When Nicholas and I arrived in Ontario last year, I made all kinds of hopeful statements about living there, mostly to keep up my own courage. Many things happened there, but not what we expected. It was a rather long and difficult passage, a pilgrim’s progress. Some of our beliefs and expectations about the church got readjusted incredibly. (There’s plenty to say about that.)
Our return last week to this small city in New Brunswick was a good experience. We have a lot of work ahead of us to start homesteading again, and already some expectations have to be delayed and modified, but that is always the case, isn’t it? Our little abode is in good shape, and as soon as we can ready the systems in it, we look forwad to moving in. It’s a 19′ Prowler RV, circa 1976, well-maintained and nicely refurbished. It can run on AC, DC or propane. We’ll start with a land-line AC connection, shift to DC with solar panels when we move further off the grid, and rebuild the propane appliances before winter as a back-up. Our goal is to build a 12’x20′ A frame cabin, open plan with a loft. Just when that will get done is up in the air. With a temporary roof and shed, we can winter over in the Prowler.
The site is part of a lot that was once a scrap metal storage yard. There doesn’t appear to be anything yucky, but big hunks of metal are still appparent. This sounds pretty awful, but it will only take some effort to move them to a more suitable place to clear the back lot. The sheds on site for wood and tools are in pretty good shape, just needing a little closing in and siding to look Plain-presentable.
Is it true that Plain people are what my mother would call house-proud? I sometimes worry that I am too concerned with my physical surroundings. I cannot abide clutter and lack of cleanliness. I like to have just the very basic articles of householding so that I am not overwhelmed with possessions and their attendant needs. We don’t own much clothing and absolutely nothing “collectible.” But I am concerned that I put too much stock in cleanliness and order. (All right, my husband doesn’t think I do, so maybe I have the right balance.)
It’s a matter of stewardship. If we take care of what we own, it will be last longer. If we are mindful of how much we take from the environment, we will take only what we need. There’s a lot of talk these days about our “carbon footprint,” whatever that means, but relatively, North Americans consume huge amounts of carbon resources, far more than our share. We have taken steps to reduce that for ourselves, and hope to reduce it even more.
That’s simple husbandry, the basis of agrarian philosophy. God gave us the land to use properly, to make it productive to support life. Instead, the history of humanity is a history of greed and exploitation. We are not following the way of the ancestors, the way of Israel, the ideal given to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
It’s not easy to do this. It is so much easier to run to the store, buy the convenience foods, amuse ourselves mindlessly with television and internet and video games. It is a lot harder to plan ahead, plant the garden, raise the chickens, and find a way to support ourselves until we are self-sufficient. Yes, we can give into the culture and “compromise.” (Although it isn’t really a compromise, because the culture always wins.) We could get out of the Plain clothes, into the business suits, bully and wheedle our way into good-paying corporate jobs, and basically have it all! Have what? Having it all, to us, is having nothing. It’s all a delusion, a trick to keep us from following Christ.
It’s sad to say, but the church has become part of the corporate structure. It’s about numbers and revenue, power and production. We have to compete with the distractions of Sunday morning, we have to build a thriving parish, we have to get bums in the pews and checks in the bank account. It sounds like a business to me! A simple life of prayer, Christian fellowship and waiting on the Spirit for direction doesn’t seem to be part of it.
I’m sure people think we’re crazy. We’ve had bad experiences homesteading – flooding, poverty, illness – but we couldn’t wait to get back to it. We aren’t anxious, obviously, to rush back into church life. We’ve tried to reconcile, but the cost seems too high. We broke some unspoken code, some unwritten canon, and we are outside and not really welcome back into the marble halls. If the church cannot tell us what it is we did wrong and how to fix it, then there is something wrong with the church, not us. Christianity is not a religion of secrets. We aren’t the masons or the rosicrucians. Jesus welcomed all and didn’t hold anything back. He told the apostles what they needed to know, and they told us.
As we walked around the farmer’s market last week, we were greeted by many old friends. Some are Baptists, some are Evangelical, some are Roman Catholic, some Anglican, and Presbyterian and Orthodox. Denoimination has never been important in our ministry. So many people came to us because they could not find comfort or healing in the traditional churches. And that’s where we need to be, available to those who are outside the structure, who don’t fit into the hierarchy, who need ministry and pastoral care but don’t know where they can turn to get it.
The church today needs to ask itself: Why do we keep hurting people? Why do we shut out the least of God’s children?
There is still much work to do, and there will be until our last day on earth. Signs are that things will not be getting better or easier. Pray that we have the strength and the basic resources for our mission here, that we will be granted a discipline in which we can do good work, that we will find a peg on which to hang our hat! Pray for the lost souls who need comfort and counseling and the presence of Christ.