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Transformed by the Public Church Framework: Church of All Nations

Today’s blog post comes from Marie Page at Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights. She shares the story of the learnings and transformation their community has experienced by being a learning partner in the Riverside Innovation Hub.

This blog is the second in a series of stories of transformation from our congregational learning partners. We hope these stories illustrate the larger story of our project as we promote another learning partnership opportunity. 

church of all nations logo with white dove over multicolored cross

When we first started conversations with Riverside Innovation Hub, we could hardly have imagined the depth and variety of challenges that would face our congregation and our society in these past few years; but the insights and collaborative support we received through our partnership could not have come at a better time.

In the initial stages of the process, the public church framework offered clarity and a healthy challenge as we discerned where the Spirit was calling us. Their early enthusiasm was additional confirmation that our desire for a regenerative reset of our relationship with the land itself was an idea that could catch imagination and spark passion with many. Church “as we’ve always done it,” we sensed, was increasingly failing to satisfy the hunger of our members and community. With the support of our RIH partners, we began our multi-year permaculture project.

Over the first winter, a group of lay volunteers met on a bimonthly basis to study the foundational principles of permaculture and the history of farming regeneratively as many of our cultures of origin have done for thousands of years, as well as all the un-learning necessary in many “modernized” countries.

After spending some time with accompaniment and interpretation- discovering the how and the why– we crafted a plan for the what, with the help of our friends at Ecological Design, the women-owned/run permaculture design firm behind the Frogtown Farm in St. Paul and the Tiny Diner Farm in Minneapolis, among others. Naming our neighborhood as including our grounds, Silver Lake at the bottom of our hill, and the Rice Creek Watershed (emptying into the much wider Mississippi Watershed) we were convicted to incorporate as many layered features as possible for water retention and erosion/runoff prevention. We also incorporated food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, as well as meeting spaces, herb and vegetable gardens, and play areas for our human members.


overhead view of outside gathering area
View of from the new deck, overlooking the nature play area, picnic tables, new cistern, and raised beds at Church of All Nations.

As we moved deeper into discernment, we began very literally removing things that needed to be sacrificed for new life to thrive- namely, all the conventional sod across our property… with a sod cutter and volunteers from our congregation- and reseeded with a clover/fescue mix that retains significantly more soil and water while also providing for pollinators. It took some courage to invest in trees and other perennials, as well as outdoor construction and 26 raised beds- taking it in faith that our congregation would share our vision and see it through.

Those early risks have provided for a very abundant harvest, both figuratively and literally. We’ve launched an herbalism business based on the botanicals grown on-site, and been able to provide medicinal teas to our community which have been especially helpful during this time of pandemic. Assembling and installing 26 raised beds this spring required an additional investment of volunteer labor; instead of being a bothersome chore, our people were delighted to have a safe way to fellowship and work together (outdoors, with masks and social distance).

This energy continued throughout the season as we grew, weeded, watered, and harvested together from the gardens. We also began an outdoor nature-based learning program for our children this fall, made possible by all our previous work. During this unprecedented time when indoor worship as an entire congregation has not been possible for nearly a year, we are grateful that we can continue to proclaim the good news as we live it each day, both among our members and to the wider community. Despite receiving some initial resistance (the beginning stages were not aesthetically pleasing), many neighbors have expressed gratitude for our project, some even sharing that, in this time of pandemic and growing fascist threat, walking to our grounds and witnessing all the life unfolding throughout the season has been a balm to their spirit.

We are extremely grateful to Riverside Innovation Hub for their visionary leadership and transformative partnership, spurring us on towards deeper love and transformative good deeds for the sake of the gospel in our community and beyond.