by Melissa Turkett, Epworth House resident
Melissa here (of the Susanna Wesley "Swesley" House Epworth community). Over the last year and half or so we have been fully engaged in the work of urban farming, ending food deserts, and creative imagining of food forests at the Swesley house. We have watched our neighborhood grow and learn together as we found spaces, in and out of the house, to gather around tables of food as we talk about food, especially fresh food, as an important issue in our neighborhood. And as we hoped, and dreamed, and dug our hands into the dirt things began to shift and change. In the past year and a half our neighborhood is no longer classified as a food desert thanks to the Jubilee Food Market, and there is now a space where neighbors can gather to learn how to experiment for themselves in urban gardening at Urban Reap. Hallelujah!
So what are we to do at the Swesley house? Do we stamp our feet in the ground and declare that we started this project and we’re here to stay? Do we cling onto our vision of ending a food desert (though the vision has already come to completion)? Do we disband the garden altogether and start again from scratch?
These are all questions we have asked in the house, or perhaps I should say “I” have asked. There is a bittersweetness, there is a desire to hold on tightly to the vision that has been a key piece of the life of the house for the past couple of years. But God is good, and through the work and prayers of a neighborhood coming together the vision has come to life.
So what are we to do at the Swesley house? We will not stamp our feet in the ground. We will not cling to a vision that is living right in front of our eyes. And we will not disband the garden. We will hold our vision loosely so that the Holy Spirit can continue to guide our work alongside of our neighborhood and with one another in the house community.
The garden is still growing, and the chickens are still content to peck their way through the compost and create dust baths in the garden beds that are resting for the growing season. And those things are good, and still bring life to the house and community. And we took the summer as the house to dream together, to grieve some of the shifting, and to ask our neighbors what’s next.
So what’s next? Over the summer we realized many of our neighbors do not know one another and we have one of the largest gathering places in the neighborhood. So we are turning our missional attention to connecting people. We are doing this through neighborhood events, such as ice cream socials, Santa on the Porch, and house concerts where the proceeds benefit a local nonprofit that we ask to emcee the night. We are also reaching beyond our neighborhood to offer hospitality to church workers who need a retreat space, we invite them (or you, church worker, who are reading this) to come stay in our cottage.
As Larry Duggins describes in his new work Together: Community as a Means of Grace we are setting up a blank canvas and we are inviting our neighbors to come in and paint as they feel led. We are creating a space that is welcoming and inviting to this economically and racially diverse neighborhood and asking them where we should go together next. We are holding loosely.
So if you ever look up and feel like something in your life has gone stagnant or has begun to die, ask yourself, is there something about it you are holding onto too tightly?