Last Year’s Dirt

BeetsThose are the words that sprang to mind as I opened a bag of candy beets to cook them for supper.

We get a box of fruit and vegetables each week from Taproot Farms. This week we got beets! One of my favourite veggies. As you can see from the picture, they still had a considerable amount of dirt on them. Unlike vegetables from the grocery store, ours come with minimal primping.

As I scrubbed them clean I found myself wondering if the dirt played a part in preserving them. I posed the question to Patricia Bishop, who owns Taproot along with her husband John Oulton. Patricia replied that yes, dirt did play a role in keeping them fresh. I did some reading on-line about long term storage of root vegetables and found out that they are often stored in bins with peat moss, sand, or sawdust to help preserve their freshness. While I couldn’t find the science/chemical reason for it, it seems likely that the dirt forms a barrier that prevents air and pests from penetrating the skin and so suspends the over-ripening process. Then of course, the vegetable need a thorough scrubbing or peeling in order to provide sustenance and nurture.

Of course, I got to thinking about the church and the protective layer of traditions that preserve so many of our churches. On vegetables, that protective layer of dirt serves a purpose, but only for a period of time. After that period of time is over, the vegetables will rot in their Likewise, church traditions serve a purpose for a period of time, but the traditions are not THE purpose of the church. For more on losing sight of the reason for your existence, read this article on how Kodak lost sight of what business they were in and disappeared. This paragraph jumped out at me:

“They were a company stuck in time,” said Robert Burley, an associate professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University who has photographed shuttered Kodak facilities in the U.S., Canada and France since 2005. “Their history was so important to them, this rich century-old history when they made a lot of amazing things and a lot of money along the way. Now their history has become a liability.”

In 1976, John Westerhoff wrote: Will Our Children Have Faith? The question now is: Will Our Grandchildren Have Faith? Notice I didn’t say that will our grandchildren come to church, but will they have faith. The church has been a wonderful way of passing on the faith, it’s been a marvelous tool, but in it’s present form, its usefulness is low to a new generation. We have forgotten our purpose, which is to share the faith and through that faith, live transformed lives. Our purpose is not to make good church people, but good disciples.

I love ministry, despite its challenges, there is no other way I would rather spend my days. I love my denomination, The United Church of Canada, not blindly, but with appreciation for its history and its continued emphasis on inclusion and justice. I love Jesus and what his life teaches me. I still believe that his message of love, inclusion and breaking down of barriers of all sorts, has merit and meaning. Perhaps in an ever increasing stratified and separated world, it has more merit and meaning than ever. But how his message is delivered will be different.

I write this while waiting for the report from the Comprehensive Review Task Group, a group that has been tasked within my denomination to find a way forward. I write this knowing that the church that nurtured me as a child and then as a youngish adult, the church that ordained me more than a decade ago, will be a church that is very different from what I have known. The upcoming changes will be very painful for some and we must find some way to minister to those who find church in its present form meaningful and valuable. But let’s not let church in its present form prevent us from living into new ways of being. Let’s not be a denomination stuck in time, let’s not have our history be a liability. Let’s not lose sight of our purpose.

Which traditions in your church need to be scrubbed off in order to provide sustenance to a new world? What nurturing would be possible if we peeled away the crust of old life to make room for the new?

2 thoughts on “Last Year’s Dirt

  1. Some churches and Christians have forgotten Phil 3:!4. They allow the goal to get clouded by circumstances, thus they lose their focus – like driving into a fog or heavy snow storm.
    The measure of a church’s effectiveness should be changed lives. The same measure should apply to Christians.

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