“The divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”
(Pope Francis I, Laudato Si, 14)
Several weeks ago I led a group of eager volunteers from St. Andrew’s Lutheran church to the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA), where we participated in the annual God’s Work, Our Hands community service program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Coincidentally or not, that Saturday morning manifested the only pleasant weather in mid-Missouri for about three weeks, but that’s another story…
The real story involves the placemaking efforts of the CCUA, a cohort of dedicated (mostly young) people committed to sustainable agriculture in the heart of a rapidly growing city. Having grown up in the near north side of Saint Louis, I know first-hand of abandoned neighborhoods that nature has reclaimed, the last specks of urban dust, but CCUA represents an intentional effort to cultivate healthy food, families and communities in places that have been left behind the outward movement of “the best neighborhoods”. Americans have historically tried to escape cities and get ‘back to nature’, but neither Nature nor our cities seem to have prospered in that cultural equation.
Perhaps those like the St. Andrew’s volunteers who revere someone who took his place among the humble poor within the very earthy confines of a stable could offer us another perspective on placemaking. Let’s try Isaiah 58: 9-11:
“If you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has been ruins, building again on the old foundation.”