Our first farm day is coming up this Saturday, March 2 and I wanted to answer two questions I get frequently about the Serene Disciple Project and Egret Isle Farm. Those drawn to the Serene Disciple Project ask, “Why does your ministry need a farm?” Those drawn to the farm ask, “Why does your farm need a ministry?” What is the connection between the Serene Disciple Project and Egret Isle Farm and how does that relate to our hosting of “Farm Days?” There are several answers to these questions and I will answer them in a couple of emails this week, but here is the first . . . incarnation.
At the very heart of Christian spirituality is the bedrock belief that the vast, implacable, unknowable, Holy Spirit of God chose to take on physicality. When our practice of following Christ stays exclusively in the world of ideas, and doctrinal formulations, and intangible spiritual ideals it is cut off from what makes our faith in Jesus truly unique and life sustaining… that Spirit became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood” as the Message version puts it. Our spiritual lives happen in the context of physicality; of place, of relationships with real people with names and stories rather than generic categories like sinner, saved, lost, friend, or foe. That spiritual/physical integration is incarnational living.
The Serene Disciple project is all about incarnational integration and Egret Isle Farm provides the raw, physical material to which we add the spiritual components of devotion, creative work, hospitality, and authentic community. It is one thing to value creation in a general sense; it is another to hold rich, dark, fertile soil in your hands; to plant, cultivate, weed, harvest, and enjoy the bounty at the common table with good friends. The first is like a picture of the thing. The second is the thing itself. It is one thing to believe that one is made in the creative likeness of God in a theological sense. It is another to put your hand to the work of creation, to pick up a paint brush and approach the canvas on the easel in the meadow, or a hoe and walk between rows of plump red tomatoes, or a hammer from the anvil to shape luminous metal. There is a huge difference between being theoretically committed to community and taking the time to sit on the porch and listen to someone else’s story and tell your own over a glass of ice tea. When God blessed Kay and I with Egret Isle Farm we knew that it was ours to share with as many people as possible for the purposes I have mentioned above. We knew that, whatever else we grew or raised on the farm, our primary crop would be the health of souls. Our farm is a gift to as many as would receive it and a farm day is when you get to open the gift!
So, do you have to have a farm to be spiritually healthy? Is this only, as a friend of mine put it, for artsy farmers? Well, no; though I do like the term “artsy farmers”. Paul instructs the Thessalonian community to make it their ambition to lead quiet lives, to be about what is theirs to do, and to work with their hands. The setting in which most of us live our lives serves to strain or even disconnect us from these three essentials of Christian spiritual practice. Quiet, focus, and tangible creative work are rare commodities but ones that we all need to make room for in our lives one way or another if they are to be truly fruitful and sustainable over the long term. If you live and work in a urban, or even suburban setting it can be difficult to manage quiet, focused, tangibly creative work. By throwing open the gates of Egret Isle Farm and offering the gift of quiet meadows, the opportunity to do creative work in the gardens, barns, coops, and workshops we hope to help our friends make room for quiet, focus, and tangible creative work along with meaningful community. It’s a blessing we hope you will receive with the same joy in with which it is offered.
At 10 AM we’ll share coffee and lay out the work plan. There will be work to do in the garden, barn, and grounds. We’ll work together until noon when we break for lunch and a short discussion about our plans for Egret Isle Farm and the Serene Disciple Project. After that, you can walk the paths, take a canoe out on the pond, fish, play yard games, or sit on one of the porches and visit. This is an event for the whole family and will be a great time to introduce kids to the wonder of digging in the dirt and planting seeds. Bring a potluck item to share at lunchtime and we’ll have water, iced tea, and paper goods. Again, please RSVP by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.