In 2018, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention passed Resolution D053: Stewardship of Creation with Church-Owned Lands, which affirmed that church-owned land holds the potential for ecological benefit, community healing, and ministries of discipleship and evangelism. The newly formed ChurchLands initiative seeks to inspire and equip church leaders who are tasked with the care of church-owned land. The Roanridge Trust has provided funding for an initial pilot cohort of Episcopal church leaders to participate in this initiative. Applications for this cohort are now being accepted.
The vision of ChurchLands is to inspire and assist churches in stewarding land in a way that is faithful to the Gospel: integrating discipleship, ecology, justice, and health. In its pilot stage, ChurchLands will develop a small group of Christian leaders learning and working together on land use issues in their local contexts.
Pilot cohort members will participate in two retreats and regular web conferences during the first stages of the ChurchLands Initiative. The retreat and web conference are designed for practitioners to explore considerations and opportunities for church-owned land use, incorporating Scripture and theological reflection, while highlighting examples of faithfully managed church lands. The pilot cohort will begin work in January of 2020.
ChurchLands was co-founded by the Rev. Darriel Harris and the Rev. Nurya Love Parish, who saw a need for ecumenical work at the intersection of food, land, Christian discipleship, and racial justice. Harris is pastor of Newborn Community of Faith Church in Baltimore, Maryland, which created the Strength to Love II Farm, and a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He formerly directed the Baltimore Food and Faith Project and was a founding member of the Black Church Food Security Network.
For Harris, “Churchlands seeks to encourage Christian congregations to increasingly think and act justly at the intersections of land, food, and race. Our efforts depend on the actions of Christ, and the writings of scripture, as foundation. We are striving to be faithful in all things, including the land we steward, how we utilize what the land produces, and how we treat our neighbors and those whose toil helps the lands flourish.”
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish is a priest at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, co-founder of Plainsong Farm & Ministry, and author of Resurrection Matters: Church Renewal for Creation’s Sake. She commented, “Increasingly the Episcopal Church recognizes that our land can be used for good. ChurchLands seeks to build on that recognition to equip leaders for practical action, grounded in our faith as witnesses to the glory of God.”
In subsequent years, ChurchLands hopes to offer regular in-person gatherings to explore Scripture, practical theology, and land use issues for Christians who care for land. An online ChurchLands Network will serve as a national platform to inspire and engage this work through network building and resource-sharing. The ChurchLands initiative will be managed through Plainsong Farm & Ministry in Rockford, Michigan, a ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.
To learn more and to apply to become a member of the ChurchLands Initiative pilot cohort, visit this webpage. Please direct all questions to Emma Lietz Bilecky, Plainsong Farm’s National Initiatives Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.