Year of Plenty – New Ways to Worship

Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin

I just finished reading Craig Goodwin’d book Year of Plenty which talks about his family’s commitment to consume only what was local, used, homegrown, or homemade for  a year.  I had planned to read it earlier in the year and blog about it before the growing season got going but one of the other community members grabbed it and I have only just gotten it back.

Craig is a Presbyterian minister in Spokane Washington, a farmers’ market manager, a master food preserver and a doctoral student in Missional Leadership. I met Craig at the Inhabit Conference a couple of weeks ago and was disappointed that I did not have the chance to talk to him much about his intriguing experiment.  I thoroughly enjoyed Craig’s stories and the way that he weaves his family’s journey to learn more about the food they eat, the community they live in and the global community of which they are a part with lessons of faith, life and God.

Craig writes in a very engaging and often humourous way that is delightfully entertaining but at the same time challenging as he addresses issues of environmental degradation, food justice and the often disinterested response of the Christian community.  I loved the way they tore up their lawn to plant vegetables – not in a haphazard way but in the pattern of a labyrinth.  And the children loved it spending more time rather than less playing outside as a result.

The most sobering chapter is that in which he talks about Green Christians.  evidently churches that go green are more likely to do so because they think it will attract members than because they really care about the environment.  And most concerning of all is that Christians are less likely to recycle than the average American and less likely to want stricter environmental laws than atheists.  Craig comments ”

As someone who laments these statistic, I wonder not only why Christians are lagging, but why Christians aren’t the leaders and exemplars when it comes to caring for God’s creation.  I’m not disappointed that we’re average.  I am disappointed that we’re not ahead of the curve in the same way that we are less likely to cuss in public.  By all rights the church should be on the cutting edge of environmental concern.

Yesterday I also finished an article for Clayfire Curator on gardening as an act of worship.  As I contemplated Craig’s concerns it occurred to me that part of the problem we suffer as Christians is our inability to take our worship experiences outside the church box and into the communities of which we are a part.  I suspect that until we come to see caring for the environment as an act of worship – the fulfillment of God’s first mandate to humankind to tend the garden and make it flourish – that we will never be at the forefront of environmental concern.

My own passion has grown, not dwindled over the years, not because I love to garden (and I do) and not even because I love the beauty of God’s creation (and I do), but because I am constantly inspired by the incredible revelation of God and of the story of God that I see unveiled in the garden.  I talk a lot about this in To Garden with God I find too that the revelation is ongoing.  I am constantly reminded that the creation is indeed translucent and the glory of God does shine through it.

I heartily recommend Year of Plenty to anyone who is grappling with issues of sustainability, environmental stewardship and simplicity.  Well done Craig.  Let us know how the journey continues to unfold.