Durham News: Opinion

On Faith: Farm Church to grow food-centered ministry in Durham

By Flo Johnston

Flo Johnston
Flo Johnston Chris Seward

The dream of a different kind of church has brought two ministers to Durham to plant a new Presbyterian congregation called the Farm Church.

Co-pastors, the Rev. Ben Johnston-Krase and the Rev. Allen Brimer, who arrived in August, were received by New Hope Presbytery at its recent meeting and are already on the ground around the Bull City.

“We hope to start worshiping this Advent,” Johnston-Krase said. “We’re meeting people in all kinds of places – the farmer’s market, in line while we pick kids up from school – and people find us online. Conversations get around to what we’re doing in Durham, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Although Durham has no distinction as a “farm town,” it has become a mecca for foodies and other folks who value farm to table eating. And Durham, like other cities across America, also has children and families who go to bed hungry.

The vision for the Farm Church is unusual. Johnston-Krase wrote in an online description of the new ministry:

“Farm Church not only makes church look new; it galvanizes Christian community around a place whose only purpose is to grow food responsibly to feed hungry people. Most Christian communities as we know them are gathered around a building, a location, a denominational identity. Farm Church proposes to gather around a mission to grow and provide healthy food for a hungry world in a manner that teaches earth-tending, healthy eating and abundant sharing as spiritual practices that seek to make “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Just as its name suggests, eventually, Farm Church plans to have a working farm, the pastor said.

“It might be small at first, but we hope to grow into 25 acres or more. Should the farm grow to the point that we have large and small animals, we’ll certainly need someone or some people to live on the farm. And, yes, the missional identity of Farm Church is to address food insecurity in the community. From the beginning we will be plugging into food distribution networks in the county and in the Triangle to help address hunger,” he said.

A lot of bird

In what has become an annual tradition, Butterball, the largest producer of turkey products in the U.S. with headquarters in Garner, has donated 125 Thanksgiving turkeys and 345 pounds of deli meat to Urban Ministries of Durham.

The ceremony marking the donation was held at Urban Ministries last week and included Butterball CEO Kerry Doughty, Mayor Bill Bell and UMD executive director Patrice Nelson.

Turkeys will be distributed through UMD partner agencies in the city to provide Thanksgiving dinner in the community. The lunch meat will provide sandwiches for UMD’s healthy bag lunches given to clients during breakfast so they have something to eat while they are at work or looking for work.

The statistics about hunger in the country are staggering, showing that 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2014. North Carolina has a household food insecurity rate of 16.7 percent – about 1 in 6 people.

Clergy discussion

Durham County Library will host a discussion, “How Durham Changed Us and We Changed Durham,” led by Frank Stasio of WUNC Radio’s State of Things and a panel of retired clergy who shepherded the flocks in Durham for over 30 years, a time of great change in Durham.

The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St.

The panel will include Rabbi John Friedman, Judea Reform Congregation; Rev. Joe Harvard, First Presbyterian Church; Rev. Haywood Holderness, Westminster Presbyterian Church; and Rev. Mel Williams, Watts Street Baptist Church .They will be joined Bishop Elroy Lewis, Fisher Memorial United Holy Church, who will retire in July 2016.

This program is presented by Durham Library Foundation. For more information, call 919-560-0268 or visit durhamcountylibrary.org.

‘Being Brave’

Jim Key, the chief governance officer of the national Unitarian Universalist Association, will deliver the sermon at Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Sunday, Nov. 22, as part of the fellowship’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

In his talk, “On Being Brave, Bold and Bodacious,” Key will share his personal story and why it suggests that religious liberals need to raise their prophetic voices.

He is a former IBM administrator and management consultant from South Carolina and the highest-ranking volunteer in the UUA.

Elected moderator at the 2013 General Assembly, Key chairs the UUA Board of Trustees, facilitates the business sessions at General Assembly and serves as an important interface with local congregations.

Eno River Fellowship, located at 4907 Garrett Road, was founded on April 17, 1966, to support the civil rights movement. Its golden anniversary celebration includes lectures, workshops, concerts and other social events. The celebratory year will end with a music gala and special service April 16-17, 2016.

Prison ministry

The Restoring Equal Access to Liberty Resource Fair, a free workshop supported by the the prison ministry at First Calvary Baptist Church, 1311 Morehead Ave., is set for 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21.

Education and assistance will be available to those with a history of criminal offenses who are returning to the community. An emphasis will be placed on helping all who are seeking a second chance to recover from choices that have thwarted employment and may be preventing them from moving forward in a positive way.

Family and church members across the area will find this workshop helpful.

Professionals from across the county will provide guidance during the event. Also, leaders in prison ministry at First Calvary and persons in the community who in the past have hired those returning to society. For example, a person from the trucking industry will talk about employment opportunities as a truck driver.

If you’re interested, RSVP at 919-656-3160.

Contact Flo Johnston at fjohnston314@gmail.com or call 910-361-4135.