Rev. Craig Goodwin, a pastor at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church in Millwood, Washington asked if I might be interested in reading his new book Year of Plenty and mailed me a copy earlier this year. It is always exciting to hear from Presbyterians who are involved in sustainability. Subtitled “One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living,” the book chronicles the Goodwin family’s year of sustainable Christian living and makes many theological connections to a way of living that takes into account God’s people and earth. Learn more about the book and visit Goodwin’s blog, also titled “Year of Plenty.”
The project started over dinner just after Christmas in 2007, as Craig and his wife Nancy, also a pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, reflected on their harried Christmas buying and wondered how they might make changes in what sometimes feels like an overwhelmingly materialistic world. In asking “How could we do it differently?” they started a year of great changes for their household of four, as they decided to buy only goods that fit into the following four categories:
- Locally grown or made, only from eastern Washington and northern Idaho (with an exception for Thailand – read Goodwin’s blog for further explanation)
- Used goods
- Homemade (anything in the house on January 1 was fair game)
Goodwin’s story is grounded and not self-congratulatory in the face of such a large undertaking. It is also often humorous as he details making a homemade piñata for a birthday party for one of his two young daughters, learning how to can food from the family garden, trying to find a local source for flour and other staples, and raising chickens in the backyard. With these stories come theological reflections exploring the meaning of “plenty” and opportunities for growth that come from incorporating our faith in making decisions about everyday living and consumption.
I enjoyed Goodwin’s emphasis on how living out the details of sustainability – raising chickens, meeting with local farmers, digging in his backyard garden – opened his eyes to larger issues of sustainability. Through the details he learned about the problems of factory farming, difficulties for local farmers, and perils of conventional agriculture. Goodwin identified his family’s steps towards sustainability as “acts of hope,” which is a helpful way of framing our efforts to care for creation.
As you consider how your faith leads you to care for God’s creation and people, think about what small steps you can start with that may help you see the larger landscape of sustainability. Or, if you have taken these starter steps, where do you see opportunities to make larger connections?
Learn more about the book: Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin, published in 2011 by sparkhouse press.