which they spend three hours working on this urban farm and creating their own “clergy garden” and “clergy composting bin.” Following lunch together, the cohort processes with a spiritual director and environmental educator around their spiritual and emotional experiences working in nature; explore the value for themselves and the church of growing food; study theological themes in ecospirituality, and how they might move congregants into creation care—through worship experience, community gardens, environmental justice.

At the end of the nine-month program, the participants will schedule with CommonWealth Urban Farms a Saturday morning tour for three of their church members.

The program is underwritten by Green Connections. Also, as a statement of their commitment to attend the entire program, participants pay $25 a month ($225, due at time of registration.) The fee will cover food, utilities, equipment costs and supplies for their own “smart pot” garden to create at home. CEUs are available.

Purpose of the program:

  • To allow Earth/Nature/Creation to provide clergy healing and renewal through monthly time with their hands in the soil, experiencing life in a garden.

  • To experience community in a cohort of clergy as they work and share together.

  • To come to know the value of leading their congregations into creation care and how to do that (language in worship, environmental justice and growing food together.)

Short Term Goals

  • Clergy develop a community of peers outside their denominational culture.

  • Clergy get some fresh air and exercise.

  • Clergy experience the healing properties of gardening.

  • Clergy have the opportunity to process their experience with a trained spiritual director in a group setting.

  • Clergy celebrate at table during a healthy (locally-grown) monthly lunch with peers.

  • Clergy receive emotional and spiritual support.

  • Clergy explore theological aspects of creation care.

Long Term Goals

  • Clergy come to realize the value of growing food in community.

  • Clergy develop skills to lead congregations into possibility of developing gardens.

  • Clergy grow in understanding of value of our planet home, and saving it.

  • Clergy become equipped to lead worship using images of God from nature; develop other ways to bring creation awareness into weekly liturgy.

  • Clergy are trained in ways to lead their congregations into environmental stewardship.

  • Clergy have the opportunity to facilitate their congregations’ exploration of environmental justice.

First Fridays. Starts: Friday, March 2, 2019. Ends: Friday, November 2, 2019.

CommonWealth Urban Farms, 1000 NW 32nd St., Oklahoma City.

For questions, contact Pat Hoerth, 580.917.6011 pathoerth@gmail.com

Comments from Participants in 2018

Was the program renewing for you?

  • “Yes. It forced me to take a day…the accountability of showing up. It helped remind me to be grateful for those who feed other people.”

  • “Yes, renewing. The morning part is the slowest day of the whole month. Reminds me of playing outside as a kid. There’s a totally different flow than any other day.”

  • “We don’t know our place: the watershed, indigenous plants, the highest point, the lowest point. It helped me know my place.”

What were the most helpful elements and why?

  • Mirror walk

  • Cosmic walk

  • Scavenger hunt

  • Field trip to Deep Fork

  • Liturgy writing

  • “Getting to do spiritual things. No one gives us these opportunities. As leaders, we’re always leading them.”

  • “Monthly farm tours; the changes we see each month.”

  • “Our monthly morning ritual: coming in with coffee, reconnecting. It grew.”

  • “The whole thing was helpful. Interesting. There was the right amount of hands-on and head stuff.”

How has the program impacted you as a church leader?

  • “I preach a lot more about honoring all of God’s creation. I talked about the snake, microorganisms. Some people on fb said they didn’t kill the snake they saw because their pastor had preached about snakes.”

  • “We’re looking for a mission at church. Three people are gardening at the church. We are a Green Chalice Church. We’re trying to figure out how to reach out to neighborhood. We have 10 acres; we need a detention pond. We’re talking about glass in sanctuary so we can see outside. Maybe make a green belt. Other ideas are solar panels on roof so people can see them; worship furniture outside and occasional services out there. Let the neighborhood see who you are; Diane Butler Bass says churches wall out nature.”