The spirit and the flesh

There are any number of indigenous North American stories telling How Corn Came to The People. Sometimes it came as a gift. Sometimes it came in the form of a woman. Sometimes it was stolen. But in every case, Corn became intimately entwined with The People — economically, culturally and spiritually.

Archaeological evidence suggests that corn made up as much as 80 percent of the diet of the ancient Anasazi of the Southwest and the ancient mound-building Mississippian culture of the Southeast. There’s no question that these people depended on corn. But if corn wasn’t removed from the husk and planted by human hands, it didn’t grow. There’s no such thing as a volunteer stalk of corn.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that this fundamental interdependency created a sacred bond between The People and Corn. But viewing food as sacred is something all but lost in America today. However thankful we may be for it when we’re hungry, it is tough to find anything sacred in prepackaged food that comes from the shelves of some mega-chain.

There is at least one place here in WNC where you can still make a sacred connection with food, though. My favorite church on Wall Street, Jubilee!, is partnering with Holy Ground, the New Life Journal, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Pure Food Partners and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to present “Food as Sacred: A Weekend Exploration” on Mother’s Day weekend (May 9-11).

Jubilee!’s celebratory approach to the biblical tradition emphasizes humans’ interdependence with the earth (what member Richard Fireman calls “spiritual ecology”). Through a buyers’ club, parishioners can purchase local organic produce, environmentally friendly toilet paper and low-wattage light bulbs. The sacred-food weekend is another expression of that attitude.

The weekend will feature Sister Miriam MacGillis. A Dominican, Sister Miriam directs Genesis Farm, a 180-acre biodynamic, community-supported-agriculture project in Blairstown, N.J. Some might suggest that the mere existence of a 180-acre organic farm in New Jersey is miraculous enough; but the real miracle lies in the fact that the farm provides food for about 200 shareholder families. It’s also home to an Earth Literacy school. Earth Literacy is a teaching system of the New Cosmology, which views the earth as our fundamental teacher. From this perspective, we have evolved from the earth and it’s imperative that we live in harmony with it.

Sister Miriam has said, “As people living in the industrial world, we are called to examine our food choices and struggle to align them with the vital relationships that have nourished life as earth has worked with the miraculous energy of the sun over evolutionary time.”.

She’ll talk about personal and social transformation at a Friday luncheon at Jubilee! to kick off the weekend.

On Saturday, Groce United Methodist Church will host a day of workshops exploring how our food choices can become doorways for personal, social and global transformation. Mountain Xpress gardening columnist Pat Battle will lead a panel discussion on “Trends in Agriculture: How we create a local, sustainable food system.” Afterward, the audience will break up into groups to explore topics generated by the panel discussion.

That evening, Sister Miriam will give a free talk in Warren Wilson College’s Canon Lounge, sharing the Genesis Farm story and discussing how the project integrates community and farming.

On Sunday morning, Sister Miriam will share a meditation at Jubilee!; a Mother’s Day picnic at Warren Wilson that afternoon will wrap things up.

All in all, it looks to be a highly inspirational weekend. To find out more, contact Holy Ground at (828) 236-0222.

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