Hands in the Soil: Clergy at CommonWealth
Clergy Renewal Through Environmental Awareness

What is Clergy at CommonWealth?

A small group (6-8) of clergy attend a day-long program once a month, in which they spend three hours working on an urban farm (CommonWealth Urban Farms in uptown Oklahoma City.) Following lunch together, the cohort processes with a spiritual director and environmental educator from Turtle Rock Farm In Town, around their spiritual and emotional experiences working in nature; explore the value for themselves and their faith community of growing food; study theological themes in ecospirituality, and how they might move congregants into creation care—through worship experience, community gardens, environmental justice.

At the end of the nine-month program, the participants will schedule with CommonWealth Urban Farms a Saturday morning tour for three of their faith community members.

The program is underwritten by Green Connections. Also, as a statement of their commitment to attend the entire program, participants pay $25 a month ($225, due at time of registration.) The fee will cover food, utilities, equipment costs. CEUs are available.

Purpose of the program

  • To allow Earth/Nature/Creation to provide clergy healing and renewal through monthly time with their hands in the soil, experiencing life in a garden.
  • To experience community in a cohort of clergy as they work and share together.
  • To come to know the value of leading their congregations into creation care and how to do that (language in worship, environmental justice and growing food together.)

Short Term Goals

  • Clergy develop a community of peers outside their denominational culture.
  • Clergy get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Clergy experience the healing properties of gardening.
  • Clergy have the opportunity to process their experience with a trained spiritual director in a group setting.
  • Clergy celebrate at table during a healthy (locally-grown) weekly lunch with peers.
  • Clergy receive emotional and spiritual support.
  • Clergy explore theological aspects of creation care.

Long Term Goals

  • Clergy come to realize the value of growing food in community.
  • Clergy develop skills to lead congregations into possibility of developing gardens.
  • Clergy grow in understanding of value of our planet home, and saving it.
  • Clergy become equipped to lead worship using images of God from nature; develop other ways to bring creation awareness into weekly liturgy.
  • Clergy are trained in ways to lead their congregations into environmental stewardship.
  • Clergy have the opportunity to facilitate their congregations’ exploration of environmental justice.

Starts: Friday, March 1, 2019
Ends: Friday, November 1, 2019

CommonWealth Urban Farms, NW 32nd and Olie Streets in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Contact Pat Hoerth, 580.917.6011 pathoerth@gmail.com

Comments from Participants in 2018

Was the program renewing for you?

“Yes. It forced me to take a day…the accountability of showing up. It helped remind me to be grateful for those who feed other people.”

“Yes, renewing. The morning part is the slowest day of the whole month. Reminds me of playing outside as a kid. There’s a totally different flow than any other day.”

“We don’t know our place: the watershed, indigenous plants, the highest point, the lowest point. It helped me know my place.”


How has the program impacted you as a church leader?

“I preach a lot more about honoring all of God’s creation. I talked about the snake, microorganisms. Some people on Facebook said they didn’t kill the snake they saw because their pastor had preached about snakes.”

“We’re looking for a mission at church. Three people are gardening at the church. We are a Green Chalice Church. We’re trying to figure out how to reach out to neighborhood. We have 10 acres; we need a detention pond. We’re talking about glass in sanctuary so we can see outside. Maybe make a green belt. Other ideas are solar panels on roof so people can see them; worship furniture outside and occasional services out there. Let the neighborhood see who you are; Diane Butler Bass says churches wall out nature.”

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