The health benefits of gardening are vast, as it has been proven to be good for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The simple act of being outside lifts my mood immediately — as fresh air and sunlight are the root of my happiness.
Gardening gets us moving, relieves stress and stimulates the senses. I feel spiritually nourished when I step into the garden, and sustainable gardening in particular is at the heart of spiritual health.
Sustainable gardening can be defined as a method of organic gardening and farming that works with the earth, causes no harm to the environment and ultimately works to enhance that environment. If we apply this idea of sustainability to our spiritual lives, we begin to appreciate what the natural world offers, how we can be better stewards of the earth and how to help others by utilizing a gentle, more holistic perspective.
Central to the connectivity of sustainable gardening and faith are the teachings of John Wesley, the founder of the modern Methodist Church. Through his ministry, writings and teaching, Wesley strove to bring spiritual renewal to his followers, and placed a heavy emphasis on physical health as being part of that renewal.
Bill Guerrant is a sustainable farmer and author of “Organic Wesley: A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming and Faith.” Guerrant and his wife, Cherie, manage White Flint Farm, a sustainable and chemical-free farm in Keeling, Va., where they raise vegetables, chickens, pigs and goats.
Guerrant’s book “examines the intersection of the teachings of John Wesley with the ethics of the contemporary (slow) food movement.” Guerrant explores the obesity epidemic, discusses societal viewpoints regarding food choices and strives to illuminate how our food choices can effect our spiritual health.
In today’s society, our busy lifestyles often dictate what we eat and how we choose to get our food. Our food choices begin at home, though. The modern food movement is dedicated to slowing down our food — where the industrially produced food market is dedicated to delivering quickly. Growing a backyard garden is one of many ways to participate in the slow food movement. So whether it’s for physical, environmental, or spiritual health, growing a garden can feed us.
“We wanted our food choices to reflect the values of our faith,” Guerrant said. “We began to change how we ate as we came to understand that our food choices affect not only our health and bodies, but the environment and the rest of creation as well. Wesley taught that everything a Christian does, even eating, should be thought of as prayer and worship. Even though I grew up Methodist, I’d never heard those teachings until I began the research that led to the writing of ‘Organic Wesley.’”
The life lessons and wisdom that come out of our gardens is fluid and always available. There is renewal in working the soil, contentment when we harvest produce, and the full-circle gratification of layering compost. This sustainable circuit can bring such joy.
“I get a great sense of satisfaction from growing as much of our own food as possible, and gardening deepens my appreciation and love of creation and of the Creator,” Guerrant said. “I definitely believe that gardening is a way to feed not only our bodies, but our souls as well.”
Guerrant will speak on “Organic Wesley” at Maple Springs United Methodist Church at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12. Maple Springs UMC is at 2569 Reynolda Road in Winston-Salem.