The past few weeks have served as a Sabbath, “man’s eternal rest in God.” It has been a period of rest, reflection, and receiving the nourishment of all that I experienced last semester. Four months of law classes, community projects, intensive studying, congregational engagement, and all the new relationships and experiences I’ve gained since moving to Vermont, have finally had some time to settle – to process, integrate, and be appreciated. Though I intentionally make time throughout the days for rest and doing things I enjoy (going on adventures, time with friends, contemplative and self-love practices, and the like), I do them with the knowledge that once they’re over it’s back to the grind. This is sometimes a complacently accepted truth, other times it’s a truth that keeps me from being present. It keeps me watching the clock, wondering what else I need to do and what else I should be doing, i.e. keeping me in a seemingly constant state of forward looking.
Forward movement is of course beneficial, but there is much to be learned, enjoyed and benefited from in resting in the present. Looking to the current moment for all that it is, not for what it could, should, or will be – but for what it is now. I’ve been doing that these three weeks of winter break – traveling to visit family, cooking with loved ones, relishing in new and old traditions, and celebrating in the joy and love that Christ brought into the world.
Being present to these experiences was a needed reminder that there is much to be celebrated in simply sitting and being, with whoever you’re with wherever you are – in that moment. Besides the festivities, once things calmed down and we settled back home I had much time by myself, time to just be – to breathe, to be silent, to rest, to listen. The Sabbath is a true blessing and a necessity. We are not made to always be in forward movement, which is something I’ve noticed about the environmental field. Climate change, food insecurity, resource pollution, and biodiversity loss has inspired many to action, to intensive fast moving action. It is needed, of course, but we are part of the system too. We have our needs, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We also have so much to learn from ourselves, from the good work we are planting and harvesting that we do not always recognize when we’re always onto the next season. This is what I believe the concept of the Sabbath can bring to believers and seculars alike – time to deeply rest, reflect, and engage in the work of nourishment.
“We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a dimension of receptivity and gratuity, which is quite different from mere inactivity. Rather, it is another way of working, which forms part of our very essence. It protects human action from becoming empty activism; it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which make us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else.” – Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home
I’ve said this before, but I reiterate it to myself as I sit here and feel how much more full I feel after this Sabbath period – “No more good can be done, if the doer can no longer do good for self.” Resting is, to some – including me, surprisingly hard work. Meaningful rest can easily be misidentified as inaction, even laziness. But this is not so. There is so much work to be done within ourselves that resting enables, so much goodness for self. For a month, a week, a day or even an hour, let us all try to truly rest in the meaning of our work, in the meaning and beauty of our lives, so that we can emerge fulfilled by our passions and progress, and go forth in nourished pursuit of our life’s calling.
Tomorrow I emerge from my period of rest ready to dive into my next adventure – Wake Forest Divinity School’s Re:Generate Fellowship on ecological vocation and religious leadership. I’m honored to be in this year’s inspiring class of fellows, led by one of my spiritual and sustainable agriculture inspirations, Fred Bahson. It will be a period of deep connection, reflection, and exploration of the work we are doing in our individual communities around sustainable food systems and climate change, within the vital context of belief and spirituality. In building thriving and forward moving communities of practice, we aim to grow networks of successful change – communities built around learning in collaboration, loving in tandem, and growing in support of each other. To do so, we must first start with finding connection and meaning within ourselves, a process to which rest and reflection is sure to nourish.
From Wake Forest Divinity School:
Building a network of young faith leaders working on ecological issues
In January 2016, the School of Divinity will convene twenty young faith leaders from across the U.S. and Canada for its second annual Re:Generate Fellowship on Ecological Vocation and Religious Leadership.With generous support from the Byron Fellowship Educational Foundation and Kalliopeia Foundation, the fellowship provides a holistic leadership development program for young North American faith leaders who are exploring vocational issues focused in the areas of food justice, sustainable agriculture, climate change, and ecological resilience. The cohort will gather at St. Francis Springs Retreat Center in Stoneville, NC.
“Fifteen years ago I was a young seminary grad entering the world of sustainable agriculture and earth care and didn’t have many peers to lean on,” said Fred Bahnson, director of Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at the school and creator of the Re:Generate Fellowship. “My desire to start this fellowship came out of a deep need to connect faith leaders working on ecological issues and start building a national network.”
Over the past three years, the School of Divinity has emerged as a national leader in addressing ecological well-being, climate change, and food justice, with a specific niche in training and equipping faith leaders. Through the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, the school trains future leaders through a 15-credit certificate program in Food and Faith nested within the Master of Divinity degree, and offers a robust continuing-education program. The initiative’s workshops, conferences, and retreats have attracted hundreds of participants from 17 states and five countries, from 10 colleges including Exeter University in England, and from more than a dozen Christian denominations, as well as from other faiths. Every June the school convenes a five-day summer immersion course in Food, Faith, and Ecology in the North Carolina mountains.
Read more about how you can partner with the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, join our mailing list to receive updates, and attend an upcoming continuing education event.