Seminarians Mix Faith and Farmwork

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Reformed believers strive to bring their faith into all areas of work and life. But could some areas be more critical than others?

The answer is yes, according to Nate Bradford, mentor to a group of Calvin Theological Seminary students.

“Issues that everyone is more involved with require everyone’s attention,” said Bradford. “Since we are all very involved in the consumption of food . . . we have to treat the earth better. Christians, particularly those who believe that every square inch is God’s, should lead the way. Sadly, so few of us are.”

After working for several years as associate chaplains at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., Nate and his wife, Aminah Bradford, recently moved to Durham, N.C. Aminah is pursuing her doctorate in theology at Duke Divinity School, studying under Dr. Norman Wirzba, whose scholarly work ties together theology, ecology, and rural life.

Seeking to make connections between students of theology and workers of the land, the Bradfords invited a group of Calvin Theological Seminary students to spend spring break with them. The Bradfords are friends and mentors to the students, who worked as interns under the couple’s leadership in the Barnabas discipleship program at Calvin College.

The group helped with the Bradfords’ garden, visited other gardens and farms, and read Wirzba’s book Making Peace with the Land.

From the outset of the trip, third-year seminary student Michael Weller said he realized how “narcissistic and shallow” his previous theology related to the land was. “I have such a new and profound appreciation for the complexity and beauty of God’s creation and what it means for humans to care and love for it, the way that I’m sure God does.”

“As pastors I think we often limit our service and care,” said third-year seminary student Bailey Sarver. “We extend it only to humans, but shouldn’t we desire the same kind of love, wholeness, and justice for other components of God’s creation?”

“By kneeling down, immersing our hands in the soil, getting our shoes drenched in manure, we learned the beauty of incarnation, about our God who loves us so much that he was not hesitant to ‘walk among us’ and get his hands dirty,” said fourth-year student Samuel Lee.

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.

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