Salvation in the Neighbourhood – Creative Ideas from the Parish Collective.

The Inhabit conference which the entire MSA team attended this last weekend was one of the best conferences I have been at for a long time. So many creative and committed Christians gathered in one place inspiring each other with how they have seen their neighbourhoods transformed. Many of us are being stretched in our faith and life practices as we grapple with what it means to be the shalom of God in our communities.

I have been following with great interest the continuing conversations and story sharing that is occurring on the Inhabit Connect facebook group too. To encouraging to hear about the ways that God is planting mustard seeds that are growing and producing fruit.

I particularly enjoyed this video by Paul Sparks this morning. Do listen to the whole video – the end of the interview is particularly inspiring.


And this is a great article by Craig Goodwin over in Spokane – hope to have him over for a conversation at the Mustard Seed House some time


This one is very close to my heart as I strongly believe that we need to encourage our urban centres to become more self sustaining. it is an inspiring and imaginative way to use an old warehouse in Chicago


A great website worth exploring – the work of Candy Chang an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places.

And finally a story about a church helping to develop a grocery co-op in an impoverished community.

Learning to be the presence of God is part of what salvation is all about. God desires wholeness not just for us as individuals but for the entire human race as a community. And people like those who attended the Inhabit conference are busy planting seeds and light beacons that are quietly transforming our world.



Wendell Berry: 17 Rules for A Sustainable Local Community

farmers' markets & local produce - mainstay of local economies

farmers' markets & local produce - mainstay of local economies

Last night Tom & I were talking to Jason Fowler of Sustainable Traditions a site that I highly recommend as a source of great articles on sustainability and faith. Browsing through his website after our conversation I came across this article. – not new, in fact as Jason commented it is all over the internet, but it is worth reposting because it is such a wonderful reminder of what it takes for us to become sustainable. Thanks Jason for this and for the good conversation. Thanks too to Wendell Berry and his inspiring and challenging advocacy for all of us.


How can a sustainable local community (which is to say a sustainable local economy) function? I am going to suggest a set of rules that I think such a community would have to follow. I hasten to say that I do not understand these rules as predictions; I am not interested in foretelling the future. If these rules have any validity, it is because they apply now.

Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.


How do you seek the shalom of your community?
For more on Mr. Berry check out these resources.

[Source: This is all over the Web but I’m giving credit to Utne’s archives]

Fixing the Future With a New Home Grown Economy

A couple of days ago I blogged about making life simple for the new home economy in which I wrote:

There is a whole new movement sweeping the Western world in which people everywhere are cutting back on their involvement in the cash economy, bartering, swapping, growing and cooking their own and generally learning to live with less.  In the process they are discovering that they can take control of their lives again and learn a much better way of life than the consumer rat race offers.

I was surprised at how much interest this stirred so I thought it deserved more than the short article I wrote.  There is a growing concern amongst people everywhere that we need to find new ways to run our businesses and live our lives that cost less, consume less, pollute less and at the same time strengthen local economies and build healthy families.

I highly recommend this PBS video Fixing the Future as an introduction to this movement.  However Wendell Berry’s 17 Rules for A Sustainable Local Community also provides an excellent starting place.

Sustainability networks are springing up all over North America helping to connect and educate people about everything from eco friendly housing to eco-shopping.  The Eco-trust provides this interesting interactive map which outlines their idea of a structure for a sustainable society/culture/economy.  Fascinating as this is, I was a little disturbed by the fact that religious beliefs did not register on their map.

It was Ched Myer’s booklet Sabbath Economics that first challenged my view of Biblical economics and started me thinking about the importance in God’s eyes of co-operative community based local models.  It made me realize that God’s way of doing economics is very different from the secular view, yet many of us have bought into this view without even thinking.  New Zealander Viv Grigg has also challenged my views and made me realize that community rather than individualism is the focus of God’s view of economics.

There are many Christian communities around the world that are now living more cooperatively and more simply, deliberately reducing their consumption and their eco-footprint so they have more resources to share with those at the margins.  Others are deliberately establishing small businesses that foster local economies and often provide jobs for those at the margins too.  Like the community garden movement I wrote about last year I believe that this is a move of God.  In so many dimensions of life the Spirit of God is moving us beyond our self centred, individualistic way of life, encouraging us to discover the richness of a life that is interdependent and interconnected at every level