City people need fields
Growth in human numbers within a finite earth community dictates that literally billions of people live in cities. The future of our children – and of the Christian church – depends on how well we adapt to sustainable town living. It is (literally) vitally important that people everywhere learn to live as the Bible describes the people from whom Jesus – and the first Christians – came.
Grandmother Ellen Davis is a renowned Bible scholar. She observes, ‘city’ and ‘field’ would not have meant two entirely separate settings and lifestyle as they do to contemporary readers. Towns, with their outskirts or ‘hinterland’, rivers, outlying villages, and pastures, were a unity. Family ‘field’, as Jesus and the rich young man realised, assured family food security.
It is imperative that towns and villages protect their open spaces and countryside. Parking spaces, out of town shops, and runways of American style suburbia are not the way forward. Edge of town fields must become part of settlement culture. Earth’s cities are usually situated on the most fertile soil. London – including Heathrow – being a prime example. ‘Soil is God ‘s gift to people’ said Thomas Jefferson, principle author of the American ‘Declaration of Independence’ and ‘Bill of Rights’.
Instead of ‘groundwork’ and slabs we need to rediscover and uncover our soil. We can learn from Vancouver where nearly 50% of residents grow food in gardens, community gardens, and even on balconies. In today’s UK we can learn about town efforts at local food security from Edible Hackney’, and ‘Incredible Edible Todmorden’. Closer to home we can admire the allotments at the orchards with solar panelled barn at the outskirts of Herstmonceux.
Christians have much to contribute to our rapidly urbanising societies. Care for the land and all its creatures was the lifestyle of Jesus, the apostles and our first ancestors. St Peter’s already points the way with its insect friendly wildlife and hawthorns. Church grounds and Christian homes can plant and nourish fruit and nut trees as at St Martha’s and harvest water from roofs. When people in our post-Christian societies look at church grounds, school and community and home gardens, they may remember that in Jesus God became enfleshed among us.
Dr Edward P. Echlin