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Growing Change in an Urban Garden

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BY LYDIAN BERNHARDT AVERITT |

When a professor at a Greensboro college set out in 2013 to help a struggling northeast Greensboro community improve its food choices, he planned to build an urban farm – the city’s first – as part of the project.

In doing so, he built a bridge.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The neighborhood had lost its only full-service grocery store in the 1990s, in addition to other areas of decline, and was drifting into being a food desert. Neighbors formed a group, Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, and approached the professor, who works in the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He agreed to share his expertise.

“Communities are naturally suspicious of university professors, because they know that we’re going to come in, do our project, collect our data and get our results, then write our papers and leave,” he said. “They are right; projects do end. They have to take it over. So, when I do this development work, I have to make them recognize that they are responsible for their own development.”

But the professor managed to not only help feed a hungry community, but coach its residents to adopt lifestyle changes and take responsibility for their own development. And, while the project itself is in no way religious, it does call to mind Biblical injunctions for feeding the poor and caring for others, and is a powerful reminder about each person’s call to use their skills to help another.

“Do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased,” says Hebrews 13:16.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ,” reminds Galatians 6:2.

His ambitious project included surveying neighborhood residents about their eating habits, training them in healthy shopping practices, working with community groups on the urban farm, identifying liaisons in the community to encourage members’ participation, and interacting with the members themselves.

The project seeks to address not just the problem of fresh food availability, but to understand the eating habits that drive people’s food choices and affect their overall health. These habits are based on values so ingrained that they are often not even recognized by the people who hold them.

“Values influence behavior, but it’s all implicit based on their experience,” he said. “We had to make it explicit so they could see clearly how their decisions were based, point out the disadvantages of acting that way, and attach fresh values to the new behavior.  Then, it’s easier to train people to make a different food choice.”

Photo by Lou Liebau on Unsplash

Through his efforts, the project has sunk deep roots into the neighborhood. A co-op grocery is selling the farm’s produce. The White Street area has fresh produce at an affordable price, through the community farm, and the community members have acquired the knowledge to make healthier dietary choices. They have also learned the skills to make healthy meals.

“Give, and it will be given to you,” says Luke 6:38. In supporting a needy community, the givers received a psychological reward themselves.

“It’s easy to put structures up,” the professor says, “It’s harder to marshal the human element. Reinforcement has to be continuous. When members of the community ask if I’m going to stay involved in it, I tell them yes. As long as I am here, I’ll be involved in it.”


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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Loving God, etc.

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

What do you believe?  When do you feel most faithful?

We church folks tend to focus on believing and acting in faith that God is working with us according to God’s will. It’s a good practice, to pay attention to what you believe as a Christian, to trust yourself and God in living your life by those beliefs.  Faithfulness over time creates a life well-lived, satisfying for you and those you serve in your way. Beliefs and faith in God are so incredibly important, aren’t they?

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

And yet, we are called, first and foremost, to love.

Marcus Borg, theologian and author of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, reminded me of the two most important commandments with which God has entrusted each one of us who call ourselves Christians.  They are as familiar to you as they are to me, and I’d like to share them with you again here as Jesus shared them with his disciples:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Borg’s last chapter of Convictions focused so beautifully on what it means to love God, how we can do this every day. And, by natural extension, our expression of love for God becomes love in action for other people, and for ourselves.  

So, how do you love God?

First, ask yourself how you feel about God.  

A little obvious, I know, but love is a feeling, a tangible human feeling that makes you want to spend time with the object of your affection.  When you love someone, you may feel a little excited at the thought of unexpectedly seeing him, or you may catch yourself smiling as the thought of her crosses your mind.

So, how do you feel about God?  Do you feel happy, delighted knowing God’s presence in your life?  Do you light up inside at the thought of catching a glimpse of God in a place you don’t expect? Consider that for a few moments.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash   

Next, ask yourself what you like to do with God when you spend time together.  

When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, being together and doing what you enjoy.  Borg mentions devotional time, meditation, prayer, singing, reading scripture and retreats as ways we can spend time with God.  You may have participated in some or all of these activities with God over the years of your life.

But you may not have thought of them as expressions of your desire to share time with God because you love God and love being with God.  You may also have a few great ideas of your own to share about ways you and God spend time together.  When you spend time, consciously, with God, you get to know God better and better, which makes love grow.  

Last, Borg reminded me that loving God means loving what God loves.  

What do you believe God loves?  The second commandment tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  God loves your neighbor and God loves you. In Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing and mentoring of his disciples, God revealed what loving our neighbors, each other, looks like: compassion, freedom and courage, gratitude.  All of these are expressions of what God loves.

How do you feel about your neighbors?  Do you spend time with them, getting to know them better? Neighbors by another name are simply people with whom you share the planet.  People you live next door to, across town, the state, the country, the world from, are all people you have opportunity to love and spend time getting to know better.  Learning about other people’s lives is an expression of the love God has for you and me, and for all our neighbors. It is also easier to feel compassion for those with whom you do not agree, but have come to understand.

How do you feel about yourself?  How do you express love for yourself? Do you spend time with you?  Spending time with yourself is time well-spent, a spiritual practice of honoring the unique creation of God’s love that is your life. When you choose to be with yourself, do what you enjoy doing, you are loving yourself with a freedom and courage built into you by God’s ever-present, creative, powerful love for you.  

And, whenever you love your neighbor, whenever you love yourself, you are saying, thank you, God, for loving me.   

The brilliant artist, Georgia O’Keefe, known best for the flowers she pained, once said of her success, “In a way, nobody sees a flower, really.  It is so small, we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Loving God takes time too.  You may believe you don’t have time, and that God knows your love is real.  But neglected love changes things, and before you know it, you have changed too.  You’ve lost track of what meant so much to you. Your life is emptied of what mattered to you most.  And, you may have forgotten who you are too.

So, how do you feel about God?


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Are You a Caregiver? Help is Here

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BY A DEVOTED MORAVIAN CAREGIVER |

We are all aging every day, and if we are lucky, we will live longer than our grandparents did. Health care in this country is amazing, and many people are living until a ripe old age, which can be a blessing, but also, a challenge. One effect of this progress is that more and more of us are encountering physical limitations and even cognitive problems.

Many of us have parents who are still commitment to independent living even as they struggle with health concerns and diminishing mobility. It can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate the health care system, determine the best or most cost-effective resources, and ensure that your parents are enjoying the quality of life they so deserve.

Over the past few years, I found myself in this position – overwhelmed by the needs and challenges of my parents. I particularly needed reliable information. That’s when I found ACAP (which stands for Adult Children of Aging Parents). I attended their convenient, informative meetings and have learned much about the joys and challenges of caregiving and aging gracefully with support. ACAP has proven to be a lifesaver to me in many ways.

Younger adult caring for elderly.

Many middle age children have found themselves caring for their elderly parents. | Photo from Pexels

An ACAP Chapter is now operating in the Winston-Salem area. ACAP Winston-Salem will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, September 18 from 5:30pm until 7:00pm at Knollwood Baptist Church, 330 Knollwood Street in Winston-Salem. Meetings will be held the third Tuesday of every month at this location. The first meeting will deal with community resources available to assist with whatever needs you may have regarding the care of your aging parents. You will be able to ask questions, meet community representatives and the ACAP leadership team.

Register for the meeting by emailing your name to acapwinstonsalem@gmail.com. More information about ACAP is available at ACAPcommunity.org.

If this is a need that you have, please join us. If you forget to register, please come anyway. All programs are free and are intended to assist the members of our community.


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Ready for the Essentials

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BY REV. DAN MILLER |

This past July, I was privileged to be invited to Camp Hope, the Moravian camp in Hope, NJ, to lead programming for the senior high camp. I know you didn’t come to this blog to read about camp stories from me, but if you stick with me until the end, I promise there will be something there for you.

Camp Hope’s senior high camp has a planning committee made up of a select group of youth, which is similar to other Moravian senior high camps and Regional Youth Councils. As their name suggests, this group is responsible for planning many aspects of camp, part of which includes selecting an initial idea for the camp’s program and selecting someone to carry it out. When the planning committee came to me with the invitation to do the camp’s program, they explained their program idea. They wanted to know more about the “Moravian Motto” – In Essentials, Unity, In Nonessentials, Liberty, In All Things, Love. They said they knew the motto, but they didn’t know about the first part of it. Their question was simple: if we’re supposed to be united in the essentials, shouldn’t we know what those essentials are?

Yes, that would be important.

So, I set to work creating a program centered around the Essentials first laid out by our Moravian ancestor, Luke of Prague, and most recently reaffirmed by the Northern and Southern provinces at their most recent synods – God creates, God redeems, and God blesses, and in response we live with faith, love, and hope. Since camp always has a fun side to it, I wrapped it up in a survival-theme, because when else does anyone think of what is essential to living until they are alone in the wilderness trying to survive with nothing? Before I knew it, the theme morphed into Survivor, like the popular TV show. But using this theme didn’t quite fit with the Essentials because we don’t simply want to survive as a Christians, we want to thrive. Hence, the name of the program was changed to be called Thriver: The Essentials. The logo was the finishing touch before the program was unveiled at camp.

Thriver logo

The logo for Camp Hope’s Senior High camp program, inspired by the popular TV show, Survivor.

It wasn’t until the third day of camp that the six Essentials themselves were unveiled, and once they were, there was no going back. I was amazed at how quickly the camp soaked this up. Within minutes, everyone knew what the Essentials were. I could almost read the campers’ thoughts as I saw their faces light up – “There’s only six of them? Live with faith, love, and hope? I can do that!” Evening vespers were filled with praises directed towards one of the three God Essentials (i.e. Creator, Redeemer, Blesser). Small group discussions began filling up with conversations about people, things, actions, and events and how they point towards or away from faith, love, and hope. Campers were talking about the program outside of program time. (There’s something so wonderful about hearing conversations about the Essentials in line for dinner and in the pool.) The Essentials were quickly embraced, lived out, and manifested with new flesh and blood. Everyone at this camp was so ready for the Essentials.

Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer leads a prayer

A body prayer was led each day before program by Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer to prepare ourselves to receive the Essentials.

So why am I sharing about camp on this blog? I’m sharing this to let you know that the next generation is so ready to know about the Essentials. Children want to know that they are created, redeemed, and blessed by God not because of how much they know or how much they are able to do, but because of God’s love and grace. Youth want to know that there are so many unique ways that they can live with faith, love, and hope. College students want to know what makes them a Christian when they don’t have the chance to see the people and the place that they had associated with being a Christian for so long while growing up.

So teach the Essentials in your Sunday School and confirmation classes. Make them explicitly a part of your worship. Lead some kind of discussion curriculum about them. Be intentional about including them in a name of a group, the title of an event, or even a mission statement. Write them in the bulletin. Put them on Facebook.

A small group at Camp Hope pray together

A small group prays together as they each stand in a valentine from God made to represent one of the Essentials: Love.

Do something to spread the word about the Essentials because the next generation, and for that matter, all people, are ready…

They are ready to be loved and accepted completely as individuals who have unique talents, shortcomings, experiences, interests, insecurities, and dreams.

They are ready to give themselves to a movement, a cause, a purpose, and a Savior that is bigger than themselves.

They are ready to come together and unite with others to show the world faith, love, and hope.

They are ready for the Essentials.

May we be ready to share them.


About the Author

The Rev. Dan Miller

Photo courtesy of Rev. Dan Miller

Dan Miller (revdanmiller@gmail.com) is the pastor of Edgeboro Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He serves on the Interprovincial Board of Communication and the Moravian Theological Seminary Alumni Board. Dan is the co-creator of Moravian Church Without Walls (MCWW), a creative “think tank” for online ministry, which has most recently produced the MCWW Daily Text Podcast Series. Find it at anchor.fm/mcww or wherever you get your podcasts.


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Healing Divisions

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BY REV. JOHN JACKMAN |

Every year, Moravians around the world pause to observe the August 13th. This was the date in 1727 when our forebears experienced a powerful renewal, an event that has sometimes been called “the Moravian Pentecost.” We celebrate Holy Communion on the Sunday closest to August 13, sing hymns about renewal and reconciliation – and then what? Do we go about our business the same as before? What impact does this have on our lives today?

Most Moravians know a bit about the event on August 13, 1727, but know little of the details. It didn’t just “happen.” The previous year had been one of growing and terrible divisions among the Herrnhuters. Some newcomers to the little community had brought apocalyptic preaching and talk of the end times. Zinzendorf was the antichrist, Pastor Rothe (the Lutheran pastor called to the Berthelsdorf parish church) was the “beast from the pit.” Families were divided – just about the way some families are now!

Herrnhut, Germany - looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Herrnhut, Germany – looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Zinzendorf recognized that his little village of refugees was on the path to destruction, and resigned his position in the court in Dresden to return home and act as pastor to the community, visiting and calling the people together for prayerful study of the scriptures. During this period, the residents became convicted that their behavior toward one another had been inexcusable – that the Savior called His followers to exhibit love toward one another, to be “one” in his name. Out of this grew the remarkable document known in German as the Bruderlisch Vertrag, the Brotherly Agreement, now known as the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. Rather than a doctrinal statement, the Moravians signed a code of Christian behavior. This was signed on May 12, 1727 by all the residents of Herrnhut. They entered a period of obedience to what they had found in scripture, spending increased time in prayer. The following three months brought about massive changes in the behavior of the community. Dr. Kenneth Curtis, founder of the Christian History Institute, wrote:

“On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God’s nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.¹”

The Berthelsdorf Parish Church in Germany | Photo by Mike Riess

The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited everyone in the Herrnhut community to a joint communion service at the Bethelsdorf Church. It was held on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut to pray with the family in preparation for this service of communion. During this period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, of continued study of scriptures, and intense prayer, all had become convinced of their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness – from Christ and from one another. The service was one of confession; the words of forgiveness in the liturgy, and then the sharing of Holy Communion, had for each a profound meaning. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as “a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost.” It would later be said “This was the day that they learned to love one another.”

This reestablished the ancient call of the Unity – to live out the Great Commandment and the Beatitudes in community in a way that bore witness to the world of the love of God. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35, NIV. This is a call that the Unity has sought to live out for over 561 years, since our founding in 1457.

But what does August 13 mean for us today? For even if we are not arguing about who is the antichrist or when the End will be, we are a divided people. We are divided by the hot-button issues, by the ranting of politicians, by racial divisions. Shall we go through the motions of singing the hymns and receiving the Lord’s Supper this Sunday – and then go back to being divided and regarding one another out of the corner of our eyes?

Just like our forebears, we need a period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, a period of intense Bible study, and even more, a time of earnest prayer. We need to learn to love one another. Without the hard work of preparation, no magical renewal come with the waving of a wand.


Sources

1 Dr. A. Kenneth Curtis, “A Golden Summer.” Republished online at the Zinzendorf Jubilee site, http://zinzendorf.com/pages/index.php?id=a-golden-summer


About the Author

image of John Jackman

Photo courtesy of John Jackman

The Rev. John Jackman is pastor of Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem.

 


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Practicing Resurrection

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BY REV. REBECCA CRAVER | 

In our churches, we have lots of practices. We practice our faith, prayer disciplines, choir anthems, and so much more. Almost 9 years ago a friend introduced to me to the poet Wendell Berry and his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” It woke me up to a practice of faith that I had missed or at the very least not given much time to develop in my Christian discipleship: practicing resurrection.

Resurrection is something we celebrate, proclaim and claim as part of our faith every day, however, it can be the last thing on our list of possible responses to meet the challenges of the day. I have been wondering over the last few years if resurrection is indeed what we, as churches, are being called into. Most of us know of congregations that are struggling with declining numbers in worship, fewer children and families getting connected, and simple discouragement because what once worked doesn’t seem to be working any longer.

We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it?

From my perspective, we seem to be living through a historical pivot point where God is doing some major renovations to the Body of Christ. Just like putting a new kitchen in your home shakes up the whole house and your daily routine, God’s renovation is shaking us up as well. I believe the practice of resurrection has some potential to help us through the transformation process. That first Easter morning no one saw it coming, except Jesus.

Image of cross at Easter

A cross in front of Olivet Moravian Church is adorned with a white cloth on Easter, signifying Christ’s resurrection. | Photo by Andrew David Cox

“The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:5-9

I find it challenging to imagine what it was like for the women at Jesus’ tomb. I wonder if questions such as these were going through their minds: “How could something so implausible and impossible as resurrection have happened?”, “What in the world are we supposed to do with this new information?”, and “What does it even look like to practice resurrection?”

Here are a few ideas from the poem “Manifesto” by Wendell Berry: “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.”

We have more experience than we think we do. Think back, how often have you come up against a new and unexpected challenge and figured out how to meet it? With the help and support of family, friends, and faith, we have found ways to thrive even in times of change, upheaval and sorrow. So let’s take the lessons we have learned in our daily lives and use them in our churches.

The Moravian seal or emblem, in all its forms, encourages us to follow Christ no matter the challenge or change we face. | Seals: Moravian emblem on Tanzanian cloth (top left), 2018 Southern Province Synod logo (bottom left), standard seal commonly seen in North America (middle), painted seal at Friedland Moravian Church (top right), stained-glass seal at Clemmons Moravian Church (bottom right). | Photos and graphic by Andrew David Cox

Here in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, our congregations have been setting aside time to talk together about our future(s). We are participating in a series called, “Food, Faith, and Future.” This is one way we are seeking to practice resurrection. We come to these conversations from our various contexts to listen for and imagine together how God’s renovation may be leading us into the future. For some of us, it seems like the writing is on the wall and the future of our congregational ministry may be coming to an end. For other congregations, there are different challenges to their ministries. However, each of our congregations still recognizes that God is working in us and through us for the Kin(g)dom of God. So whatever the future holds in terms of our institutional presence, our call to ministry and service continues.

As a pastor in Edmonton, I have great hope that these conversations on how our ministry might continue will bear fruit for the Kin(g)dom. We are not people of the tomb, it is not the place we stay, but the pivot point that sends us out again in search of a life with Jesus leading us on the way. We are sent to practice resurrection, indeed!

“Food, Faith, and Future” in action in Edmonton, Canada at an April 2018 meeting. | Photos by the Rev. Rebecca Craver


Sources

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” The Country of Marriage, by Wendell Berry, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.

WBP, Julie. “Poem of the Day – Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” BookPeople, BookPeople, 5 Apr. 2011, bookpeopleblog.com/2011/04/05/poem-of-the-day-manifesto-the-mad-farmer-liberation-front/.


About the Author

 

Rebecca Craver is a pastor in the Northern Province, serving Edmonton Moravian Church. She serves on the Healthier Congregations Task Force and is a co-creator of the “Create in Me” worship series in The Moravian Magazine and an upcoming podcast.

Contact Rebecca at RevRebeccaCraver@Gmail.com or call office number (780) 439-1063


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