Composting As A Spiritual Practice

This series on What Is A Spiritual Practice, is really gathering momentum and I am starting to receive so many contributions that we may need to continue it through the rest of the year.  John O’Hara’s contribution yesterday on Cooking As Spiritual Practice has evoked quite a bit of discussion on facebook and twitter.

Bethany Stedman has expressed her own thoughts in a post on her blog also entitled Cooking As Spiritual Practice. This reminded me of an article Ricci Kilmer, part of our MSA team wrote some months ago about Justice at Christ’s Table, which addresses another aspect of this issue.  

Today’s article is contributed by Steve Taylor, llead pastor at Opawa Baptist Church, in Christchurch New Zealand, helping them become missional in today’s world.  I would also recommend checking out Steve’s great book Out of Bounds Church Steve blogs at sustain:if:able kiwi


In recent weeks I’ve been enjoying the spiritual practice of composting.

As with most spiritual practices, it has been a mix of great fun and hard work, pulling on the gumboots and old jersey, lugging around big bags of animal manure, tossing straw, shovelling and raking.

For me, making compost has become a spiritual practice that connects me with God and helps me pray.

As I compost, I think about my local community and people who are not yet in faith.  I recall the people I know who are really struggling with life. I think back over the TV news, holding before God, the life situations that seem bleak and barren.

I wonder if composting was part of what God was doing in Genesis 2. The story describes God planting a garden. Given the detail, the slow and careful pace in the Bible narrative, there is this sense of the garden taking time, sort of evolving.  God is the careful composter, mixing love with manure, compassion with planting, dreams of fruitful relationship as life is blown in human nostrils.  Reading Genesis 2 has begun to turn my act for composting into a spiritual practice, an act of communion with Gardener of the Universe.

1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that hese three remain: faith, hope and love.

Composting is an act of faith.  You place compost on the garden in autumn. You let it sit over the winter, with an occasional turn and toss.  And come spring, newly planted vegetables will be growing green and I’ll be preparing to saying “Thankyou very much” over a summer salad.

So I compost in faith, that in darkness and amid the muck, things might yet grow.  As I compost, I am reminded that new life, indeed, all life, is out of my control, beyond my action, logic or planning.

Composting is an act of hope.  I affirms that in the very midst of autumn decay, through the bleak breakdown of winter, things might get grow, that death is never the end of the story, that confusion and chaos, are simply the raw material for a fresh start.

Composting is a prayerful act of love. To care for the soil becomes for me a practice both of loving God’s earth and prayerfully caring for people. In the peace of my garden I let go, offering people and places to God, inviting God’s power into the dark places of the world.

Composting. It has become a spiritual practice that connects me in prayer with God and my world.


4 Responses

  1. This piece nearly brought me to tears with the rich images it contains!

    I’ve been working through significant garbage in my life, have had some good glimpses of green bursting through, and am encouraged to keep on with the “stuff” in my mind and the actual compost bin in my garden. Thank you…

  2. Steve is a man after my own heart in respect of compost. Love that mucky stuff which provides so much richness and goodness – to the earth and to our food. I am reminded of the motto of a self-sufficiency blog I go to – Look after the top six inches of the earth. If we all did this, looking out that our topsoil got the water, the nutrients, the decomposition, the carbon that it needs what a fruitful place the whole earth would be and what personal and communal lessons we coul learn.

    Blessings and bliss

  3. […] Steve Taylor – Composting as Spiritual Practice […]

  4. […] Steve Taylor – Composting as Spiritual Practice […]

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