catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 16 :: 2008.09.12 — 2008.09.26


Home away from home

Practicing Resurrection 2008 focuses on home economics

The workshop presenter arrives in her car—this is not unusual for most conferences. But among the supplies she’s hauled down to the pasture that’s been converted into a camping field are colorful cloths to cover the picnic tables, chai tea and a spicy Bangladeshi snack mix. She also has a variety of markers, glue sticks, magazines, scissors, colored papers and fabric scraps for creative reflection. After a whirlwind of preparation, she finally settles on a bench and welcomes the participants, who range in age from 13 to 50-something, with tea, snacks and the invitation to introduce themselves by sharing about their favorite childhood toy.

Among several other presenters at Practicing Resurrection 2008 this past August, Bethany Osborne offered workshops on the spirituality of bread making, as well as homemaking among immigrant women. Simultaneously, on other parts of Russet House Farm, participants learned about making their own music, renovating their homes to be more efficient, building a wind turbine, canning tomatoes, growing vegetables, working for global justice, raising cattle and much more.

Grounding the variety of sessions offered at this year’s event in Cameron, Ontario was the theme of home economics, which Wendell Berry defines as “the ways by which the human household is situated and maintained within the household of nature.”Participants considered both in formal workshops and informal conversation what it might look like to make home in the Kingdom of God related to many aspects of life. Keynote speaker Brian Walsh made contextual connections by exploring various kinds of contemporary homelessness, literal and figurative, as well as tracing the theme of home through the biblical narrative.

As over 90 participants were gleaning ideas about Kingdom homemaking for their daily lives, they also participated in a communal effort to make home on Russet House Farm for the weekend. Like many of the households represented, the faithfulness of the mundane at Russet House Farm was lived in the details. As much waste as possible was recycled or composted. Snack times and meals featured locally and sustainably produced meats, eggs and vegetables. The goods of local bakers and canners who have a relationship with the farm were available in the camp store. Meals were prepared and eaten in a central gathering area, where food, cooking supplies and tables were readily shared. Quiet evenings were punctuated with songs around the fire, the Perseid meteor shower and periodic announcements from an active pack of local coyotes. The final day of workshops culminated in a potluck meal and jam session. Sunday morning worship explored the theme of home through scripture selections, readings reflecting the voices of biblical individuals, songs, a children’s drama and communion.

The Practicing Resurrection conference, a biennial gathering begun in 2006, is a partnership between Russet House Farm and *culture is not optional. Both organizations share the goal of educating people about how the daily practices of life can consciously reflect their deepest values in the careful stewardship of relationships with land, animals and other people. Russet House Farm does so by maintaining a living model of sustainability, using solar energy and hand labor to maintain a small farm with vegetable gardens, ducks, chickens and cattle. The farm, which is visited each year by interns, retreat groups and other individuals, feeds four households, with the surplus sold to a local food co-op or donated to homeless ministries. *culture is not optional was founded in 2001 as an online discussion board and bi-weekly magazine, and has since grown to include a quarterly print journal and a series of topical books, beginning with the titles Do Justice and Eat Well. *cino also regularly organizes events like Practicing Resurrection and other social networking efforts in order to facilitate shared ideas and experiences.

By now, the camping field bears few traces of its tented community from just a couple of weeks ago. The main tent has been dismantled for storage and the farm is back to its regular routine. However, the partnership between Russet House Farm and *culture is not optional continues to bear fruit beyond the conference weekend. Participants from Practicing Resurrection have returned home with a sense of refreshment, ready to begin living into the ideas and new relationships they encountered. As they make bread, share meals, plan for next year’s garden, conserve natural resources and make music, they do indeed practice resurrection in big and small, public and private, individual and communal ways.

Those interested in participating in a future conference can sign up for the ^camping is not optional e-mail list.

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