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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

postheadericon Short Review of Ellen Davis, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture

I just finished reading Ellen Davis, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, (Cambridge University Press, 2009).  I'll be using this book this fall in my "Farming, Food, and Faith" class.  If you are a rural pastor, or an urban pastor, a rural theologian or an urban theologian, a rural Christian or an urban Christian, if you are simply interested in spirituality tied to the land, tied to place, then read this book.  If you are an urban gardener, or an organic farmer, if you are a person who intuitively knows that we cannot flourish without caring attention to the land, read this book.
Davis is a biblical scholar who writes in an accessible way.  And what she writes about in this book opens up the biblical text and biblical world in relation to rural life, farming, and the renewal of human life.  In an opening chapter she lays out the basic convictions of the agrarian movement and begins to connect those to biblical stories.  In subsequent chapters she continues to do this in more detail examining the creation stories in Genesis, the story of manna in the desert as told in Exodus, the intertwining of faith with food and farming in Leviticus, the case for a local economy in God's covenant with Israel, the prophetic call to the renewal of that covenant, and a concluding chapter on the connection between rural life and urban life.  Each chapter is rich in its attention to both text and agrarian themes.  There is much here for developing an agrarian spirituality.

postheadericon Farming, Food, and Faith at MTS this fall

This fall at Memphis Theological Seminary, I will again be teaching "Farming, Food, and Faith."  We will be reading the following Required Texts:
1. Ellen F. Davis, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
2. Lawrence W. Farris, Dynamics of Small Town Ministry, Alban Institute, 2000, ISBN: 1566992281
3. Mark E. Graham, Sustainable Agriculture: A Christian Ethic of Gratitude, Pilgrim Press, 2005, ISBN: 0829816062
4. L. Shannon Jung (ed.), Rural Ministry: The Shape of the Renewal to Come, Abingdon Press, 1998, ISBN: 0687016061  
5. Richard Lischer, Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery
6. Nick Reding, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, Bloomsbury, 2009
And perhaps one or more of the following:
Norman Wirzba, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating
Ragan Sufferfield, Farming As a Spiritual Discipline 
Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food,
Kevin Ruffcorn, Rural Evangelism: Catching the Vision
Shannon O’Dell, Transforming Church in Rural America.
I'm still looking for a good book on Southern rural spirituality.  Perhaps someday a student from this class will take up the challenge of writing such a book.  Meanwhile, the class itself this fall will be visiting a number of rural communities to talk with farmers, other workers in the rural economy, and rural pastors.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

postheadericon Good statement from National Catholic Rural Life Conference

The National Catholic Rural Life Conference provides many important resources for reflection upon rural life and agriculture.  Their statement on stewardship is a helpful summary:  "All of Creation is sacred and we are called to serve as faithful stewards. Creation has an integrity and inherent value beyond its usefulness to human beings. Human beings are to be responsible stewards of creation: In this activity we work in harmony with God as co-creators. The web of life is one. The way we treat animals carries moral significance. We cannot casually inflict pain on them; their modes of living deserve study and appreciation. Animal welfare should be a moral concern."

Monday, November 14, 2011

postheadericon Harvest Song


We sang this song in church this past Sunday.  I loved the words that bring together this time of harvest with the larger vision of God as Farmer who brings in the harvest, and we as those planted by God, cared for by God, and graciously brought by God into God's "garner."  This is certainly a season of Thanksgiving for the harvest and for all of the gifts which God has given to us.  In such a season we also remember the purpose of God's gifts:  to bring us to fullness of life as we share those gifts with each other.

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,
Words: Henry Alford, Psalms and Hymns, 1844.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto God’s praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take God’s harvest home;
From God’s field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in God’s garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

postheadericon Tubby Creek Farm: a visit and a reflection

Traveled down to Ashland, MS this past Saturday (November 5) for an afternoon at the Tubby Creek Farm run by Josephine and Randy Alexander (http://www.tubbycreekfarm.com/). They are slowly transforming overgrown and eroded land into productive farmland. They are committed to organic small scale farming. After a tour of the farmland, traveling companion Kathleen Kruczek and I were put to work planting leeks. We worked together to plant a row, using tiny leek plants raised from seed that were now ready for transplant. In the same row a bit further down, garlic had already been planted and covered with straw. I could almost smell the good soups and other dishes that will emerge after these plants grow and are harvested. It was a beautiful fall day, with a hint of coolness in the air from time to time, but generally warm while working under the afternoon sun. We had plenty of time to talk and learn more about the farm as we worked under Josephine's direction. A few feet away Randy diligently worked howing the carrot field. Rookie the dog scampered about, including along the freshly planted leeks, which earned him a scolding. I was struck by the patience and persistence that is needed for this farm work. And there is a great deal of trust and hope bound up in the plants being rooted in the earth. I'm thankful that this type of farming is being initiated by more and more people. Randy and Josephine will be doing Community Supported Agriculture as the year progresses. They are also actively preparing ways to renew the earth on this farmland that was harmed by years and years of "industrial farming" that uses heavy doses of chemical fertilizers. An afternoon on this farm gives hope of a renewal of Southern agriculture that is respectful of the land and practices good stewardship of the Creation. On this blog there are resources from the internet and other sources that support this kind of farming. A movement continues to grow!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

postheadericon From Jamie Lee, From Scarcity to Abudance

Jamie Lee
‎"I'm struggling with a theology of scarcity. A professor of mine told me once, "There is no such thing as 'not enough' in God's kingdom." For the last few months, I have found myself driving along the roads in rural Western KY, looking at perfectly manicured lawns that sprawl over an acre or more, wonderingt how God would smile if those sunlit spaces were put to use providing food for the hungry in our community. The church I'm serving now has been blessed to be able to purchase over 24 acres and I am feeling called to lead this church to begin a community garden where we not only provide space for the families in our community to produce their own food, but partner them with members of our older generations who have the knowledge and skill sets that many folks in my generation and younger are missing, thereby enabling them to produce and store their own food. There is no reason for folks to be hungry in this country, especially in the rural South."

postheadericon Southern Rural Theology: An Initial Inquiry

I'm finding it interesting and a bit perplexing that there seems to be a dearth of publications on Southern rural theology. In developing a course on "Farming, Food, and Faith," I found a number of books that sought to develop a rural theology, but each of those reflected a Midwestern context. I have yet to come across a book that is the Southern equivalent to texts such as Rural Ministry: the Shape of the Renewal to Come, or Sustaining Heart in the Hearland: Exploring Rural Spirituality. I'm wondering what a rural spirituality grounded in the Southern rural context might have as major themes. I'm wondering, too, how these may or may not differ depending upon different Southern contexts, including different races, different types of farming, different types of rural communities.
I know there are plenty of Southern rural pastors and other rural folks who are deeply formed by their faith. Pastors, in particular, are writing and delivering sermons each week. What kind of theology are they sharing and how is that theology grounded in their rural Southern context? I'd like this blog to become one place where some of that "theology on the ground" could be shared. So, here is an open invitation to begin sharing.