Abbey of the Arts sponsors a small grant program called the Earth Monastery Project. We began the program in 2014 and so far we have funded six wonderful projects which nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness in our world.
It is exciting to us to see the creativity at work in the world and how dancing monks are offering their gifts on behalf of the earth. Our second round of grants have just completed their cycle so for the next three weeks we are featuring each of their final reports to share with you and inspire you to creative action in your own communities.
Our first project is the Sensory Peace Labyrinth, shepherded by Stephanie Bell. Here is an excerpt of her reflection (you can see the whole report below):
The objective of this project was to create an inviting space for contemplative awareness and prayer at Garfield Community Farm (GCF), an urban farm nestled within an otherwise neglected corner of the city of Pittsburgh. The farm's existing herb garden was converted into an organic Sensory Peace Labyrinth with a permanent mosaic sign to welcome community members. In keeping with the GCF's original mission, the Peace Labyrinth will help its visitors to cultivate passageways to themselves, God, His creation and each other.
I am thankful and deeply grateful for the ways God's abundant provision is greater, more creative, exactly what I need, and in those rare moments his provision becomes a space to share life together. I really thought I understood the ways God provides…a roof over my head, food at the table, money to pay the bills, companionship. Although these are all gifts from God which I do not take for granted…I have been wondering about his abundant provision in the midst of nothing, loss, limits, loneliness, transition, and the unexpected.
Living in a chaotic city, with gun fire around the street, schools on lock-down, rushing from one activity to another, sickness; I noticed the concrete jungle around me was growing. I sensed a nudge to get away, to spend time in creation and with the Creator. I also sensed that traveling outside the city was not the answer for me, only because I could sense a desire to escape and run from the realities of our broken city and my broken life. I realized I needed to find solitude in the midst of my mind racing, in light of the brokenness that seemed unamendable. I found myself trekking up to a local quiet green space where I could rest, this seemed ideal. The herb garden at GCF was a sacred space for me to sit and bask in God's presence. In the midst of the noisy city, the sounds soon disappeared, the air was filled with herbal aromas, sunflowers in full bloom, and bees buzzing all around, I experienced God, my spirit was touched. From that deep place of abundance in an unlikely "monastery" I was compelled to create and dream. About a year and half ago I wrote a grant that would transform the already placed herb garden at GCF into a sensory peace labyrinth.
Three months ago as I planned how I would take the ideas in the grant proposal to reality two things were true 1) I would have amazing freedom to create, 2) And I would need to work pretty hard to accomplish such as task. I was thankful for the support of Abbey of the Arts, GCF and knew my husband would help me accomplish this task (since we enjoy working together in this way). Then I found out I was pregnant… Of course my emotions were all over the place. Wanting to be joyful (wasn't this an abundant provision?) yet I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss of present dreams, realities, energies that I thought were the path and God's abundant provision… All around me I was experiencing loss– of work, loss of friendships, loss of energy, loss of co-workers, and loss of community. I thought this was supposed to be a time of abundance …we are having a baby…right???? And then in the midst of the yelling and crying to God, in the midst of the questions, and struggles to understand why…abundance came…from a text from a friend and another text and then a sincere presence of compassion, from my son Ethan telling me to rest and desiring to care for me, to my husband taking care of the everyday family things I do.
This has been one of the most humbling times in my life. I am so grateful for the past month in the midst of sleeping a lot, and leaning into my limits I saw the vision of the labyrinth not only sit in my heart and my mind but in a community's life and desire. I'm thankful that the fruition of the labyrinth was not created by hands of two, but of many. That the amazing freedom I had to create became a space for many to create. That incredible hours of labor we filled not by my hands, but by a neighborhood—students, partners in ministry and people from the Open Door. That the once thought one ton of gravel that was moved by hand was actually 4 tons. The abundance was in the midst of my place of limits—I was free to be, free to trust God, free to hear why this space is so important to so many.