The image we have in Revelation 21 is of a new earth where God has come to dwell with human beings. In it, we see the consummation of Christ’s work of reconciliation in three relationships: (1) between God and humanity, (2) between human beings and each other, and (3) between human beings and the earth. As God’s Church, we are called to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of this coming reconciliation which we name the kingdom of God. What would such ministry look like in a local church?
The Gathering Farm is the answer to that question for Butler United Methodist Church (Covington District) and the Wesley Foundation at Northern Kentucky University. The Gathering Farm is an organic community garden that serves to grow healthy produce for people in need, create a space for strangers to become friends, and educate people about living as stewards of God’s creation. The garden itself is near 12,000-square-feet and is planted with tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, herbs, cucumbers, squash and more. The food that is grown is distributed through Butler UMC’s food pantry, other area food pantries, and straight out of the garden itself. In order to be a sign of our reconciliation to the rest of God’s creation, we are using organic methods to grow this food so that we are good stewards of what God has entrusted us with.
In order to help maintain the garden and build community, we have hired Brianna Kelley through the Wesley Foundation to serve as our garden manager. She spends time most days of the week in the garden caring for it and meeting new people. She then helps the rest of the church and other volunteers get to know the residents of Butler. This is the “community” aspect of the garden, and it serves to help us reconcile with one another. We are thinking of this as “front porch” ministry. Instead of expecting people to show up at our church or us showing up at their door, we are hanging out in our garden as our “front porch” to meet our neighbors. You can follow Brianna’s work through her blog found at http://thegatheringfarm.tumblr.com.
We also hope to play a role in people’s reconciliation to God (and our own reconciliation to God!) by offering a Bible study in the garden. This study, entitled “God, People, and the Land,” looks at scripture as a story with these three “main characters” and their ultimate reconciliation. This garden also helps us live out our own call by serving the least, the last, and the lost while also creating a positive change in an otherwise economically disadvantaged area.
This ministry has been a true blessing to undertake. God has surprised us by the outpouring of the community. Our initial start-up supplies, such as organic fertilizer, transplants, and tomato stakes, have all been donated by area businesses and individuals. This project has connected us with local businesses such as Garden Girl, Fox Run Farms, Greensleeves Farm, and Griffin Industries; local government agencies such as the Pendleton County Extension Office, Soil Conservation, and the Butler City Council; and the local high school through Future Farmers of America.
So ask this question at your local church: What ministry is God calling us to so that we can be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s coming new creation begun in Jesus Christ?
Jesus often used seeds as symbols for the kingdom of God.
We're taking that image literally to see what God grows.