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Homily October 3, 2021

given by Ms. Annalise Clausen, Director of Farming for Gideon’s Garden at the Annual Celebration of Gideon’s Garden

I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you here this morning. I want to pay

respect to the Indigenous tribes of the Mahican and Westenhuck people. I am

grateful for the deep connection of our land ancestors to their natural world and the

fundamental respect they hold for all creation. May we walk in love, offering

ourselves to the right and just stewardship of creation. May we respect and honor

the tradition of Indigenous cultures that continue to be protectors of all of God’s

creation.

I want to thank Danny Tawczynski and the Tawczynski family for generously

welcoming us to this land and giving us the opportunity to grow food here.

As we gather here in this church with no walls, I want to share with you my

personal journey understanding the ministry of Grace this year. I have seen

transformation, in the youth who came weekly for their internship day, in Mathew

Bilotta the Youth Supervisor, and in myself. I know you all have experienced the

seasonal transition that we are privileged to be an audience to on this beautiful land

we call the Southern Berkshires. The transformation of your church and the

transformation of the seasons have in common the embrace of change. You all have

embraced the growth of your church to a beacon of hope in the wider community.

The walls have all gone, the shadow of a roof floats like a cloud, the pews have

turned to tree trunks, and the stained glass now just leaves in the sunlight. That is a

constant we can rely on – Change. I am so grateful you all have embraced this

change and given life to this garden.

I came to the garden as an interim, without expectation of a future. I came to the

garden ready to offer my gifts but quickly found out it was me who really needed

the support. As much as I have given in my physical labor and knowledge of

growing, I have received in emotional support from this community. I have come

to understand truly what a gift this garden is to everyone who interacts with it,

even those who simply read about it on a newsletter or online. I have arrived at a

time when the work to create this garden over 12 years is almost invisible because

the foundation is so strong and the vision for a future so expansive and open.

As a young person, having grown up in the church, I took for granted the

possibility of the community to hold my values. Confused by the words of the

bible, I did not see the love of community that comes from being with each other. I

am starting to understand that it is possible for our needs to be met by each other

here, in conversations and laughter, in prayer and meditation, and in mutual aid.

My time spent at Gideon’s this year has been so valuable for me to reflect on my

experience and learn as much from it as possible. My first couple of years farming

in a production model, I barely took time to understand what I was doing. Now I

see the value of slowing down and holding a conversation, meeting people as they

arrive to the garden, because the experience I have to share is precious and

important. I recognize the privilege I have to pursue this vocation which brings me

so much meaning and joy.

Watching the cycle of life during the growing season is a moving experience. The

onset of disease came swiftly this year, just about the time I broke a bone in

my leg. I didn’t visit the garden for almost 5 days and when I returned I almost did

not recognize it. I have learned to expect and respect the cycle of decay in our

natural world, because I truly understand the benefit and necessity of it. This

process is also a reminder that in our darkest times, there will be a dawn. Our trees

will bloom, leaf out and turn their fire colors again. The hope that lives in our

hearts, the hope our community shares is held in the mission of this garden.

In the Gospel of Mathew today we heard Jesus say, “I thank you, Father, Lord of

heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the

intelligent and have revealed them to infants” – I love this line because it feels like

something I have been on the edge of many times with my work in the garden. I

may have even dipped into this space of wonder and silent prayer. To me this line

brings stillness and absolute being, the way that the natural world offers itself to us,

without forethought or arrangement. I am constantly met with the overwhelming

force of new growth and adaptation. The momentum of the season builds to a fever

pitch that demands for you to keep up or be overgrown, out-paced and buried. The

work of a grower is to stay awake, aware and listening to creation.

I want to share more about the production of the garden this year. We have

distributed over 7000 pounds of produce at last estimate, which was almost 1

month ago. With the weather conditions this year, it was inevitable that we would

lose some crop to the waterlogged soil and disease pressure. In spite of our

challenges we still gave our community fresh, lovingly grown produce. We offered

reflection and challenge to our internship students. To our volunteers and visiting

groups we offered gratitude, community and meaning. And to you all I can only

hope that we fulfilled in the mission of Gideon’s Garden. We opened the season

with a new community partner, Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, to support my

initiative to deliver produce in a more safe and healthy manner. And you all took a

big step to begin a process that will continue the mission of stewarding the garden

into the future with a source of water to irrigate the field. With the garden in its

12th year, I am so proud to be a part of this unique and loving community.

I want to share a moment from the internship this year that really touched my

heart. There was one internship student this year who, honestly, I wasn’t sure would

stay for the internship. The student came to Pennie, as we all do, to seek guidance.

We decided that the best way to move forward was to offer the internship and see

what happened. To my happy surprise, after the second day of the internship, the

student said, “I’m excited to come back next week and learn more about soil.” I

think that was one of my greatest moments this year, really for my own

understanding of not only my ability to share passion but the receptivity and desire

for experience. I have learned this lesson many times, and I am assured I will

continue to learn this lesson, that people will always surprise me. I think that what

we offer here at Gideon’s Garden is authentic and meaningful. I think the same

lesson about soil would not have been received the same way if it was given in a

classroom, enclosed by four walls and a ceiling, florescent lights and a whiteboard

I find my heaven on earth in moments of discovery and wonder. And when I am

really lucky I can share these moments with whomever is with me in the garden. I

relish the moments of wonder brought on by the flower that precedes the fruit, the

bee that pollinates the flower and then by the miracle of flight these tiny creatures

demonstrate. Through the work of farming, I have developed a reverence for our

natural world that I will always rely on to keep me grounded in this world. I love to

share this passion of growing food. This garden feels expansive, as if whoever will

come to tend the garden will be met with open arms, open minds and open hearts. I

am truly honored to have served for this year as the director of the garden and I

hold the future of the garden in my heart.