by Maria L. Evans
Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so
that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who
work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that
we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your
goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. –Prayer for agriculture, Book of Common Prayer, p. 824.
Here in the Midwest, we’ve struggled all winter with subzero temperatures, yet I caught myself back in January engaging in one of my favorite mid-winter activities–what I refer to as “seed catalog porn.” Ever since my childhood, one of the best parts of January and February is getting all the seed catalogs and daydreaming about the tomato plants, pepper plants, and flowers that I might have in the upcoming spring and summer. I always end up buying more seeds and plants than I ought to, giving a bunch of it away, and growing more garden than a person who lives alone ought to have, even with ambitions of canning some of it.
Now, on the cusp of spring, I’m seeing all the various photos on social media, where my like-minded friends have been starting seeds in everything ranging from muffin tins to egg cartons. After another blast of subzero weather to herald March’s arrival here, there’s something simply heavenly about picture after picture of fragile green sprouts, bravely showing a single delicate pair of green leaves atop their nondescript white stems. It’s as if they are peering out the window at the frigid winter on the other side, saying, “Just you wait–I’ll be out there momentarily.”
You know, some years, winter just seems harder and harsher than others. But because I have lived over 50 of these transitions in my life, I know in my deepest heart of hearts that one thing is certain–spring will come. It WILL come. Might not be on my time frame, and not particularly to my liking in some ways–but it WILL come. Even when I’m dead and buried, it will still come.
We hardly ever see the above prayer for agriculture show up liturgically in the winter; we might see it used in Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer in early spring/summer, or on Rogation Days. Yet any good gardener will tell you that there is much to ponder in the cold, barren winter. There are always new things to try, or wild ideas that we keep to ourselves for fear our friends will think we’ve lost it.
In fact, I came up with one of those crazy ideas while cleaning off some shelves. Somehow, I ended up with too many freebie recyclable shopping bags. You know the kind–the ones the size of a large grocery bag with handles. I had just been perusing the seed catalogs, thinking about how I wanted to do my tomato plants in pots, rather than out in the yard (because I really hate cultivating and weeding.) Suddenly, I thought, “Hey! I can fill these with dirt and put tomato plants and pepper plants in them…stick a stick in them and zip tie the plants up as they grow…and with the handles I can move them around during the growing season to better spots in the yard!”
Now, I have no idea if this is going to work or not. I’m sure when people drive down my road this summer, they’ll think a crazy person lives here, with a rainbow of recyclable shopping bags in the yard, tomato plants sprouting out of them. But if it ends up in a plethora of tomatoes, that I just have to give away, I’ll gladly endure the scorn. If it fails, well…I’ll just come up with a new crazy idea next year.
It’s an analogy that works in thinking about the future of our church.
It can be incredibly depressing to read stories year after year of declining membership, schism, and hurtful statements in the comments line where it’s hard to tell who’s meaner–the evangelicals, or the anti-theists. Sometimes there’s not even any solace in the “insider” social media groups–seems like there are some even uglier fights breaking out there.
You know, perhaps we’re just in a string of harder winters than usual. In those times, the tendency is lose sight of the fact we’ve made it through hard winters before–and that spring always comes. It always comes. Not as fast as we’d like, and not always in a way to our liking, but spring always comes.
Truth is, we’re doing the work of a hard winter. We’re dreaming of a new church, perhaps even with the excitement of perusing those seed catalogs. Episcopal News Service continues to be filled with all sorts of news of new seedlings sprouting everywhere, fragile and yet defiant. Maybe some of these ideas will appear a little crazy to the neighbors–or even to us. But you know, signs of spring are still signs of spring.
Where are the places you see the tiny seedlings of a new church waving its tiny green leaves in defiance of the hard, harsh winter?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid