The agricultural metaphor was one of Jesus’ favorites. Speaking to a people of the land, Jesus used the imagery of the land often in his parables and sermons. A sower who went out to sow. A lamp and a bushel basket. Growing seed. Mustard seed. And that is just one chapter (Mark 4). Throughout his ministry, Jesus connected God’s work to the growth from the land. The nourishment and sustenance of the earth became metaphors for the care and support of God’s in-breaking Reign.
Nurture and sustenance from the land remain important symbols of God’s grace and care for God’s people today. As much as we can, we care for the earth, draw strength from the earth, and share what we draw with those who hunger and thirst.
Union Presbyterian Seminary has partnered with Shalom Farms, a local nonprofit, to establish one of the largest urban farms in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Union will contribute approximately 9 acres of arable land. Shalom will contribute agricultural knowledge and skill. Students, faculty, and staff will contribute some of the volunteer support. And Union faculty will contribute through its curricular planning a theological lens through which to view our labor on the land. Working together with the wider community, we hope to provide food resources for communities where nourishing food is in inadequate supply. We hope also to provide a model of how schools and agencies working together can be a transformational presence in the world.
With the folks at Shalom Farms, the Union community is stepping out in this new venture to sow a new way of thinking about theological education, about what it means to be a seminary in the world today. Our ministry is not just of the mind; it is of the heart and the hands. We cannot wait to dig our hands into the dirt and so plant ourselves in an even firmer way into the heart of the community in which we live.
Brian K. Blount, president and professor of New Testament, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Let us pray
Dear God, be with Union Presbyterian Seminary and Shalom Farms as we venture into this new and wonderful endeavor of planting seeds and growing the richness of the earth to feed the people of your earth. Amen.