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Earth Monastery Project – Final reports from the first round!

Abbey of the Arts is delighted to share the results of our first round of grantmaking through the Earth Monastery Project. Last fall we awarded three projects funds to help them serve the community by helping to cultivate an earth-cherishing consciousness.

Rainier Beach Community Garden | Terri Stewart

emp - terri 1We, the youth and chaplains of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, were so excited to receive the grant to build the Rainier Beach Community Garden! We just harvested the biggest zucchinis I have ever seen! And maybe a few too many were planted. But that is okay because they are being passed out to whoever in the community needs them. Additionally, there is an overflowing plot of strawberries that slowly are being nibbled away at—by real people! Not the bunnies.

After our spring planting, we have completed a fall planting and added four more tons of dirt to our community garden, enabling us to add four more garden boxes. We just planted root vegetables including beets, onions, and vegetables along with some Pacific Northwest staples that grow nearly year round here—green beans and snap peas.

emp - terri 2 webThis garden has become a labor of love for our little community. We reached out to the youth at a transitional home (from incarceration to real life) and have been nurturing the garden along with chaplains and mentor volunteers. The youth have grown to appreciate getting their hands into the soil, seeing things grow (although they don’t want to see any more zucchini for now!), and a renewed understanding of the cycles of life and the rhythm of the earth. Plus they got sneak attack mentoring!

It is one of my goals to provide incarcerated youth with a sense of the rhythm of the earth and with sustainable mentoring. This project was able to take kids away from the concrete jungles of the inner city and the detention environment and let them thrive with mature mentors who worked hand-in-hand with the youth.

emp - terri 3 webThe project and investment from the Earth Monastery Project may be at an end, but this garden will keep on growing—both food and growing youth. True gift.

My appreciation for your generosity is immeasurable!

Thank you.


Terri Stewart

Prairie Oasis (also known as the Mayfield Monarch Waystation) | Rev. Dr. Martha Brunell

Dear Christine, John, & the Wisdom Council,

emp - martha 1This is the first of several parts of our final report.  This report is coming in pieces as a result of weather circumstances and decisions we have made.  When our northern Illinois ground was final thawed out and dried in late May following the rigorous winter of the polar vortex and many rainy spring days, we began the physical preparations for our Monarch Waystation.  In a more normal winter the plastic would have been laid months earlier.  That was impossible this year.  Also, we did not want to utilize massive amounts of chemicals on the ground.  Instead we chose to cover the huge spiral of ground with heavy black plastic using a slower, more organic method.  Four of us were the plastic people checking and refining our design as we went along.  We’ve had to learn to work with the wind this summer.  Prairie wind is legendary.  The amount of materials needed to keep the plastic in place over the months has been incredible.  The presence of the plastic throughout the summer has provided congregation members and visitors opportunities to participate in the long waiting time, imagining what it will look like in the fall and in future years. The plastic will be down until the second week in August.  When the plastic comes up, the ground will be mulched with a 3-4” layer of mulch.  Our initial planting will occur in September.

emp - martha 2The final July task is the unloading of two wagonloads of donated mulch.  This is about half of the mulch we will need.  The first mulch arrived on Monday, July 28.  Ten of us were involved in the transport and unloading of that mulch.  The second load comes tomorrow, and a similar mulching crew will assemble.  Already the number of people whose hands are on the Monarch Waystation is growing.  The donated mulch is from an area pallet business where one of our members works.  When a wooden pallet is worn out, it is recycled as mulch.  This particular mulch is treated with a vegetable-based product. Like the decision to use the plastic rather than chemicals, this mulch is another earth-conscious part of our process.  Five Monarchs swirled above us in the air at our first mulch unloading.  That number is more monarchs than I saw all last summer.  We imagined they were keeping track of our progress and reporting in to others that this waystation was really getting started.

emp - martha 3I write two blogs, my personal blog,, and the pastor’s blog at  Over the course of the spring and summer, I have written six blogs on these two sites regarding the Monarch Waystation. They have addressed topics as varied as the eco-justice aspect of the waystation, our experience of spirit in the mighty prairie wind, the act of waiting, the plastic as a teacher of the necessary clearing away that proceeds our new growth, and the waystation as an example of oasis. These are the beginnings of more substantial spiritual and educational work that will undergird future programming at our waystation.  Peggy Doty, one of our Team Butterfly members, will be offering a waystation program with the Mayfield Fellowship in August.  We are scheduled to host the spring 2015 meeting of forty United Churches of Christ around the Monarch Waystation.  By then the waystation should be starting to mature.  That program will draw on the Monarchs, Milkweed, Metamorphosis, and Migration interlocking themes I mentioned in the mid-grant report.

August will be the time for mulching the waystation and making final decisions about plants and shrubs being donated and purchased for September’s planting.  Team Butterfly will determine if there are other financial resources we need for this year and engage in preliminary financial planning for future years’ development and maintenance of our Monarch Waystation.  We will send you part two of our final report with pictures and an accounting of how all the grant funds were spent.

In September we will plant.  We will also be holding a public dedication of the waystation to which the larger community will be invited.  The other important items of conversation for Team Butterfly at this point will be 2015 planting and how we are going to encourage families within our congregation and individuals and groups beyond us throughout the county to establish plots large and small where Monarchs can feed, rest, and lay their eggs.  Recently one family left church headed for an area plant nursery.  They have already planted milkweed plants in their yard.  Part three of our final report will include information from our dedication and our proposed logo for the waystation.

Thomas Berry’s words came my way this week:  “The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong.  To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human.  To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”  It is our commitment that the Mayfield Monarch Waystation will be a place for many others to find themselves in “the larger sacred community to which we belong.”  This waystation is set on beautifully spacious land that can enlarge us spiritually where we have been diminished.  And it will set our hands to the good work of eco-justice, the necessary reminder across creation that we are all in this together.

Thank you for your grant that helped us start this project in 2014 and not a few years from now.  Several pictures accompany this first part of our final report.  One is a picture of our famous black plastic.  Another is a monarch egg on the underside of a milkweed plant close by where the waystation will be.  And a third shows mulch unloading.

With gratitude from Mayfield and the Monarchs, Martha

Dance4Peace on Earth | Candice Tritch & Andrew Janssen

The Dance4Peace on Earth film project has concluded — so to speak. For the purposes of the grant, it’s done. But something happened to us along the way. Somewhere between January and June, we found a path that’s leading us on, and we know in our hearts this first film is only the beginning.

The collaborative nature of the project resulted in two things: it produced a series of videos that spread the message of peace through a global dance, and it fostered a sense of empowerment in the hearts of those who were a part of it.

The members may be “ordinary people” in their own towns, but they stepped up in an extraordinary way and are now making a statement to viewers all around the world. Their lives are changed, and their contributions are serving to change the lives of still others, in an ever-widening ripple effect.

Actually, the project had a third result – one we did not predict, but new seems obvious and natural in hindsight.  Somewhere between the composition of the soundtrack and the rendering of the final movie six months later, a movement started. People responded to this project in all sorts of ways, and from places we hardly knew existed. Dance Alchemy evolved from a local and regional dance company into a collective of dancers from more than 30 countries, all drawn together in a common vision to dance for peace. Even after we closed submissions for this most recent dance, they continued to join, to write, and to ask what’s next. 

We changed, too. Our vision for connecting dancers around the world has expanded to include every country on Earth. Goals that seemed like wild fantasy just six months ago look perfectly rational and achievable to us now. Our friendships with international members have changed our lives forever. Through their eyes, we see into countries and regions previously hidden to us, and understand more than ever the importance of the Dance4Peace onEarth project.

We can’t stop. So we won’t stop.

Already, two more movies are planned, and we are envisioning new and greater expansions every day. Our members are champing at the bit to get going. We started out to create one movie, fashioned around the notion that dancers across the globe might like to connect and dance together for peace. Along the way, we stepped into a whole new life.

Thank you, Christine, John and everyone at Abbey of the Arts, for making this
dream a reality, and nudging us into this wonderful new path.

Love & Peace,

Candice Tritch, Director
Andrew Janssen, Technical Director
Dance Alchemy, Inc.
“We put the Move in Peace Movement!”

You can find out more about the Earth Monastery Project and help support our vision of cultivating an earth-cherishing consciousness and giving small projects a chance to succeed by stopping by this link.

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3 Responses

  1. Cogratulations to The Abbey of the Arts and Dance 4 Peace. Truly inspiring!