How can a worshipping community respond to the increased disconnect with both creation and neighbor? Since the spring of 2016, Broad Street Ministry has cultivated urban gardens in various neighborhoods around Philadelphia. The harvest of these plots has resulted not only in fresh produce for meals that serve upwards of 400 guests, but also opportunities for members of the faith community to strengthen relationships as they work the earth together.
“We have become more than ever before disconnected from the land, disconnected from where our food comes from, and disconnected from one another,” remarked Rev. Samantha Evans of Broad Street Ministry. “We talk about reconciliation all the time- reconciliation with our neighbors, reconciliation among community members, and reconciliation in our city and in our world. If we are to get there, I think it starts with the land.”
An initiative birthed through a Great Ends Grant of the Presbytery and Rev. Evans’ ministry as a pastoral resident through 1001 Worshiping Communities, these urban gardens have grown into a new avenue for community formation, education, and theological reflection. Members of Broad Street Ministry and young people who participate in their youth initiative navigate the complexities of urban farming as they intersect with the pressing realities of poverty, homelessness, and pervasive hunger in Philadelphia. As much as they dig their hands into the dirt and plant seeds into the ground, they also reflect on Scripture and God’s concern for both people and creation. In the end, their collective harvest of green tomatoes, radishes, beans, cabbage, zucchini, kale, and wild onions become essential ingredients in Broad Street Ministry’s community meals open to their vulnerable neighbors. In 2016, the gardens provided nearly 320 pounds of local produce. The goal for 2017 is 1,000 pounds to strengthen their extensions of radical hospitality, stewardship of God’s earth, and assurance that God is at work in their midst.
“When we [the church] say we hope for transformation it is sometimes hard to see it,” Rev. Evans noted. “But when you plant a seed and it turns into something, it is a concrete ‘yes’ that something is happening.”
The ministry of organic, urban farming is a testament to what is possible when God’s people steward their time, talents, and collective energies to create something together. As our congregations and worshipping communities continue wrestle with new ways to foster community connections and work towards reconciliation, Broad Street Ministry dares us to consider the land as one possible starting place. After all, the kingdom of God is like the smallest of seeds.