Anna Woofenden – That is God's desk

Anna Woofenden – That is God's desk

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In the incarnative immersion

A functional check by

This is God's table:
Find church beyond the walls

Anna Woofenden

Paperback: Herald Press, 2020
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Reviewed by Sam Chamelin

No author should ever have to publish their first book in the wake of a pandemic. Perhaps in God's providence there is a possibility that a particular book speaks with extraordinary clarity in a pandemic world. It is quite possible that "This is God's Table: Finding the Church Beyond the Walls" by Anna Woofenden is such a book. This book appears at a time when everyone is forced to find a church beyond the walls, and each of us is looking for places to find meaning, community, and purpose, when most of the infrastructure of our lives is unpredictable Future was saved.

The Church has been preparing for this moment for a generation. With church infrastructures showing significant erosion with shrinking numbers, shrinking budgets, and closed buildings, a new generation of church leaders has tried to build a new type of church with a new foundation of faith and practice. These expressions were large and varied. "This is God's Table" tells the story of Anna's "The Garden Church", which was envisaged at the intersection of agriculture, ecology, social justice and a deeply rooted Christian belief. The "Movement for Eating and Believing" has been a hotbed of new life for years, as Essen has proven to be a robust entry point into a variety of topics for progressive-thinking, justice-oriented churches. Anna felt this draw and wrote: “I knew that we would not solve major systemic problems with a community service. However, I was determined to do my best to become aware of it and to be curious about how this start-up church could play a role in a movement towards justice and justice. “Through the lens of the garden church, the reader gets a view of a movement of“ eating and believing ”that grows like weeds and that finds new life, new visions and new possibilities in the churches in ecosystems that are as varied as vacant lots and rural areas fields, and how this movement literally grows faith and justice. Anna found her professional ecosystem on a vacant lot in San Pedro in the Los Angeles area, where she and a memorable group of characters experienced a new reputation for "feeding and feeding", serving her neighbors, and doing this work to her trusted neighbors in a gardening effort .

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This book is written from the heart of a pastor, but not only for pastors. Anna is able to interweave stories between sound and progressive pastoral thinking and practice. It takes us to the streets and communities of San Pedro and helps the reader to feel the social and ecological concerns of the people, not with data, but with stories from a memorable group of characters. If you want to create "a church that is a garden and a garden that is a church", you have to have a bigger, more comprehensive view of the ecosystem in which you are. As the reader might imagine going on a tour of a forest or farm, Anna takes the reader on a tour of her ecosystem and identifies everything that is beautiful, troubling, and life-giving. Her writing is haunting and inviting, and you can feel Anna's love for her people and the enormity of the task. Writing is not a triumph, and the book is not a congratulation; There is a humility that invites leaders to be a little less visionary and a little more present and humble towards reality.

As we go on this journey, we see the Garden Church maturing into a community that is cultivating a healthier reality for the greater area of ​​San Pedro. In this way, Anna gives us a subtle and effective roadmap for rediscovering the parish model, in which the Church is not just a country club for people who have a specific creed, but rather a force for good that affects all of their neighbors. All of this comes from a sustained and vibrant presence when a garden and a denomination collide.

One of Anna's most laudable skills is her ability to use rituals to create meaning. She is very creative in using images, actions, and objects to make sense instead of just words. Whether it is pouring oil over a cedar round to consecrate the abandoned property for a church, and that round to a communion table, to their blankets and pillows that honor Maundy Thursday, an icon of the tree of life from Revelation to which people are called The reader is a great vision of a sustainable life for all people and is more immersed in images and actions than in words, making this ecclesial experience permeable and accessible to the reader. Woofenden's prose is not only explanatory, it is haunting. In doing so, she not only inspires those who are looking for a new expression of the Church, but also invites us in a subtle and capable way to think about such things by leaning on the incarnative immersion from verbose expressions.

When I interviewed her for our podcast, The Food and Faith Podcast, I asked Anna about the cast of characters she put together in this story. Your narrative is full of individuals who make a significant contribution to the development of this place. Although Anna has a background in homesteads and agriculture, we meet farmers Lara, whose expertise reminds us that growing things is one thing. It's a different thing to grow things. Lara recalls that a community is really needed to do this work. This book is not a celebration of a person's (admittedly considerable) expertise, but it addresses the power of the community to bring life to a place when the community is actually entrusted with this sacred work.

This pandemic has revealed two essential truths in a short period of time – churches need to change quickly, and this belief still serves as an essential framework for our daily lives together. We are watching these changes at a dizzying pace as churches plunge into the worlds of Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom. But maybe that's not as sustainable as we imagine. Maybe the church is changing, and maybe faith still underpins everything, but maybe it has been going on for a while, on vacant lots, in container gardens, while communion is served on cedar rounds while marigolds are being planted by children. This is God's table is a breath of hope and encouragement at a time when hope seems to be scarce. It is a reminder that God is still working on the sidelines.

N.B. – Sam Chamelin is Cohost with Anna Woofenden in "The Food and Faith Podcast".

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Sam Chamelin

Sam Chamelin is the pastor of St. Mary & # 39; s UCC (Westminster, MD) and the founder of The Keep & Till, a community that focuses on agriculture, ecology and spirituality. He is also a host The Food and Faith podcast, a constant conversation about nutrition, agriculture and the spirituality among them.

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