Reconcilers Weekend Plans a Harvest of Community

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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Center for Reconciliation in partnership with The Center for Environmental Leadership is hoping to give clergy and practitioners the tools they need to explore reconciling with the land in their communities.

From Sept. 21-22, the two centers will co-host Reconcilers Weekend at Duke Divinity School. Participants will hear from local farmers, key theologians, and diverse clergy who are finding creative ways to promote stewardship with the land and to bring about reconciliation in their communities through gardening.

Keynote speaker and author Fred Bahnson will share stories of faith-based agriculture and talk about his work with Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, N.C. There, senseless gun violence tore apart a close-knit community, but gardening together helped to heal wounds and to transform mere mounds of dirt into sacred spaces of reconciliation.

Norman Wirzba, a keynote speaker at Reconciler’s Weekend and research professor of theology, ecology, and rural life at Duke Divinity School, said that churches and organizations wanting to explore reconciling with the land through efforts such as community gardening will learn at the conference that sometimes the journey of reconciliation is more important than the end results.

“The end isn’t just production,” Wirzba said. “In a garden, especially a community garden, one of the most important harvests is community. It’s not just the produce or the flowers. It’s the community that you build around the kind of work that you do together, the kind of eating that you do together.”

St. Philip's Episcopal Church sees the community garden as a way to build community among diverse neighbors.The gardening ventures of Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church in Durham provides one example of Wirzba’s vision. During the summer the parish hosted community suppers to help parishioners and neighbors meet each other and to share stories. In addition, St. Philip’s welcomed everyone in the community to drop by the church garden and pick a few cucumbers or lug a watermelon home. The garden isn’t solving long-term hunger problems, but it is sprouting hope and relationships.

“We’re just spending time together, possibly learning from each other,” said Elizabeth Newman, co-manager of the community garden. “A community meal together in the garden is an extension of that idea, a way to bring us all together around food.”

Online registration for Reconcilers Weekend is open until Sept. 14 and afterward, at the door. Read more information about Reconcilers Weekend.