Summoned Toward Wholeness

Summoned Toward Wholeness

A Conference on Food, Farming, and the Life of Faith

Duke Divinity School

September 27, 2013 to September 28, 2013


Scripture portrays God as a gardener, farmer, and shepherd. It describes Jesus as “the bread of life” who invites people to the Lord’s table so they can learn to feed his sheep. It is hard to read the Bible and not see that God cares deeply about food and agriculture.

Join plenary speakers Ellen F. Davis, Joel Salatin, Scott Cairns, and Norman Wirzba, and 12 workshop leaders, as we explore multiple connections between food, farming, and the life of faith. Discover how a  concern for food and agriculture can deepen faith and heal our lands and communities.

This event is hosted by Duke Divinity School, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Blessed Earth, Cherokee Gives Back, The Duke Endowment, The Humane Society of the United States, and Anathoth Community Garden.


Ellen F. Davis is Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School. The author of eight books and many articles, she focuses her research on how biblical interpretation bears on the life of faith communities and their responses to urgent public issues, particularly the environmental crisis and interfaith relations. Her most recent book, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2009), integrates biblical studies with a critique of industrial agriculture and food production. A lay Episcopalian, she is active as a theological consultant within the Anglican Communion and since 2004 has worked with the Episcopal Church of Sudan to develop theological education, community health, and sustainable agriculture.

Joel Salatin is a third-generation organic farmer and author whose family owns and operates Polyface Farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The farm produces salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry, forage-based rabbits and direct markets everything to 4,000 families, 40 restaurants, and 10 retail outlets. A prolific author, Salatin's seven books to date include both how-to and big-picture themes. Polyface Farm features prominently in Michael Pollan's New York Times bestseller Omnivore's Dilemma and the award-winning documentary Food, Inc.

Scott Cairns is a professor of English at the University of Missouri. He is also director of MU Writing Workshops in Greece, a program that brings graduate and undergraduate students to Thessaloniki and Thasos every June for intensive engagement with literary life in modern Greece. His poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Image, Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, etc., and both have been anthologized in multiple editions of Best American Spiritual Writing. His most recent poetry collection is Compass of Affection. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and is completing work on a new poetry collection, Idiot Psalms, and a translation of selections from The Philokalia under the title Descent to the Heart. His memoir will be released in a new edition called Slow Pilgrim in 2014.

Norman Wirzba is Professor Theology and Ecology at Duke Divinity School. He teaches courses on theology as they relate to environmental and agricultural issues. His current research focuses on developing an account of the doctrine of creation that speaks to humanity’s faithful presence in the world. He is the author of several books, including Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating and (with Fred Bahnson) Making Peace with the Land. He edited The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land and The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry.

A former emergency room physician, Dr. Matthew Sleeth resigned from his position as chief of the medical staff and director of the ER to teach, preach, and write about faith and the environment. Since founding Blessed Earth, he has spoken at 1,000 churches and schools throughout the country. Dr. Sleeth is a graduate of George Washington University School of Medicine and has two postdoctoral fellowships. He is the author of Serve God and Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action, the introduction to The Green Bible, and 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life.













Thursday, September 26

Friday, September 27 (all day at Duke Divinity School)

  • 8:30 – 9:30 Registration
  • 9:30 – Introduction & Worship: Matthew Sleeth, preaching (Goodson Chapel)
  • 10:30 – Break
  • 10:45 – Plenary I: Ellen F. Davis & FolkPsalm (Goodson Chapel)
  • 12:00 – 1:30 Lunch (Divinity Refectory and Terrace)
  • 1:30 – 2:30 – Workshops A
  • 2:30 – 2:45 – Break
  • 2:45 – 3:45 – Workshops B
  • 4:00 – Plenary II: Joel Salatin (Duke Divinity School)
  • 5:30 – Dinner at Duke Divinity School
  • 7:00 – 8:00 – FolkPsalm Performance (Goodson Chapel)

Saturday, September 28 (Anathoth Community Garden)

  • 9:00 – Meditation & Worship (All Saturday events at Anathoth Community Garden)
  • 9:30 – Plenary III: Scott Cairns
  • 10:45 – 11:00 - Break
  • 11:00 – Workshops C
  • 12:00 – Box Lunch Pick-Up
  • 2:00 – 3:00 – Workshops D -- Note: Workshops led by Steve Moore and Aaron Jones run from 2:00 – 4:15
  • 3:00 – 3:15 - Break
  • 3:15 – 4:15 – Workshops E
  • 4:15-4:30 - Break
  • 4:30 – Plenary IV: Norman Wirzba
  • 6:00 – Dinner & Music

Workshops are included in the event registration fee. They are an invitation to develop more practical and specialized skills to help connect food, farming, and the life of faith. Participants will have the opportunity to attend up to 5 workshops. Space is limited. Advance registration is required.

Friday, September 27, Duke Divinity School

Each of the following workshops is offered twice, 1:30-2:30 p.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m. 

Soil & Sacrament: An Agrarian Journey

To grow and share food with others in a garden is to enter a holy country. American spirituality is discovering itself anew as people of faith reconnect with the land. Through stories and images, Bahnson will describe his visits to different faith communities that embody the multilayered connections between spiritual and physical nourishment. From Trappist monks who pursue a life of contemplation while harvesting mushrooms to a Jewish organic farm in the Berkshires, this workshop will take you on a journey across four seasons and five gardens.

  • Fred Bahnson is director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the author of Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (Simon & Schuster, 2013), and co-author with Norman Wirzba of Making Peace with the Land (InterVarsity Press, 2012). In 2005 he co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church-supported agriculture ministry in Cedar Grove, N.C., which he then directed until 2009. Since then he has been visiting faith-based agriculture projects around the country and writing and speaking about what he's learned, including a TEDxManhattan talk in February. With his wife and three sons, he tends a 1/2-acre edible forest garden on a hillside in Transylvania County, N.C. 

Down to Earth Teaching: The Garden as a Classroom for Christian Educators

As Christians, our basic vocation is to glorify God by living "humanly," which entails linking and connecting with both material and spiritual sources of life. Part of the task of Christian educators is to facilitate experiences that help their students see and nurture these sacramental connections, and Scripture provides many clues that tilling (Gen. 2) and eating (Luke 22) are an apt place to begin. Shouldn't then the agrarian arts be integrated into the curriculum at churches, Christian schools, and seminaries? This workshop will explore a pedagogy of an agrarian approach to Christian education centering on Anathoth’s apprenticeship program for young adults. If you are a pastor, professor, Sunday school teacher, or student interested in enriching your teaching by blending dirt-under-the-nails practice with faithful theology, then this workshop is for you. 

  • Chas Edens is the executive director and garden manager of Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, N.C., a ministry that began in response to a nearby murder in 2004 and is dedicated to cultivating peace by using regenerative agriculture to connect people with their neighbors, the land, and God. At Anathoth, Edens teaches people of all ages. Most notably he has developed an innovative apprenticeship program for college-age students, which blends classroom-learning with garden-learning, equipping students with the theological vision and practical know-how to start or sustain agrarian ministries in their own communities. Edens has a B.S. in Horticulture from North Carolina State University and a M.A. in Christian Studies from Duke Divinity School.

Abolishing the McEucharist: How Food Can Help Churches Move Beyond the Happy Meal Gospel

For the Church, the Eucharist is more than simply a religious act. It is meant to narrate our engagement with the world around us, and to inform our understanding of God's engagement with all of creation. It should also shape how we think about and engage with food. This workshop will explore ways in which our local churches might more deeply connect with local food issues as both a reflection of the story of God's work in the world and as a counter to the narrative of therapeutism so prevalent in American Christianity.

  • Will Samson combines academic rigor with real-world engagement to shape and direct the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, an organization that assists seminaries and divinity schools in their efforts to incorporate care for God’s creation into their curriculum and practices. He is the author of multiple books, book chapters and articles, including Justice in the Burbs and Enough. Last year Yale published his research on religious responses to mountaintop removal mining, and his research on new monasticism will be featured in The New Evangelical Social Engagement, published by Oxford University Press. Samson serves on the board of directors of Common Change, a group experimenting with alternative models of giving. He is involved in community gardening efforts through his volunteer work with Seedleaf, a Lexington-based food initiative. 

Farmworkers' Lives, Labor & Advocacy

Join this workshop to hear stories of farmworkers' lives, share experiences of connecting with immigrant workers in your community, and get informed about ways to engage your congregation in service and advocacy with farmworkers and their families. This workshop will include documentaries, participatory discussions, and practical tips for involvement with those that bring food to our tables. Theological resources and biblically-based curriculum, as well as fact sheets and advocacy tools, will be shared.

  • Melinda Wiggins is the executive director of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF), a nonprofit organization that brings students and farmworkers together to learn about each other's lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change. Before starting as the director of SAF in 1996, Wiggins became involved with the farmworker movement as a SAF intern with the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry during the summer of 1993. Wiggins is active with many immigrant and farmworker rights coalitions, including the Adelante Education Coalition, Farmworker Advocacy Network, and Farmworker Ministry Committee, as well as many social justice groups such as Zomppa and the Windcall Residency Program. Wiggins is the granddaughter of sharecroppers who grew up in a rural farming community in the Mississippi Delta. She received a B.A.  from Millsaps College in 1992 and a M.T.S. from Duke University in 1994. She has resided in N.C. since moving here in the early 1990s.

The Brown Revolution: The Global Food Crisis and Viable Options for the Small Scale Farmer

This presentation will address some of the major causes of global food insecurity that result in starvation, malnutrition, and reduced cognitive capacity world wide. The majority of farmers in the world are considered small-scale farmers, attempting to grow enough food for their families on less than 5 acres of land. With rainfall becoming less predictable, soils becoming more depleted, and plot sizes becoming smaller, small-scale farmers are becoming less productive -- most of them are net consumers instead of net producers. Working with a global network of community development workers, researchers, agriculturalists, and small-scale farmers, ECHO is beginning to see a reversal of this trend through what we are calling the Brown Revolution.

  • Stan Doerr joined ECHO as deputy director in April 2004 and was appointed President/CEO in June 2006. Born and raised in Jamestown, N. D.,  Doerr has a B.A. degree from Mid-America Nazarene University in Kansas and a M.S. degree from the University of Texas (Pan American campus). He began his overseas career in 1981, working first in education, then in community development and administration. In 1995, he joined the Chapin Living Waters Foundation as an agriculture consultant working in more than 23 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  Before working for ECHO, Doerr worked in community development for World Vision, Mauritania. ECHO is currently working with organizations and individuals in 179 countries, providing tropical agricultural technical support and training.

Saturday, Sept. 28, Anathoth Community Garden and Cedar Grove UMC

Each of the following workshops will be offered two of the following times: 11:00 – 12:00 p.m., 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. or 3:15-4:15 p.m.

Unplug and Dig In: Inviting Children into the Garden

Children today are far more connected to electronic devices than they are to God's creation and to each other. As an antidote to video games, iPods, and computers, this workshop will explore outdoor experiences, including farming and gardening, that reconnect children with the soil, their food, and each other. Plan to get your own hands dirty in some hands-on learning about sharing God's creation, creatures, and the goodness of the garden with children. Practical information and fun activities that you can take home will be presented.

  • Chris Burtner has been involved in community gardening since 2005, when she started and managed Covenant Community Garden at Fuquay-Varina UMC in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. She currently serves as the farm manager of The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge and on the leadership team of Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center in Efland, N.C. God has given Chris a passion for growing fruits and vegetables and for tending God's creatures, especially children.

The Morality of Raising and Eating Meat

Our food system is in need of a plan for recovery. This workshop looks at practical and economic innovations that can help move us from the industrial agriculture and food system to a restorative approach.

  • Mike Callicrate is a cattle producer, business entrepreneur, and political activist. He has been farming and raising cattle at St. Francis, Kan., since 1975. He also owns a value-added meat company and retail store, Ranch Foods Direct, in Colorado Springs, Col. He is a founding member of several farm advocacy groups including the Organization for Competitive Markets, R-CALF USA, and the Coalition for a Prosperous America. He served as an advisor for the films Food Inc. and FRESH, and for several best-selling books about the modern food system including The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

A Church’s Role in Food and Farming

How can local congregations learn that food is part of faithful discipleship and become witnesses in their communities by eating and growing food? And in turn, how can they help create and grow local food networks in their wider communities? This workshop will be of particular interest to pastors and congregational leaders seeking to make connections with their wider community through the sharing of food.

  • Kyle Childress is the Pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Tex. A popular speaker on a range of issues relating to pastoral ministry, Childress has also written for periodicals including The Christian Century and Christian Reflection.

Developing a Local Food System

We all want to be able to buy food from local producers. But how can local food become a realistic option for the average person? In this workshop, Correll will discuss his real-world experience creating Marksbury Farms, and offer specific advice on the role that congregations can play in helping to create and sustain a local food system.

  • Preston Correll is a Lincoln County, Ky. farmer who started his farm as a source of high-quality food products for local markets. Preston raises grass-finished beef, pastured pork, and pastured poultry for Marksbury Farm Market, of which he is a founding partner. Preston is a co-founder and founding board member of the Local Food Association.

Each of the following workshops will be offered once, 2:00 – 4:15 p.m. 

Fire and Sacrament: Baking Bread as a Sign and Foretaste of the Kingdom

Learn the basics of bread-making (especially brick oven style) while reflecting on the biblical traditions, spiritual practices, and sacramental tremors that surround bread. We will also discuss bread-making as an axis for local agriculture, church ministry, and Christian community.

  • Aaron D. Jones, has been involved at Anathoth Community Garden for more than two years. This conference marks his third bread workshop at the Garden. He began working with bread over six years ago, and has since baked for a restaurant, a farm, a professional bakery, and his own home business. A professional educator and an M.Div. Duke Divinity graduate, Jones views bread as the locus of biblical-sacramental-creational theology and spirituality. While a student at Duke, he began researching the food traditions of ancient Israel and came to the conclusion that reclaiming bread (as symbol, skill, and practice) can reorient the church away from abstraction and back into relationship with God's creation.

Growing Sustainably: BioIntensive Mini-farming for Yourself, Family and Community

Learn how to use enhanced millennial old techniques to grow food in a sustainable way. Topics of soil health, fertility, composting, intensive production, and diet design will be woven together on a framework of sustainability.

  • Steve Moore is currently teaching agro-ecology within the Environmental Studies Department at Elon University  in Elon, N.C. Previously he was the small farm unit manager and agriculture energy specialist at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University. He was the past director of the Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pa., and founder of the Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources. He is co-founder (with wife, Carol) of Harmony Essentials, a company dedicated to the vision and practices of a sustaining food system.  Moore was appointed to the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Board, served two terms on the board of directors for PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture), and currently serves as the vice president of the board of directors for Ecology Action, Willits, Calif., and on the board of directors for The Ecological Learning Foundation.


Your registration fee includes lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday, and snacks during the event.


All participants are responsible for making their own lodging arrangements. We have arranged for special rates at the Hilton Durham and Millennium hotels.

  • Hilton Durham near Duke University: $99/single nightly rate, plus applicable taxes. Call (919) 564-2904 by August 28. Mention the "Duke Divinity Conference on Food & Faith" guest room block.
  • Millennium Hotel Durham: $99/single or $109/double nightly rate, plus applicable taxes. Call (800) 633-5379 or 919-383-8575 by September 6. Mention the "Duke Divinity Conference on Food & Faith" guest room block.

Travel & Transportation

Driving Directions

Directions to Duke University


Parking will be available on campus for the event as part of your registration fee. Make sure to designate that you will need parking on your registration form to ensure that you receive the necessary parking credentials for the event.

Transportation During the Event

Either of the hotels listed above under “Lodging” provide shuttle service to and from campus at no additional cost.

On Saturday the event will take place at Anathoth Community Garden. Shuttle service will be provided to the garden from the Durham Hilton and Millennium and back at the conclusion of the day. Shuttle service is available for no additional cost and is limited to out-of-town guests only. If you prefer to drive yourself or if you live in town, driving directions will be provided at the event. Please make sure to designate your travel choice on the registration form.

Flying to Durham, N.C.

The nearest airport is the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), a 20-minute drive to Duke University. Many area hotels offer shuttle service to and from the hotel. There is now Super Shuttle Service from RDU airport to Duke University and the surrounding area. You can make a reservation online prior to your arrival to Duke (provided you have a credit card). There will also be taxi cabs waiting outside each terminal of the airport.

Trains to Durham, N.C.

The Durham Train Station offers Amtrak service to and from Charlotte, Raleigh, Washington DC, and New York City and points in between. Make reservations in advance online or by phone.

Registration is now closed. We have reached capacity and are unable to accommodate any other attendees for either the Conference or Joel Salatin's plenary. Furthermore, no additional registrations will be taken onsite.


Contact Duke Divinity School at or (919) 613-5323 with questions.

Recordings from the plenary sessions and opening worship are online on iTunes U. Joel Salatin's session is also available on YouTube.