Last Sunday was a big dill at Farm Church. For one day, we change our name to Pickle Church. “What’s that?” you ask? Well, try to imagine a congregation making about 80 jars of pickles in the middle of worship. Pickling + Church = Pickle Church.
Why? That may be the more pertinent question. The “why” behind Pickle Church begins with a simple cucumber and an acute awareness of the ways in which even that simple cucumber embodies the handiwork of a creative, loving God. Its shape, its color, its ripening on the vine, its nutrition, its smell… God has been at work fashioning that cucumber, blessing it with life and a vitality all its own. Sitting there on the cutting board, that cucumber is a psalm of praise to a God who knows how to make good things! And so when we give thanks for God’s gift of just one simple cucumber – when we recognize the DNA of God’s creative action in that one simple fruit – how can we not begin to see it in other places? In all our good food, in our neighbor’s eyes, in the movements and needs of strangers, in the whole spinning, expansive universe! That’s essentially why we did Pickle Church.
We pickled cucumbers, okra, jalepeño peppers, onions, carrots… And in the “sermons” that took place around our tables, we asked each other questions:
All along the way with Farm Church, we’ve been striving to blur the lines between worship, work, and play – to suggest that, in fact, our worship of God is lived out in our day-to-day lives in ways that deepen our sense of the Spirit and compel us to care for the needs of others. Our aim with Pickle Church (and coming soon… Sauerkraut Church, Salad Church...?) was to pronounce God’s presence in the gifts of the earth and even to suggest that our kitchens and dinner tables might become sanctuaries of adoration and thanksgiving for the good gifts of heaven and earth.
At the close of our worship we gathered around this prayer/poem, written by the late John O’Donohue called “Grace After Meals.” It’s become a favorite of mine. We often think of saying “grace” before meals. Once in a while, it’s good to pray when the meal is over. If it ever strikes you to try it, here’s a great prayer to share…
GRACE AFTER MEALS
by John O’Donohue
We end this meal with grace
For the joy and nourishment of food,
The slowed time away from the world
To come into presence with each other
And sense the subtle lives behind our faces,
The different colours of our voices,
The edges of hungers we keep private,
The circle of love that unites us.
We pray the wise spirit who keeps us
To change the structures that make others hunger
And that after such grace we might now go forth
And impart dignity wherever we partake.
According to Seth Godin, there are four steps to marketing. Here they are…
Step 1: Invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.
Step 2: Design and build it in a way that people will actually benefit from and care about.
Step 3: Tell the story to the right people in the right way. (This is the story everyone gets all excited about.)
Step 4: The last step is so often overlooked: The part where you show up, regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years, to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.
For just over two years, Farm Church has reveled in steps 1-3. Dreaming up the concept of Farm Church, honing the vision, imagining a church that meets on a farm and leverages all of the resources of that farm to address hunger… Choosing Durham, North Carolina and moving our families there, spending months networking with faith groups, nonprofits, and individuals, forging relationships with those who would help us take off… And oh my gosh, telling the story to people in the right way - honing our elevator speech, sharing at farmers markets, music festivals, in the pick-up line at school… For months now, we’ve pretty much nailed steps 1-3.
Now here we are. Step 4 – the oft overlooked – the part where we start showing up, regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years, organizing and building confidence in the chance we seek to make. And I must confess, Godin’s words feel a little daunting to me! But I’m also drawn to his assertion that there are no substitutes for day-in, day-out work of living into our dreams.
I’ve also started to wonder about facets of Step 4 that are already happening…
Step 4 has started to come into focus as individuals and families keep showing up to be Farm Church Sunday morning after Sunday morning, Wednesday night after Wednesday night.
Step 4 showed up when we harvested our very first yellow squash a few weeks ago and stopped to imagine the thousands and thousands of pounds that will follow over the months and years ahead.
Step 4 came to mind when Farm Church gathered this past Sunday and we wrestled with the problem of human pain and suffering.
Step 4 has been unfolding in our weekly Wednesday night gatherings at the Farm Church garden, where we’ve begun a long-term relationship with some North Carolina red clay soil. Compost, compost, and more compost!
Step 4 occurred to me the other day when a few of us were wrestling Bermuda grass from the ground at the Farm Church garden. If you’ve not encountered Bermuda grass before, you’ve been spared a battle with a most devious, never-say-die weed that simply will not go quietly to weed heaven, if such a place exists.
Step 4 happened a few Sundays ago when, during a quiet moment in worship, I looked up and noticed a couple of people with their heads together, quietly praying.
There this amazing lyric in an Avett Brothers’ song, “Head Full of Doubt,” and it’s been rattling around in my head for a few months now (Thanks Raimee!) -
Decide what to be and go be it
There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
Those words come to mind as I contemplate the way that Farm Church has moved from a middle-of-the-night dream to its evolving reality of people, worship, theology, seeds, compost, zucchini, children, chickens, questions, gardens… Breaking into our dreams and demanding their freedom in this world is the wonderful, hard work of Step 4. It’s experienced in the quiet but lasting commitments we make to each other, to our work, and to our future.
Looking back on the last few months, I am so profoundly grateful for those who have joined the Farm Church story in some way. I really feel like together we are, in Godin’s words, “leading and building confidence in the change we seek to make.”
So, yeah. Grateful. Humbled. A little overwhelmed. And ready to take another step.
How about you? What’s your “Step 4” these days?
A micro-risk is an easy to try, fun to play with, ok-if-you-fail small risk that, when combined with other micro-risks over time, nurtures a culture of faithful, strategic risk-taking - the kind of culture we need in our churches. You'll find a few here, (here, here, and here), but if you're hungry for more, you can check out my Micro-Risk Playbook here.