The Healing Power of Dirt

This week we hear from Ellie Roscher, a congregational learning partner at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Ellie shares a story about the mutual transformation that comes from listening to and empowering young adult leaders. 

 

plants and welcome sign
The Garden at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Siri, a talented and emerging folk singer, spends significant time on the road playing music. In between tours, she works at the front desk at Bethlehem even though she is skeptical of institutional religion and questions the existence of God. 

About a year ago, Siri found herself in a cycle of despair. She was feeling adrift and unsure of where her community was. And she was feeling cynical, angry and overwhelmed about climate change. She could hear the earth moaning and see it crying out. One night, in response to her lament a friend kindly offered, “Would it help to do something about it?” 

Siri took the challenge to heart. She floated her idea of starting a community garden to me and some other folks at Bethlehem. Yes, yes, yes. We helped her flush out her vision and celebrated with her when she received a generous Foundation Grant. Then it was time to begin. 

At the Riverside Innovation Hub, our guiding text is from Ezekiel 47. In it, we are led away from the temple to deeper water. Along the riverbank there are lush trees with fruit for food and leaves for healing. Siri had a prophetic vision to grow a garden outside the walls of Bethlehem. Bethlehem, a large and resourced church, had not yet leveraged its voice and power to address climate change in real and meaningful ways. We recognized Siri’s passion and vision as beautiful, and we met her there, downriver, to put her plan to action. 

Planting a seed requires the audacity of hope. Tilling the soil quiets the mind, brings peace to the heart, and slows time just a bit. Weeding is a spiritual practice. Watching seed transform is a living metaphor. Fresh air shakes the dust from our souls. Billowing clouds invite us to look all the way up and remember that we are small.

flowers
The late-fall blooms of the garden.

Siri was ready to move from despair. Her leadership invited others to do the same. She built beds, planted seeds, watered them and tended to them. She showed up week in and week out and created a space outside the walls of Bethlehem for folks to gather. Sunday school kids came out into the sunshine to guess what sprouts would become. A neighborhood kid asked if he could help water the beds, another asked if he could have a cucumber. More neighbors, who previously did not engage started congregating when Siri and volunteers showed up to work. More congregation members lingered outside the church. 

Now, at the end of the summer, the garden has exceeded all of our expectations. It is bursting with life. The sun flowers tower over us. The pollinators bring life and vibrancy and splashes of color. We tended to the earth and it is showering us with bounty. The neighbor who was the most skeptical has thanked Siri for creating a space for folks to gather. Congregation members have thanked her for inviting them out of the sanctuary to God’s nature. 

Siri, too, has been amazed at the transformation inside of herself. She is a pastor’s kid, and she has a lot of hurt toward the Christian institution. She sees the harm the church has caused in the world. “It has felt like

gigantic tectonic plates shifting in my being,” she said. “It has been truly transformational to go from overwhelmed to empowered. And to grow a garden on the grounds of a church has been important for me. I’m not ready to worship yet, but growing flowers and vegetables here and having the community rally around me has ushered in healing.” 

garden boxesBethlehem’s innovation team recognized Siri’s vision and leadership. We built our vision around the growing garden and our growing partnership with folks doing conservation and reforestation in the cloud forest of Guatemala. Siri will be one of the young adults traveling to Guatemala come January, after our garden is harvested. She kept asking me if I should send someone else instead, someone who has more clarity about God and church. I think of Ezekiel and smile. “No, you are perfect.” 

The garden has been a blessing. A physical reminder of God’s abundance. A place to gather and listen to the soil and and remember whose we are. It brings dignity to get down on our knees and get dirty. Get some earth under our fingernails. Siri said yes to an invitation to grow something new and rich and beautiful. It has given her hope. And community. Fruit for food and leaves for healing. We are all better for it. We are grateful. 

New Theological Education Opportunity for Innovation Coaches

We have an exciting theological education opportunity to now offer those hired on as Innovation Coaches with Augsburg’s Riverside Innovation Hub. Luther Seminary is partnering with us to make a seminary education available to interested Innovation Coaches at no cost to the student.

This would mean once the Innovation Coach positions have been filled in mid-April, those interested in taking advantage of this opportunity would apply to Luther Seminary to begin classes in the fall of 2018. Innovation Coaches would take a part-time class load during their 10-months of employment with Augsburg’s Riverside Innovation Hub, with their coaching work also counting towards class credit. They would complete their degree in the year/s following, depending on the chosen program.

Additionally, Luther would award a $5,000 stipend to those students who have completed a year of service.

Find more information about applying to be an Innovation Coach here.  For more specific questions about this educational opportunity, please contact Luther Seminary.


Elizabeth Schoenknecht, Director of Enrollment Services

eschoenknecht001@luthersem.edu

651-641-3422

Application information:  Luthersem.edu

Outline for Theological Education Component

Admitted and enrolled participants earn a Master of Arts degree while on staff with the Riverside Innovation Hub. Those interested in obtaining a Master of Divinity are encourage to contact Luther Seminary Office of Admissions to learn about further requirements for the degree.

Master of Arts concentrations offered: Ministry in Innovation and Leadership; Children, Youth, and Family; or Christian Ministries

 

Year 1:

Fall Semester – 1.5 classes  (.5 is Christian Public Leader – credit for being in context)

J-term – 1 week long intensive class

Spring Semester – 1.5 classes (.5 is Christian Public Leader – credit for being in context)

Summer – 1 week long intensive class

 

Year 2:

Full time course work to complete Master of Arts program

(those interested in the Master of Divinity would have 2 additional years including internship)

 

Fully funded; participants who have completed a year of service receive additional $5,000 stipend.