I spent last week in a confused, yet happy, yet exhausted state. I was all sorts of emotions at all times. Presbyterians know this week as General Assembly- and it’s a force to be reckoned with.
The biannual national gathering is a meeting of some big Presbyterian players and a lot of us little guys. I describe it as “the church’s Congress.” There are committees, lobbying, plenary sessions, interest groups of sorts, and overtures (the church’s version of bills).
As the “Food Justice League” we were there to follow some food justice overtures concerning the first 1,000 days of pregnancy and a child’s life. This window, from conception to the child’s 2nd birthday, is the most vital for development. If there is any sort of malnutrition or famine, the child can be stunted for life *without ability to regain lost development.* Other overtures concerning food sovereignty and precautionary principal were all on the docket. Luckily these measures are all pretty self explanatory and are non-controversial. They don’t instigate the bickering that comes with other issues that are more hot topic and in the news. For that I am grateful. But with the “over there” mentality we also loose a chance to be educated and affected on a deep emotional level concerning the atrocities that are happening on a daily basis.
These atrocities are happening in our cities and in our nation, the richest nation on earth.
GA met in Detroit this year. Yes- broke, almost abandoned, crumbling Detroit. Through discernment and thoughtful planning our church decided to invest our 2,000 person strong gathering and all the finical benefits that come along with it into a city that has been struggling for some time. This was a conscience move. Mission through church polity if you will.
Our small but tenacious Justice League decided to do our own mission through polity. Days at GA are full to the brim of committee meetings, organized lunches, making the rounds through the exhibit hall, and plenary sessions. 12 hour days are a blessing, 14+ hour days are the norm. To break up the constant sitting and to get some sun, we volunteered at an urban farm.
Earthworks Urban Farm was right down the road from where were staying and had an open volunteer time on Wednesday mornings. You just show up ready to help, no questions asked, no need to RSVP. Its a great idea.
Without any sort of introductions or orientation the farm staff rounded everyone up and we walked to their urban farm, a few blocks from the wash station, greenhouses, and warehouse space that acted as home base. As our heard moved through the neighborhood we talked to some of the staff and volunteers. The produce that is harvested from the variety of growing spaces is used primarily in meals at the soup kitchen that is under the same parent organization. A small portion of the produce is sold at farmers markets.
Most of the workers are members of the community and come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of the workers are recovering from addiction, finding their way out of homelessness, and some have criminal records. Those things don’t matter. Well, not in the sense that they would matter to most outside their small community. These folks have been working at the farm and are constantly learning life skills through farming. (As someone who has worked on a farm, I can attest that you learn life skills on a daily basis- not just farming skills.) They are helping those who are currently experiencing what they have experienced.
Harvesting collards, scallions, baby beets (for the greens), chard, and sugar snap peas with such a diverse group was so much fun. Everyone was enjoying themselves, honest conversations were being had, and there were lots of smiles and laughter. Picking snap peas was my favorite. Not only do I love to eat snap peas but we got to pick them with an African-American man who was easily over 6 feet tall and wasn’t shy about voicing his opinion. He was a riot. We got to talking about states since we’re from all over the country and he offers up “You know whats wrong with Kentucky? Their grass in blue.” That got everyone laughing.
We, white upper middle class young adults, picked peas with a guy who was our opposite on almost every accord. Now that’s urban agriculture. That’s community.
Mission through church polity brings you into community with folks who are hoping to grow a better Detroit. Who knew?