Lenten Liturgy Beyond Church Walls

Church of the Pilgrims Lenten liturgical journey took us beyond our church walls. Folks at our worship planning session came up with the theme of "Be Salt. Be Light. Be Bold." We came to this theme after exploring the Beatitudes, our Brian McLaren lectionary focus for the season.

As we wrapped-up our brainstorming session, Roberta, a regular at Pilgrims, reiterated "we need to be bold, we need to be bold." Roberta's emphatic-ness stayed with me.....

In order to BE BOLD, this is what we came up with for our Lent order of worship.

Pilgrims Lenten Cross--like a reverse Advent candle wreath.
Pilgrims Lenten Cross--like a reverse Advent candle wreath.

10:55  Taize singing led by Rob Passow, our music director, and the choir. Keep singing until 11:05

  • Liturgy of the Cross--opened up with some words about Lent then snuffed out a candle each week on our handmade Lenten cross. This marked the movement towards Jerusalem and how Lent calls us to pay attention to how the ways of death are around us on a daily basis. .
  • Choir sang an anthem.
  • Biblical story--told using Biblical storytelling or responsive with the congregation.
  • Sermon--8-10 minutes.
  • Hymn--we used that as an invitation to come forward to the table.
  • Communion--short and sweet with the ordained and non-ordained (example: two of our confirmands) breaking the bread, pouring the cup, saying the words of institution.
  • 11:45!
  • For 30 minutes people were invited to be BOLD. Be SALTY. Be LIGHT. They had several choices to make for acts of service: 1) taking already made bag lunches out to Dupont Circle to hungry folks; 2) making more bag lunches for Open Table, our lunch for hungry neighbors each Sunday; 3) working in our urban garden; 4) participating in an advocacy conversation that changed each week (Syrian conflict, Darfur, homelessness in D.C., community organizing).

At 12:15, folks came back to our coffee hour room to debrief for a couple of minutes (how can you imagine your boldness today influencing your upcoming week?). We sang an Amen or Alleluia then benediction.

Coffee hour continued.

Things I noticed during Lent:

1) Our usual worship lasts until 12:15 or so, and we did what we wanted to do in 45 minutes within the sanctuary walls. Take-away: what are we *really* doing in those additional 15 + minutes?

2) We focused on composting in the garden on most weeks, including our worm composting. I watched Jeff and Gregg, two members, CUT UP FOOD for our worms. Worms will eat produce in any shape or form. But Jeff and Gregg thoughtfully cut-up food for our little wormies. Take-away: intention + paying attention + thoughtfulness=connection, even with worms.

3) The very human experience of being together in experiences of outreach as part of worship. No liturgical scripts. No prayers written out. No faces in the hymnals. Just us making food, composting, listening, engaging, connecting with hungry folks. Liturgical improv beyond church walls. Take-away: Pilgrims works hard at having worship where we are ourselves. But still. Bulletins and such do put me/us roles. In sharing the work of outreach, we/I dropped whatever liturgical roles I/we inhabit and we talked, conversed, learned, farmed, organized.....

4) Coffee hour had a buzz. Folks dribbled in after their outreach and were chatting it up. When we paused for reflection and a final song, people went right back to their conversations. Take-away: People dribbled in because the various service experiences didn't end at the exact same time. In a normal service the benediction declares worship over in one moment. Time felt more fluid with folks coming in, already connected via service.

5) The outreach was a great way to split people up. Church cliques exist. Service was a great way to mix-up Pilgrim peeps. Take-away: Need to be intentional to get folks out of their church molds.

Urban Farming: I've Got a Garden Coach!

After 5  years of urban farming at Church of the Pilgrims and at my own homestead, I realized I had hit the limits of my knowledge with urban farming, particularly with soil science, companion planting, and pesticides. Most of my knowledge on farming has come from swapping stories with other garden folks and doing some reading. But it's hard for me to retain what I read on farming unless I am putting it into practice right in that very moment.

During the summer, my Facebook newsfeed led me to this organization: Love and Carrots.

Love and Carrots was started by Meredith Shepherd and believes this:

We at Love & Carrots believe the local food movement is a critical catalyst in environmental activism. In the United States the potential for impact by way of everyday choices is immense, yet after decades of consumerism-as-champion, our culture does not easily lend itself widespread change through daily choices. We believe food is a good start. Choosing what to eat is one of the easiest ways to be a proactive environmental steward, and eating locally is the simplest solution with the most impact so far. Urban Agriculture is the local food movement at its best and tackles a multifaceted problem. It is food production right at the site of high level consumption, it is greening spaces, it is education, its zero food miles, and its the healthy alternative.

Love and Carrots offers a coaching program---a Love and Carrots farmer comes out twice a month to your garden for garden maintenance + educate you on life in the garden.


Emailed. Met. Set-up a schedule.

Morgan, on the right, and Emily, our intern, in Pilgrims Sacred Greens garden.
Morgan, on the right, and Emily, our intern, in Pilgrims Sacred Greens garden.

I now have a garden coach---Morgan.

Twice a month, Morgan comes to Pilgrims  and we farm together. Plus I get to ask Morgan a bazillion questions about soil, pesticides, harvesting....whatever.....

Pilgrims garden was ready to be taken to the next level---not as in put in 5 more raised beds---but just in the intricacies of farming with what, when, and how to plant. There is so much to farming that my mind had been swirling with information, not sure how to get organized with a plan on such amazing details like what to do with tomato blight, what veggies can be planted next to each other, and what the hell to do with the stupid insects that come and terrorize the plants?

Morgan has taught me (plus Emily, Pilgrims intern) to mix-up what's planted in one raised bed. For example: planting bok choy, mustard greens, and spinach together. These veggies are from the same family and the variety of plants in the bed confuses bugs that can annihilate the greens. This type of growing is practical and creative---I have to think through the strategy of how to create growth. It also creates beauty with the various textures and colors of the veggie leaves.  Mono-planting just isn't effective. Diversity in planting increases potential for robust growth and beauty.  Having Morgan as a coach has pushed me to get out of my already-within-5-years systems of farming. Morgan has pushed open my ways and patterns to create a more beautiful Eden.

Pilgrims garden ready for the next level, and so I am with urban farming.

I love the feeling of hitting my threshold of knowledge and experience, pulling in whatever resources needed to take me to the next level. A garden is an ever expanding, dynamic, life-giving place. I love watching lettuce grow and be shared with hungry people. I also love that the energy of the garden works within my own interior self---that I, too, need to go to the next level in order to work with the natural processes of life that are there for the taking.

Urban Farming: Beekeeping Can Be Friggin' Annoying

Church of the Pilgrims started its apiary, or honeybee yard, about four years ago. We have a beekeeper, Jeff Miller, who started DC Honeybees, who helps keep our hives healthy and alive. I fell in love with the bees, beekeeping, the role they play in our ecosystem, and their liturgical symbolism in congregational life. I've written several articles about honeybees at Pilgrims: here, here and here. When we moved into a new house two years ago, I decided to get my own hive for our backyard. Goal: have Jeff as the beekeeper for my home hive and build the best backyard honeybee hive ever! Image: I'll have honey flowing all over the place and create Etsy like mason jars with cute "Nelson Street Garden and Apiary" labels. Piece of cake!

Except that beekeeping can be friggin' annoying. I can write all I want about the sacred symbolism of honeybees and their vulnerability from human created colony collapse disorder. And, at many times, I can get downright greedy for honey.

The first year my queen flew the coop after a spring time swarm and that messed up the production of the hive.

This year my bees made it through the horrendous winter with the help of a couple of 1975 sleeping blankets my kids lovingly placed over the hive for warmth.

In March, I was convinced my hive was the last one standing on the East Coast. THIS WILL BE THE YEAR OF HONEY! My bees NAILED IT! Take THAT Colony Collapse Disorder!

I put two honey supers on top of the two big boxes so my backyard could turn into a river of honey. I keep clover growing in our backyard, I planted borage and the cover crop, buckwheat. All are loved by bees.

In this area, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, honey flow is in June and then again in September. So, a few weeks ago I check my hive and no honey in the supers.


I had a swarm in May. Did the queen again fly the coop? Did the queen die? A queen is essential for the health and growth of the hive.


I called Jeff, my beek, who is now Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development for  D.C. (I like my beekeeper to roll in high places) and he came out this  morning to check. Still no honey.  I see the empty supers and want to process with Jeff---"But why? Why no honey? What happened to the queen? Why is my hive lame? Should I have checked the hive more? Given them more attention?"

I want answers.

Jeff hits the limit of knowledge with me and comes back with, "Not sure. I'll get you a new queen" as he gathers up his equipment. He knows the hive has a life of its own, humans can only do so much, and you just forge ahead.

Beekeeping can be friggin' annoying because I'm not in complete control of my hive. Romanticizing bees and a honey flow doesn't help either. I can be attentive to the hive, do the checks, put out water for them, and feed them sugar water in the early spring season for food. Ultimately I have to wait on the bees to do their work, and the waiting sucks.  I can feel unbeatable but, well, the hive isn't about me. The bees are in charge. I hit a setback and go forward. Humility arises in this sacred endeavor of beekeeping.

Urban Farming: Bokashi Fermenting System

The Interconnected Way of Life in the Soil.
The Interconnected Way of Life in the Soil.

I learned of the Bokashi fermenting system last year on sabbatical while visiting the Edible Churchyard at Union Seminary (where all wonderful and dysfunctional things happen). Bokashi is a practice developed centuries ago by Japanese farmers. The farmers would cover food with nutrient rich, local soil full of microorganisms that would ferment the food waste. Bokashi is a ramped-up, high-speed composting type method. What's the difference between this and regular composting?  Think of the difference between wine and grape juice, and you've got it.

What does Bokashi create?


Mircoorganisms are vital for healthy soil. Healthy soil is vital for growing yummy veggies and beautiful plants. It's also crucial for the well-being of the planet. TRUTH.  These sometimes visible, sometimes microscopic organisms are part of the soil food web underneath our feet. These critters are needed to create soil structure, fertility, and eat the bad stuff that comes along.

With a diversity of organisms in the soil, there is a reduction in soil erosion, water runoff, sedimentation, soil compaction ( a condition that creates conditions for weeds), weed growth, and a rise in water quality, organic matter, carbon sequestration (capturing carbon from the air), and plant fertility.

Bokashi puts these microorganisms into your soil to do all the wonderful things above.

How does it work?

Typical composting needs oxygen as part of the process of breaking down veggies and brown stuff to create soil. Bokashi uses microbes that come to live without oxygen (anaerobic). This is the basic type of process that gives us pickles, wine, and kimchi.

Pink Peeps in Bokashi bucket.
Pink Peeps in Bokashi bucket.

Bokashi works really quickly--weeks instead of months (or a year, ahem) like compost. Bokashi is great for urban areas since you just need a bucket that's kept indoors rather than a compost bin that needs to be outside.

With Bokashi, ALL food waste goes into the bucket. With compost, I only put in veggies, fruits, tea bags, coffee grounds, etc. No meat, dairy, cooked food, etc.  By all food waste I mean everything, including pink Peeps leftover from Easter.

How to create Bokashi:

I bought a Bokashi "kit" online. It comes with a the Bokashi bucket and the Bokashi mix. The mix contains wheat bran, molasses, and EM1, the efficient organisms that drive the fermentation process.

Dump leftover food in the bucket--cereal with milk, meat, bread, scrambled eggs, peeps, veggies....you name it. After 1-2 inches of food in the bucket, sprinkle with the mix. Have another meal, take leftovers, dump in bucket, and add mix. Rinse. Repeat.

When the bucket is full, you close up the air-tight lid and let it sit for two weeks.

As the food wastes ferment, the microbes create a diverse array of beneficial substances: enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, trace minerals, and organic acids. The fermenting process controls pathogens and damages seeds (no more volunteer plants!)  in the container.

After two weeks, you dump the bucket of pickled food into a 1 foot deep trench in your garden or area with crap-ass soil. Dump food, cover with soil. Wait two weeks before planting. Worms, insects, and other beneficial microbes finish the process of digestion by gobbling up the pickled food waste in the soil.  The result---over a couple of weeks is increased microbe populations and bio-available nutrients supplied to the soil and plants.

From soil we have come, to soil we shall return says the Book of Genesis or New Beginnings. Bokashi is one way of tending to the soil in my eco-location.