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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.