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.
The third project we feature is Hospitality Grounds Community Garden, shepherded by Aimee Altizer. Here is an excerpt of her reflection (you can see the whole report below):
The mission of Hospitality Grounds Community Garden is multifaceted, encompassing community building through a greater awareness of our interconnectedness with our neighbors as well as with the marginalized in our community. The community garden challenges the binary that exists between the church and the world. This is a false binary that confines the Divine to the church building and the people there in, and all that is outside the church as belonging to the profane. This binary fails to encompass all of creation as belonging to the Divine, and claiming the sacred in all that exists. This identification keeps humanity from seeing the earth as sacred space.
Hospitality Grounds Community Garden seeks to be a sacred space of radical hospitality, providing opportunities through the gathering of community for people to develop compassion for one another and the earth. There can be no better place than the garden, the root of sustainable life, as the locus from which to understand reconciliation of ourselves, our community and humanity with the earth. Nourishing an earth cherishing consciousness begins with the hospitality of the table. It is in the cultivation, preparation and sharing of abundant harvest that we have the opportunity to discover and explore our interconnectedness with one another and all of creation. The earth as a monastery is the source of spiritual and physical sustenance simply stated – it is putting food on the table.
Through the garden we hope to teach an earth cherishing consciousness, and an awareness of the earth as our primary monastery, understood through compassion – compassion for oneself, our neighbors – those local and global, and for the earth as our present and future home. It is in compassion that we might rediscover the power of story. Humans need story to survive, thrive, and create change – this is one of the great offerings that myth and faith bring to human lives. It is through compassion, which cultivates curiosity, and invites us into the beauty of mystery, that we hear the story of our interconnectedness.
The garden is a creative space; each person’s bed is an individual creative project as well as the larger creativity and connection of the gardening community in spatial design, maintenance, and visioning new growth. Hospitality Grounds is a project that brings more earth awareness and spiritual direction to the parish and larger community, by bringing the ministry of the church outside into direct contact with the earth, deconstructing the false binary that exists around sacred space.
The Earth Monastery Grant was used to provide opportunities for gardeners at Hospitality Grounds Community Garden, in Park City, Utah, to discover their own deeper identities & spiritual connection with the earth and in this develop a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings. To expand this work, making it more accessible to future gardeners and individuals contemplating a gardening experience, I worked with the garden committee to design and build a website for Hospitality Grounds Community Garden that fosters a greater connection between the community gardeners and the earth as our primary monastery. In the project development time leading up to the launch of the website I actively worked in the garden with the gardening community, and then led a day retreat designed, with clergy Mother Claudia Giacoma and Deacon Sandra Jones, to invite the gardeners to reflect on & record their gardening experiences through yoga, art & story; writing meditations, prayers and blessings for the cycle of the liturgical gardening season that are now website content.