Jubilee Farm Church
Report to Convention 2021
JUBILEE FARM CHURCH: Creating connection to God, to each other, and to the land.
It’s been over a year since I was appointed as the first Diocese of California Farm Church Missioner to the then-unnamed Jubilee Farm Church in Brentwood. Jubilee Farm is the Episcopal vision for mission and ministry in the Brentwood area in far east Contra Costa County. It is at the center of an inclusive housing project known as Bluebird Village, a mixed-income community featuring affordable rental housing and single-family homes, with onsite services to offer regular community events, educational opportunities, and other gatherings that will nurture relationships across socioeconomic divides while fostering environmental stewardship, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.
Jubilee Farm offers a non-traditional example of Church that isn’t dependent on buildings, but gathers instead around common mission and ministry; a place where God is worshipped through connection to the land; where people can reconnect with God, with the land, and with their neighbors through worship, work, and play; where people care for creation by cultivating and nurturing the earth, feeding the hungry, and practicing environmental sustainability, all the while fostering relationships across income, race, education, and religion - to God, to each other, and to the land, by caring for the land and the people God created.
In that year and a bit I have educated myself about sustainable farming practices such as permaculture, no-till farming, and carbon sequestration, and explored environmental justice and food sovereignty. I am a priest not a farmer, but I brought to this project my local knowledge as a long-term Brentwood resident with deep roots in this community and in the Episcopal Church in far east Contra Costa County, and a passion for exploringnew ways of experiencing and embodying church, to meet the needs of all people.
I’m not going to lie – it has been a steep learning curve. How does a priest-who-is-not-a-farmer plan and construct a farm? How do you create community when you don’t have a physical space? How do you balance the need to house people with the need to honor the integrity of God’s creation – both of which are fundamental to the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church?
You walk the land and pray. You ask God to open your heart and mind to God’s will for the land and inspire your ministry. You listen to people who feel and think differently. You find out who the people with experience are and you listen to their advice and benefit from their wisdom. You discover the people who are as enthusiastic and passionate as you about this type of ministry and you get them involved. And you develop an online presence and create programs and spiritual practices that identifies and forms the community.
Initially I worked with a Circle of Advisors – Episcopalians around the country who had done this sort of thing before, who provided invaluable guidance and support. More recently I formed a planning and development team (PDT) – local Episcopalians with related interests and knowledge. We consulted the Contra Costa Master Gardeners and found out how they started their demonstration gardens in similar circumstances. We are completing the business plan, creating a timeline of tasks, and developing a budget. We are exploring possible collaboration with local organizations and educational institutions, and researching grants and other sources of funding. This fall we plan to gather as much free horse manure as we can and spread it on the ground, and then take advantage of the winter rain to sow a cover crop. Jubilee Farm Church now has a website, and is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we are planning programming and practices that invite participation no matter where people are.
If you want to get involved or simply have questions, check out our website at https://www.jubileefarmchurch.org/
visit us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jubileefarmchurch
follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/jubilee_farm
and Instagram @rev_farmerjane
With many thanks to:
Bluebird Village Project Team – Donna Columbo, Kathleen Piraino, Cecile Caterson, Jim Wiant, and Ed Pugh.
Circle of Advisors: Brian Sellers-Peterson, Kelly Gleason, Meyer Kerri, Elizabeth De Ruff, Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, Grace Aheron, and Sarah Nolan;
PDT: Emily Hopkins, Joni Stickney, Michelle Maia, Rev. Dcn. Gary England;
David and Sharon Osteen of Clayton Valley Pumpkin Patch
Contra Costa Master Gardeners, especially Janet Miller and Joie Spinelli.
The Rev. Jane Stratford,
Diocesan Missioner for Jubilee Farm Church